Terry Marsh’s garage in south Salem is haunted — or at least it is every October near Halloween when it’s filled with an array of ghosts, witches, zombies, tombstones and even the Grim Reaper.
“I have always love decorating and celebrating the holidays,” says Marsh, 60, who was born in London, England. “But Halloween wasn’t as big in the U.K. as it is here, so it was almost a culture shock seeing the Halloween décor that was offered by the stores here. That inspired me to put up a display — so Halloween 2006 was the start.”
The first Mize Cemetery and Haunt was a small display in the front yard with a few hand-built props. Each Halloween since then, Marsh has added new props that he continues to build himself during the year, painting in warmer months, and putting up mostly by himself each October.
“In the past, I have used items such as Shiatsu massagers and rotisserie motors to animate my hand-built props,” says Marsh, who moved to Salem in November 2005 to marry his wife, Traci, whom he met online. “I have also had donations of Halloween décor and such from neighbors and supporters, which have been included in the display.
“One of the things I enjoy most is taking store-bought items and modifying or utilizing them in building my own unique props,” adds Marsh, who purchases some of his finds at Fred Meyer, where he has worked since February 2007.
In 2008, Marsh extended the front-yard cemetery and haunt into his garage, with about 75 percent of the items hand-built. The following year, he asked folks to donate nonperishable food for a local food bank, which he continues to do today.
“Following the suggestion that I charge an admission, my wife and I decided that a food drive would be more in keeping with the spirit of the event and being able to support this charity has been very rewarding and appreciated,” Marsh says. “At least 200 pounds of food is collected each year. We also had cash donations given in lieu of food donations. To date, we have collected over 1,750 pounds of food and $380 in cash.”
Marsh estimates some 1,000 visitors come through his haunt each October. This year, the haunt is open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26 to 30. On Halloween, hours are 6 to 9 p.m., with additional daytime hours scheduled on the Saturday and Sunday before.
“On the night of Halloween, we do give out treat bags, at least 350 each year,” Marsh says. “We also have a guest book for visitors to leave comments, and they are always enthusiastic and positive. We have also had comments left on the haunt Facebook page, all of which gave five stars.”
Sample comments include:
“It was an amazing experience for my children and I had a lot of fun too! The passion that Terry puts into his work speaks for itself! I can only hope that if he chooses to do this next year that the Salem locals can be more generous in food donations!”
“Wonderful for the kids, the creator is a very nice person and a joy to talk with. My sons (3 and 6) love it!”
“For me, the haunt is an expression of my artistic side, and I enjoy being able to share this with the local community,” Marsh says. “There is a lot of personal pleasure and satisfaction that one can get by doing something that others appreciate.”
In 2011, Marsh’s success earned him an invitation to present a workshop on “Haunt Building on a Budget” at the second West Coast Haunt Convention. He and Traci were also provided with a booth for the three-day event held at the Oregon School for the Deaf.
“We were able to showcase some of our props and pass on prop-making ideas to fellow haunters,” he says. “That was a successful venture, but unfortunately I have not been able to participate in subsequent conventions due to work commitments.”
However, Marsh does share his “secrets” via tutorials on his website as well as on a haunt forum.
“These are always appreciated, and as far as I can tell, put into practice by other haunters,” he says. “The main aim for the tutorials is to provide fellow home haunters with budget-conscious solutions to haunt displays.”
Marsh loves “spooking” people every year, and as the haunt is self-funded, appreciates donations of Halloween props and décor as well as building materials year-round.
“We have been able to improve on the quality of some of the displays thanks to the generosity of family, friends, work associates and fellow haunters,” he tells his website visitors. “We hope to keep the haunt going for many years to come and welcome any help or donations that will make this a success.”
For more information, visit mizehaunt.com. The Mize Cemetery and Haunt is located at 289 Mize Road SE, Salem.