LOUISVILLE, Ga. - On a country road, next to rolling hayfields and quiet farms and ranches, Ronnie and Vickie Templeton are toying with the living dead.
Every year, they trek out to the metal shed behind their house, unlock the door, and unleash all manner of ghouls, ghosts and fearsome frights, transforming their rural home into a haunted graveyard and trail. It's Mrs. Templeton's field of dreams.
"We had Halloween out here for about three years, and nobody came," she said, adjusting the position of the rotting zombies and a fountain of blood that adorn her front lawn. "So I told my husband how much I hated that. I love Halloween. He told me if I wanted people to come, we could get them out here."
The haunted homestead has grown from a few headstones in the front yard to a multimedia extravaganza, seven years and about $35,000 in the making. The front-yard cemetery features fog, lighting and all manner of Halloween-themed inhabitants. But, compared to what lies in wait beneath the blue-tarped enclosure alongside the family home, all that is child's play.
Winding through the darkened labyrinth, brave souls encounter all manner of murder and mayhem. Some have recognizable faces - Freddy, Frankenstein and a chain saw-wielding Jason Vorhees have all been spotted in the vicinity - while others are more anonymous. One such display features an electric-chair victim strapped in and ready to ride Old Sparky.
"He has his own speaker, strobe lights, fog machine - everything," Mrs. Templeton said, offering him an affectionate pat on the arm. "When you hit the button, he starts jerking, screaming, smoking, and the lights flash. It's very realistic. He was the first big thing we ever got."
When Mrs. Templeton says big, she means it. Big in size - the electric chair and a newer pneumatic hanging victim stretch the space limitations of the trail's tarpaulin roof - and price. The larger items can cost several thousand dollars.
"Yeah, we get big stuff every couple of years," Mrs. Templeton said with a laugh.
The Templetons don't mind the expenditure of time and money their fearsome fun requires.
"What we're trying to do now is get it so we don't have to keep getting more people to help us out," Mr. Templeton said. "We want quality as much as quantity, because that's what people want. They want something new."
The Templetons' Haunted Graveyard and Trail will be staffed by 42 volunteers. The volunteers work for fun and food - all proceeds from trail admission go toward dinner for the staff.
Mrs. Templeton said there is always something out there she wants, something she believes will make the experience just a little scarier. For instance, she already has her eye on a working guillotine or an elaborate Frankenstein display for next year.
"It really is one of things that once you start, you never finish," she said ruefully. "It's terrible, really, because I'll be sitting around on Valentine's Day wondering what I can put in my haunted trail. I figure when we get to the point that we have enough, there will be things that need replacing, so I'm always looking."
WHAT: The Templetons' Haunted Graveyard and Trail
WHEN: 7-11 tonight and Saturday night and 6-9 p.m. Monday-Halloween
WHERE: 4412 Georgia Highway 24 E., Louisville, Ga. (Click Here for Map)
ADMISSION: $3, no charge younger than 2
Phone: (478) 625-8951
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.