Do you find enjoyment and interest in the circus, an insane asylum, and watching twitch streams? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll find at Wells Township Haunted House.
Located 40 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh at 101 Market Street in Brilliant, Ohio, the building this volunteer-run haunted attraction resides in was built in 1836. First used to harbor the bodies of Civil War soldiers, which some believe created a beacon for spirits to roam. Years later, the building became a General Store that hosted barge and river workers at the time. The building then expanded to a furniture store, and later to “Walters Heating and Cooling” establishment. Sean Norman, Brilliant Police Captain, obtained the building 20 years ago after a smaller building that was being used ran out of space. Sean states that a group of kids came to him and wanted to be a part of the attraction, which led him to gathering other policemen and community members to own the house where the attraction sits now.
Wells Township Haunted House is a completely volunteer-led attraction, hosting about 150 volunteers, 120 of which are high school teenagers. This attraction brings roughly 50 to 75 volunteers nightly all split between actors, guides, makeup and costume artists, concession, gift shop, ticket booth, security, and many more. Due to the teamwork and family-like atmosphere of the attraction, it was voted #1 scariest haunted house in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Throughout the year, this attraction brings about 12 to 15,000 patrons to the house to visit led by a tour guide. Wells Township is one of the very few attractions in the area that is guide led, which adds to the atmosphere of the building. Throughout the haunt season, as well as the off-season, the money made from the house previously goes to rebuilding, sponsors for little leagues, charities, staff created camps, and Sean brings 200 veterans and their families through the house for free on behind-the-scenes tours.
Most of the volunteers have full-time careers on top of this attraction, such as elementary school teacher aide, stay-at-home family members, factory operators, family advocates, nurses, police officers, and many more. Most volunteers have been involved in the haunt industry since they were kids to young adults and just couldn’t step away from this awesome activity. A couple of our volunteers came from other haunted houses, such as Alyssa Negri who is a part of the makeup artist crew, as well as Sabrina Slager and Bryan “Beaver” Negri who act as tour guides and makeup crew.
Many of the Wells Township Haunted House tour guides have created their own characters and rooms throughout the house. Two tour guides that have received the most fanfare have been “Aunt B”, portrayed by Buddy Campbell. “My original idea didn’t go over well so we were fooling around with the idea of an old woman and also that’s how Ebolina, the doll she carries, came about,” said Buddy. “Goo”, portrayed by Taylor Norman, stated, “… I decided on a clown and did a duo with another actor. He was Giggity, I was Goo and the rest is history.” Taylor also won the title of “Haunt Actress of the Year.”
Subscribe to Weelunk
Along with a cast of actors and tour guides, the attraction also has its makeup and costume crew. Ashlynn Giles and AnnaMarie Mansfield are heads of the costume department. Their job is to make sure everyone is in a fitting costume for the room they’re acting in. From an alien mask to a glittery show coat, some to most of the costumes and masks were donated or made by volunteers. Some of the more unique masks made by volunteers are the alien mask, which is held to the actor’s head by a built-in helmet, a Freddy Krueger mask, and a revamped Michael Myers mask. As head of the makeup crew stands Erica Talkington. Erica is married to another volunteer, Jimmy Talkington, who helps program the “Boo Boxes,” alongside Doug Striker and Ernie Mozingo. Erica and Jimmy met at the haunted house and now have a 2-year-old boy named Grayson, who is their “Head of Security.” Erica oversees the program of a local chapter that allows teens to young adults to work at the house throughout the year.
The rooms and details of this attraction are all thought out and designed by current volunteers. Every year, Sean posts a form that allows anyone from the haunted house to submit a room idea to be built for the next year. Bryan Negri states, “our house is unlike any other as most are theme-based, every room is a different theme. This shows our creative side in the kids and adults because every room is an idea from their heads.” Sean also noted that it takes volunteers nearly 10 months to rebuild the very intricate house. All rooms are built and programmed by teenagers to adults.
Alyssa Negri stated, “Going from the last house I worked at to Wells was a big step. I saw how much the haunted industry changed over the years. At my previous house, to control lights and sound, it was run by light switches and CD players. To now work at Wells, where everything is run by a Boo Box, where you can program the lights and sound to it, hit a button and the whole room runs itself.” This attraction all comes together by fog machines, wooden platform and bridges, air blasts, air bags that move floors, the painting that goes into the rooms, the programming that Doug, Ernie, and Jimmy do, and their volunteers, I would say this place is pretty impressive.
Many volunteers have stated paranormal activity in the building from apparitions to footsteps and doors slamming. Wells Township Haunted House’s haunted house season typically begins in late September and ends in early November. In addition to the haunted house Wells also hosts local bands to play at its outdoor stage.
If you haven’t made a trip to the Wells Township Haunted House this spooky season, you still have a chance to get in on the action! Wells hosts a lights-out weekend where tours are given one glow stick and have to navigate the house themselves on November 4 and 5. At only $14 admission and $25 for VIP tickets, I would suggest taking a visit to see the mystery and horror of Wells Township Haunted House before the season ends. Learn more and get tickets by visiting wellstownshiphauntedhouse.com.
• Kaden Bednarek is a local paranormal fanatic, horror lover, haunted house actor, and aspiring journalist.