Published: June 5, 2013
Vince Stites thrives in the world of despair, derangement and distress.
He revels in the adrenalin rush of terrorizing people until they are so paralyzed with fear they can only cry, cringe, or collapse on the floor as they cower in terror.
Stites is the founder and co-owner of Hellscream Haunted House.
Last month, Stites found a permanent home for his nightmare inside the former Northside Professional Building, a former medical office site at 3021 N. Hancock Ave. Stites hopes to begin painting, decorating and moving manikins and animatronics into the 15,000 square-foot building by Monday. With his first permanent location, he also plans to add several additional dates throughout the year on which to mangle people's mental states.
"In this business, to see someone break down and cry and collapse in a corner is pretty rewarding," Stites said. "I know I sound like a serial killer, but it is power."
The first Hellscream Haunted House opened in 2009 in a field at the corner of Powers Boulevard and Palmer Park Boulevard where a carnival is held. At that time, Hellscream consisted of five semi-tractor trailers arranged in a horseshoe surrounded by a wooden facade that gave the impression of one giant building. It took $40,000 to open the fright site.
A total of 8,000 people entered the attraction from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31, 2009, Stites said. He lost about $25,000 that year.
But Stites was undeterred and he continued constructing larger fear factories.
Stites, 41, is an advertising salesman for KWHS-TV Channel 51. He became a fear fanatic at age 10; that was when he visited his first haunted house.
After that came Jason in "Friday the 13th," Fredrick Charles "Freddy" Krueger from "A Nightmare on Elm Street," and all the other horror films that provided inspiration.
Eventually, Stites stopped visiting haunted houses for fun and began taking notes of what scares people, believing he could build a better business. In 2010 and 2011, Stites put Hellscream in the parking lot of Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center on Mark Dabling Boulevard for a share of the profits. Last year, he took on a partner, lost the majority of his props and animatronics in the Waldo Canyon fire when his partner's house was destroyed, and was forced to move to the Centennial Commons Shopping Center after Mr. Biggs closed.
"I still have not recouped my original investment," he said, "but mostly because we continue to put the revenues back in the business."
Now he wants to turn fear into a full-time business. He hopes to open on Friday, Sept. 13th, and each Friday the 13th in 2014. He wants to hold a "My Bloody Valentine's Day" event and the "Nightmare before Christmas," next year as well. And, of course, he will be open for Halloween; admission will be $20.
Stites was raised in the Baptist Church, so there are no demonic or satanic creatures. He thinks classic monsters are sufficient.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.