Haunted houses is a family tradition for Stephen Herrera. And, for his neighborhood near Jefferson Terrace, that means an annual event.
Herrera, 22, says he has been putting on Halloween scare-fests at 10437 Oakline Drive, Baton Rouge, for more than 10 years, raising money for charities for the past five years. Thursday through Saturday will be no different, with the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank as the beneficiary.
Fifteen years ago his aunt, Talissa Becnel, created a small haunted house in the garage of her home near Millerville Road.
“That’s when I kind of fell in love with it,” Herrera said.
After graduating from Catholic High School in 2011, Herrera began working as an actor and makeup artist at The 13th Gate commercial haunted house in Baton Rouge. When he started attending film school at the University of New Orleans, Herrera began working at a similar operation, The Mortuary, learning set-building and design techniques from co-workers.
“I do a lot of special effects makeup and love special effects in general,” he said.
It comes in handy with this haunted house, which will involved about 15 actors in an array of ghoulish roles. This year’s production isn’t as large as some previous editions — roughly 1,000 square feet, taking up the garage and an area just outside created with wood framing and black plastic sheets. The haunted house is free to attend, but Herrera asks for a monetary or food donation for the Food Bank.
The most successful Halloween was several years ago when the house raised about $700 for Catholic High School in a single night,” Herrera said. With a three-day run and, if the weather is nice, Herrera hopes to raise more than $1,000 this year.
This year, Herrera said he is using more professional-quality special effects than before — a loud, electric, crackling sound effect machine used in many professional haunted houses; an air-compressor that shoots a startling blast of air onto passers-by; and a machine that shoots more than 1,000 tiny, colored laser beams in a dizzying display. Through friends he has met in the film industry, he has obtained cinema-grade makeup and fake blood.
“Everybody loves it,” he said. “This neighborhood is very supportive because of what we’re doing it for. … We actually have a huge Halloween block party … and all the kids afterwards come here. A lot of neighbors ask, ‘Are you still doing your haunted house this year?’”