- Associated Press - Saturday, January 21, 2017

DOOMS, Va. (AP) - Down a gravel road a large mill greets you. You’re in a remote place, so not many people will hear your screams.

Caitlin Mahon gets a certain pleasure out of scaring people. A self-proclaimed nerd, she likes all things scary, frightening and haunted. So, it would make sense she’d have a haunted mill attraction set up in her backyard for the public to go through.

It’s fitting that a haunted mill attraction would be located in Dooms.

“It’s cathartic, I also enjoy seeing them laugh,” she said. “They’re being scared, but they’re being scared in a safe environment. They can come out screaming and laughing. When people get scared like that, it can be cathartic for them. It’s also a really creative experience. It’s a giant art project that keeps going on.”

This past year, she opened the doors to area residents to walk through, scream and thoroughly get terrified.

She loved every minute of it.

It’s called Madame Redrum’s Nine Gates of Doom and it was only open 11 days last year, boasting up to 350 people on one night alone.

Off Rockfish Road outside of Waynesboro, Caitlin Mahon and her mother, Sandra Mahon, own the property. They’ve used their own money to renovate the mill and some of the proceeds go back into the mill or to local animal charities.

They’ve been residents for almost four years now. The old Coiner Mill was used for flour milling and later made animal feed, it also powered the home that’s on the property and got its power from the nearby South River. When the Mahon’s purchased the property, the mill was not in good shape.

The current structure dates back to 1860, but according to Caitlin, flour was being milled there much earlier than that. Some believe the mill is actually haunted, but Caitlin said she only gets good energy from the building and whatever may inhabit it. Much of the old equipment is still intact and it’s something Caitlin showcases in her attraction.

“We haven’t disturbed or hurt anything in the actual building,” she said. “Everything has been constructed like a theater set - it can be taken down and something else can be put in its place.”

Visitors enter the old mill at the basement level. They weave through the different stories and several rooms and hallways. Each area is decorated with specific themes - think bloody, horror films. Things jump out at you, you could be grabbed and there’s lots of elements of surprise. There’s a total of 10,000 square feet to explore, or in this case, try to escape.

Caitlin spent three years restoring the old mill. She said she removed in the upwards of 200,000 pounds of trash from the building. New stairs have been built, tunnels to connect different sets have been constructed and an entire new foundation was put in place for the old mill to sit on.

“It was a giant abandoned building,” she said.

Caitlin is in building mode now, preparing for the next season. In the coming years, things that need to be fixed up are the windows, siding and a new roof is needed. For now, she’s plugging leaks, cleaning up the mill and revising her sets.

She gets by with a little help from her friends, too. About 10 people went into performing the event while it was up and running. J.W. Seay, who dressed up for one of the scenes this past year, came by Sunday with a box of tools ready to dive into some renovations.

Caitlin and I met and we kind of shared the same kind of love for terrifying people,” he said. “Our minds are like tunnels, so the deeper you go, the darker it gets.”

Caitlin draws inspiration for her sets from movies, her imagination and from real life. She spent 12 years as a police officer in Richmond and Albemarle County and said she had seen some pretty gruesome things. Her love of all things scary started early. She’s been exploring other haunted attractions in the surrounding states.

The defining memory that she really decided she wanted to pursue her own haunted attraction, or haunt as the pros call it, was after a visit to Bates Motel in Pennsylvania. She got so scared she ran to the back porch into an employee there and they both fell off the porch. She said she was laughing so hard, even though she had the living daylights scared out of her.

“That’s when I was like, I would love to scare people like that. I was having such a great time and having so much fun,” she said. “Over the years we’ve just been keeping an eye out for a property where we could build a haunt.”

Growing up, her family would always buy old houses and fix them up. So fixing up an old structure isn’t daunting, it’s about bringing new life to it.

“We’re saving the building too,” she said. “We love old houses, we love old buildings. So it’s kind of this fusion where I get to do my nerdy haunt thing and we get to save the building.”

The season is expected to start back up next fall, right around Halloween. Those getting the itch for a scare earlier than that can look into an immersion experience, which is like a private event for up to four people. Caitlin said she is shooting to have those private events, which people schedule ahead of time, up and running by the spring. The haunt is not suggest for those under 12 years old.

To learn more visit MadameRedrums.com.

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