- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

WHITEWATER, Wis. (AP) - When Dick Kraus gets in his combine, he’s not only harvesting crops.

It’s also a perfect place to let his fertile mind run wild.

It’s anyone’s guess what dastardly idea will soon be swinging from a silo or what attraction he’ll be fashioning from recycled odds and ends.

The farmer and entrepreneur just can’t stop thinking, planning and creating.

Kraus, 65, who has the tan and squint of a farmer, estimates he gets by on about two hours of sleep a night.

In his waking hours, he farms 1,100 acres of corn and soybeans on his family farm and raises turkeys for sale.

He also runs The Fuzzy Pig, a country mall and restaurant he built on the family farmstead in rural Whitewater.

At Halloween, he hosts four scary venues under the name Shockwave Haunts.

Kraus built the gift shop after his knees went bad and he sold the cows.

When he and his wife, Pam, bought merchandise for her two stores, the Milton House of Flowers and Floral Villa in Whitewater, they would sometimes argue about the stock.

So he built his own place.

“I like to do crazy stuff, so I messed around with it for about 15 winters,” he told the Janesville Gazette (https://bit.ly/1Scn34r ). “I just like creating stuff.”

It was a perfect place to recycle the salvage he collects: his favorite Cream City bricks, which he taught himself to lay, as well as rustic doors, old lumber and wide floorboards.

He jacked up the building to install heavy beams and made the walls red by reusing old barn boards.

Each of the rooms has a theme, such as the old kitchen farmhouse, which displays culinary gift items. One night during construction, he created water-stained and peeling wallpaper near the ceiling by using paper bags. It was a great compliment when a worker the next morning said the room was ruined.

Kraus sells a menagerie of goods, ranging from stained glass to greeting cards, clothing, consignments and even animal feed.

Off the barn is a large room for meetings, receptions and parties.

Halloween has always been a Kraus favorite, and he opened four haunts peopled with monsters, including a skeleton he crafted from latex and gauze with an oozing eyeball and a demented clown that leers from a dilapidated International Harvester.

Kraus hires 47 costumed actors to provide additional scares.

The sets are monstrously gruesome, and a Gazette reporter recently rated them the scariest_and one of his favorites_of about a dozen he has visited.

“They’re not lame,” Kraus agreed, adding that he has seen college kids cry.

Kraus let his sense of humor loose in one haunt called St. Leah’s Last Rites Nursing Home_nursing homes being scary just by themselves.

“Your kids dump you off there, never to be picked up again,” Kraus said with a wicked edge to his voice.

The haunt features an infirmary, a morgue and old people running around in hospital gowns.

He pointed to a resident in a corner bed who hasn’t had a pulse for three years. A nearby visitor also died and is being pecked by crows.

There are no chainsaws on the grounds.

“We knew that’s been done to death,” Kraus said.

The nursing home isn’t the only place his dry sense of humor is evident.

A sign in front of The Fuzzy Pig pictures a cat.

The place’s namesake is a wild cat the family tamed with coffee creamers. The long-haired creature eventually started to look like a small watermelon.

“We called him ‘the Pig,’” Kraus said.

The Pig reigned at the farm for several years until three wild female cats showed up.

“He impregnated all of them,” Kraus recalled.

“He was laying on the front porch, and these little kittens come running and crawling on him. He got up and moved two feet, and they followed him. He moved three times,” Kraus recalled, and at the time commented on the Pig’s disgusted look.

“He walked away, and we never saw him again,” Kraus said.

Fuzzy Pig’s descendants still roam the grounds.

The store’s out-of-the-way location doesn’t seem to deter customers.

The country mall is open seven days a week. The restaurant is temporarily closed, however, as the cook has been ill. Kraus also employs eight part-timers.

He is working on another haunt at a different location.

“My mind is weird,” he admitted.

“It’s racing all the time.”


Information from: The Janesville Gazette, https://www.gazetteextra.com

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