- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (AP) - Visitors to “Haunt on Eden” start their terrifying tour with a short boat ride on “Lake Eden,” walk through a haunted cabin, and end surrounded by wild clowns wielding chain saws.

“We like to do elaborate,” said Susan Donis, creator of the haunt along with her husband, Jeff Donis.

Since 2013, the couple have built a haunt next to their house at 86 Eden Ave., leaving it open for a few weekends before taking it down again. Each year it’s built from scratch, with no two scenes repeated, Jeff Donis said.

This year’s signature piece is the 18- inch-deep Lake Eden and the boat that carries passengers. Visitors sometimes misunderstand that the haunt isn’t part of the Donis’ house, the couple said.

The haunt was open last weekend and will be open again on Friday and Saturday from 8 to 11 p.m. On Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m., a toned-down version of the haunt is held for children. Donations are accepted.

In previous years, the couple took dog and cat food as donations, but the expense of buying materials and building the haunt have risen as the production has grown.

“It used to be dog and cat food and we’d bring it to the shelter, but now we need donations to keep this thing going,” Susan Donis said.

Jeff Donis said he saves as much wood as possible from each set, storing it in his garage. He hopes to expand beyond the current 20-by-40-foot structure next year.

Between 15 and 20 actors participate, surprising visitors by reaching from the ceiling, bursting through walls or crawling through a bathroom cabinet. Behind the rooms visible to the public are alleys for actors to move and jump out at people.

“We’re really trying to terrify you,” Jeff Donis said.

About 800 people showed up last weekend and the Donises expect even higher numbers this coming weekend. Susan Donis said she hopes to go professional with the haunt someday, when it outgrows the family’s own property.

The town has been supportive of the haunt, which is considered a temporary structure by town officials. Jeff Donis said he had an inspector visit and explained what they do.

“He said, ‘OK, have fun,’” Jeff Donis said.

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Information from: Record-Journal, https://www.record-journal.com

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