As the leaves turn and pumpkins spring up on porches across Webster City, a house on the end of Third Street comes alive with bellows of terror that pierce through the frigid Fall air.
The Webster City haunted house is hard to miss at 134 Third St. Signs direct about 200 scare-seekers every day it's open to a home owned by Bob and Barb Kaye, who live next door. Bob Kaye said they purchased the home and planned to burn it down to have a larger yard.
However, their plans changed after they made a maze and added scary decorations to their garage as a small haunted house for daughter Lindsay's birthday. She and her friends were scared at first, but grew to love it. A year later, they made a full haunted house for her birthday in their side home. When they let a few more people in to check it out, one visitor was so thrilled he suggested they open it up to the public.
Bob Kaye sets up an inflatable grim reaper next to the house, which he and wife Barb Kaye think of as the mascot of their haunted house on Third Street. The haunted house is open this Friday and Saturday and next weekend, as well as Halloween.
Now, Bob and Barb Kaye own the only haunted house in Webster City, which they've now hosted for five years. Bob Kaye said that Jaycees used to operate a haunted house in town, but they left a few years ago. The Kaye haunted house has a list of local sponsors and donors that help them make horror happen.
"People in the community kind of missed seeing a haunted house, so they were very willing to help out," Bob Kaye said.
What frights the house holds changes from year to year. Bob Kaye said the themes and decorations of some rooms remain the same, but they are always making changes. Volunteers come up with ideas for individual rooms and occasionally butt heads on what would bring the biggest scares, but Bob Kaye said they always reach compromise. He said the biggest change since they began has been the addition of motion sensors to various props, which allow various set pieces to pop out at visitors.
Although, what most visitors will notice popping out at them are the volunteer actors. They portray a number of different characters, from asylum patients to clowns and more. Many of the volunteers have continued to help over the years, according to Bob Kaye, who said they really enjoy their work.
"We have as much fun doing this as the people going through it," Bob Kaye said.
Both Bob and Barb Kaye said that the reactions people have to the haunted house, which they said are overwhelmingly positive, keep them going and doing this every year. They've become notorious for their scares, so much so that they said haunted house operators from Ames and Fort Dodge have come to see the house.
"We also had an exchange student come through last year. I'm not sure if they do this sort of thing in other countries. She didn't speak the language and didn't have a clue, but a scream is a scream," Barb Kaye said.
Bob Kaye said one of his favorite memories was a group of four wrestlers that came through the house. Muscular and covered in letterman jackets, he said the young men were huddled together and squeezing hands so tightly in fear, one of them shouted "Let go of my pinky."
"That's are fun part of it to hear stuff like that. Seeing guys hide behind their girlfriends, watching people scream then act tough as they leave, it makes at all worth our time," Bob Kaye said.
The haunted house is open Friday and Saturday this weekend and the next from 7 to 10:30 p.m., and on Halloween. The family strongly suggests a five dollar donation, or canned food item that will go to a local food bank.
"We've been compared to and even said we're better than other haunted houses around here, and most of those will charge you at least 13 bucks," Barb Kaye said. "And on October 20, all the money will go to breast cancer awareness."
Barb Kaye said they still have to pay taxes on the house and feed their volunteers, but as long as the community continues to support their house of horrors, they will keep doing hosting it as long as they can.