THRILLVANIA Haunted Attraction
By: FAITH SPARKS
The creators of Cutting Edge Haunted House are also responsible for another blood-tingling experience: Thrillvania Haunted House Park in Terrell, TX, about 30 miles east of Dallas. At almost 50 acres, with five different attractions, this is one helluva haunt. Each of these represents a chapter from the Legend of Baron Verdun and Lady Cassandra, the original owners of the mansion. Guests learn the horrible truth behind Verdun Manor and the evil, sadistic acts that took place there as they walk through the grounds, where Baron Verdun (a flesh-hungry werewolf) and Lady Cassandra (a bloodsucking vampire) still lurk about.
Let’s begin with Verdun Manor itself, where Baron Verdun and Lady Cassandra would throw their lavish, cannibalistic parties. Bear witness to Baron Verdun’s ghastly creatures, spawned from his cruel experiments. Pass through Cassandra’s Labyrinth, with crazy clowns running amok. Enter Sam Rain’s Trail of Torment, where the mad psychologist conducts his own experiments. Walk into Granny Lupus’ Séance Theatre and watch in amazement as she conjures up the restless spirits that roam around the estate. Finally, there is Thorn Hall, the old abandoned church in which groundskeeper Mortimer Thorn is said to reside. We got the gory details about Thrillvania and its twisted backstory from co-creators Mike
Malec, Jeff Gilbreath and Todd James.
FANGORIA: Can you give us some history about Verdun Manor and Baron Verdun?
JEFF GILBREATH: The Verdun Manor mansion was designed and built by the Disney Imagineers in 1964. Lance Pope acquired the large haunted-house structure in 1989, and the rest is history.
As the legend is told, in 1901 a particularly strange house was built by psychopathic baron Michael Verdun. He conducted cruel, painful experiments on captive vagrants he abducted from the city’s streets. Being a werewolf himself, Verdun was keenly interested in bringing out the beast in man. His mysterious practices created hideous, malformed creatures that were neither completely man nor animal, driven only by bloodlust. Verdun and his monsters were eventually captured by townspeople, and left locked in a laboratory to die in a raging chemical fire—but it is said that Verdun and his mutations still haunt the rotted mansion and its many hidden corridors.
Verdun Manor has stood silent for the past 112 years, but older members of the town remember Verdun’s fierce vow of revenge upon his death to all those who enter his domain. Now, in the eerie glow of the October moon, ghostly wolf howls emanate from the mildewed halls as the creaking doors of Verdun Manor open for those brave enough to take the terrifying journey into the unknown.
FANG: In the spirit of the “legend,” have you experienced any ghostly phenomena on the grounds?
GILBREATH: Those who knew Lance Pope know that one of his favorite animals was the wolf. A few days following his death, his mother, father and many of the cast and crew came together at the park to meet and discuss the future. Upon entering, each and every one of them sighted a wolf in the field, regardless of their entry time. When they left, the wolf had vanished, never to be seen again. We could not help but believe he had stood there to bid us goodbye.
FANG: Have there ever been any paranormal investigations by ghost hunters or psychics?
MIKE MALEC: Yes, the North Texas Paranormal Society [NTPS] came out one evening, and set up cameras and audio-recording devices to see if we were a true haunted house. Thrillvania’s Wolf Pack special effects crew decided to have fun with the ghost hunters. We recorded some eerie sounds and voices telling them to be warned, and leave while they still could. The crew were very professional and dedicated to the scientific aspect of finding ghosts; however, the Wolf Pack decided to scare the crap out of them. It was quite surprising to the NTPS people when they began receiving EVPs on their equipment. It was so hard to keep from laughing as the tension rose from the angry spirits lurking in Verdun Manor. We finally had to let them in on our joke. Good times!
FANG: Do you believe in the paranormal yourself? Have you ever seen a ghost?
TODD JAMES: Lance Pope has been seen and photographed around Thrillvania for years now, and the crew is very aware of his lingering and welcoming presence. Strange things are always happening around this location; Lance was and is quite the prankster.
FANG: What inspired you to take on Thrillvania in addition to Cutting Edge?
JAMES: Thrillvania is a national legend; the staff and crew are amazing people and their love for the park is infectious. Lance Pope was a good friend of mine before he passed on, and I am honored to be part of keeping his vision alive.
FANG: What are some of the differences between Thrillvania and Cutting Edge?
GILBREATH: The difference is daylight and dark, and that’s what makes it so great to be associated with both. One is expansive and the other is about tight seclusion. The thrills are constructed and created entirely differently. Cutting Edge operates in the midst of downtown Ft. Worth in a large, multi-floored building, whereas Thrillvania is located across 50 acres. Cutting Edge is “city” and Thrillvania is “country.”
FANG: Why was this location chosen?
JAMES: Fifty wooded acres in the country just east of Dallas—gotta love a good chainsaw-massacre story!
FANG: Of Thrillvania’s five sections, which would you say is your favorite, or which one scares you the most?
JAMES: The history and legend behind Verdun Manor make it my personal favorite. I mean, what’s not to love about a haunted mansion built in the ’60s?
FANG: Do the attractions change in scenery, props or costumes?
GILBREATH: Yes, we make continual changes in all of those. This is very important to us, since we have patrons who have been coming to our haunt for more than 25 years. They expect a different experience each time, and we are nothing if we do not meet the public’s expectations.
FANG: What is Voodoo Bayou?
GILBREATH: It’s the parcel of land you walk through in order to arrive at the Verdun Manor mansion, and what bayou would be complete without a fire-breathing hell beast?
FANG: How does it feel to have two of the nation’s top haunted attractions?
JAMES: Well, when you love haunted houses and Halloween, and you get to work with some of the most talented and creative people anywhere, being a part of these two events is an amazing experience.
FANG: What is the one thing you want people to know about Thrillvania?
GILBREATH: We want them to know that each of us who work at Thrillvania takes personal pride in providing the entertainment they expect!