Mick Hoover never discloses the theme of his upcoming, humorously macabre and horrific Halloween home on Rose Avenue in Mackay, a small town surrounded by picturesque mountains and ranches in central Idaho.
“You have to come and see for yourself—if you dare,” said Hoover, laughing about Hoover’s House of Horrors.
Plenty of people have taken him up on his dare since he started the tradition in 1995. His Halloween extravaganza—creepy scenes he designs using extravagant motion-activated and animatronic props—takes months to plan, days to set up, and it frightens visitors only a few hours on Halloween night.
“More than 300 people come, some from as far as Ogden, Utah, because they’ve heard about it by word of mouth,” said Hoover, 65, who retired as assistant manager at a nearby Idaho Department of Fish and Game fish hatchery.
His sense of humor is tinged with the macabre in his elaborate sets and costumes. He has been a crazed clown with sharp pointed teeth, a mad scientist, a zombie, and different boogeymen of his own creation. As a zombie, he glued rice to his face to look like maggots and large, live flies.
Admission is free. Instead, “hearing the first scream makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
“There’s a reason it’s called Hoover’s House of Horrors,” Hoover said. “I try to think of common phobias and give them a twist. Most people naturally like to be frightened, especially when they know they’re safe and can have a few laughs. Whatever I do, I hope it makes you afraid, grosses you out, or makes you pee your pants. Some people have told me they’ve had all those reactions.”
While scenes differ year to year, the entrance always has a 16-foot-tall guillotine. He also built an adjacent 14-foot-tall guillotine that makes people jump when they hear the blade swoosh downward and thud.
To get candy at the front door, visitors must navigate a tall, 22-foot-long tunnel filled with rustling animatronic spiders, hundreds of rats and bugs; zombie babies and bewitched-looking dolls; and severed body parts on a real embalming table.
“I have a great stormy sound track of thunder and make lightning flashes to set the mood, too,” he said.
He booby-traps his yard with terror—moaning zombies, scary clowns, flapping gargoyles, and corpses with spinning heads rising from the ground.
Hoover said people ask him why he takes so much time to set up the scenes for only one night and offers the attractions for free.
“I grew up in Detroit, and Halloween was great there. I’ve always loved scary movies, too, so, for, me setting up horror scenes every year is just fun.” ISI