The Radley Haunted House Is Artistic and Frightening
TAMPA, Fl. - Just after dark in St. Petersburg, along a neighborhood street, brave souls are preparing themselves. They’re about to have their wits scared out of them. Ten-year-old Nathan Diaz and his six-year-old brother, Connor, aren’t sure they’re going to make it out alive.
“I’m more scared when things pop out at me, said Nathan. “That’s a worst case scenario for me.”
The Diaz family are among a growing number of fans of the haunted house, which seems to appear out of nowhere on 39th Street every October. But this isn’t just any haunted house. This is The Radley House.
“I love scaring people to death. It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” said Cody Meacham.
Meacham is the young artist who conceives of and builds this artistic and spooky structure every year. Cody’s talent as a sculptor, and his skills as a set builder at HSN contribute to the project in a way that makes it stand out from other neighborhood haunted houses. Meacham says the idea is to not simply frighten the "guests," as he calls his visitors, but to "wow" them as well.
“We’re trying to change the game a bit. It’s beautiful horror,” said Meacham. “I think all the details are just as important as the big eye catchers in a haunted house.”
Meachum starts with a story line, but it's always a twist on the mythical cursed Radley family – and he builds his haunted house around the narrative.
“I guess it’s the whole idea of writing a story, making it realistic, and yet supernatural, coming up with characters, giving them lives, and then building an environment for them to be in that goes perfectly with the story,” said Meachum.
This year, Cody has had the help of friend and creative producer Jaisen Crockett to help with the building and the marketing of the Radley House.
“It’s a great experience to have, of actually scaring somebody. It’s fantastic, you know?” said Crockett. “Everything has to be perfect.”
The work starts months ahead of time, from sculpting Styrofoam into ancient stone walls, to coming up with authentic costumes, to finding just the right props to tell the story, nothing is left to chance. As ‘guests’ make their way through the Radley, you can almost feel the fear. Screams can be heard, and giggles, and not just from the kids. The Radley House has less blood and gore than lots of haunted houses, but the psychological fear that’s created – both by the environment and the element of surprise – is highly effective.
“It was a nightmare,” said 10-year-old Nathan. “ It wasn’t fun. There were definitely things popping out at me.”
When asked if the boys were happy to have made it out of the Radley House, 6-year-old Connor replied, “It’s a miracle.”
The Radley Haunted House is located at 3900 19th Street North in St. Petersburg. Admission is $4.00. It’s open through 11:30 p.m. on Halloween night.
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