Perhaps one of the most frightening aspects of the "Nightmare on the Gorge" haunted house attraction near Oak Hill, West Virginia, is that a serial killer had really stalked the hills in the early 1960s and may have lived less than a mile away.
But the team who brought the Mad Butcher to life at the annual Halloween-season funhouse at ACE Adventure Resort had no idea such a person had existed, says Chris Colin, who now knows the tale all too well.
"When we started, we had no idea there had once been someone killing people and carving them up. It wasn't until after the first year that someone said, 'Hey, that was pretty danged scary,' and then they told us why," Colin said.
To this day no one has identified who murdered at least some of seven people who went missing in the area in 1962 and 1963, though body parts were found across southern West Virginia.
Officials have never been able to find enough evidence to charge anyone nor have they ever determined whether the murders popularly attributed to "the butcher" were committed by a single killer.
"Some people believe the butcher lived on the hill just above the resort off Salem-Gatewood Road, and when we heard that, we were chilled," Colin said.
"The heads of one of the victims was also found under the trestle on the other side of the resort, so in some ways, we're surrounded by the legend, though that all happened years before the resort was established."
By day, the 1,500-acre resort is one of the chief destinations for adventurers exploring the New River Gorge. Thousands of guests annually lodge in its cabins, swim in its waterpark, zip through trees on its canopy tours, and raft down the New and Gauley rivers with its guides.
By night, it's as much fun, especially during its musical festivals and when the resort's campgrounds are open. During the Halloween season, however, its 6,000-square-foot warehouse becomes the "Warehouse of Terror," home to more than 30 monsters, including the Mad Butcher.
Participants are also welcome to unwind after the warehouse adventure with food, drinks, and live music at The Lost Paddle Bar And Grill.
The adventure can also be combined with a raft trip on the Gauley River, Colin said.
Beginning October 11, the Nightmare of the Gorge will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 7-11 p.m. until November 3, when the resort will host an entirely lightless night in which guests may only use glowsticks.
For more information on the event, visit Nightmare on the Gorge.