YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – If ever a building were perfect for a haunted house, it could be the former McVean, Hughes and McClurkin funeral home.
The 1901 Tudor mansion sits atop Wick Avenue in Youngstown, a foreboding edifice seemingly forgotten by the march of time.
Inside, it’s practically a Hollywood thriller movie set with creepy passageways, a dank basement and embalming rooms that have remained untouched for decades.
Erik Engartner, whose family owns the building, has always wanted to create a haunted attraction there.
This year, he has.
Nine Lives, a haunted attraction at the Wickyards, opened Oct. 7. It will be open every Friday and Saturday in October from 7 to 11 p.m.
Admission is $10 (cash, credit card or Venmo), or $20 for an extended fright that includes the top floor.
The building is at 711 Wick Ave., on the corner of Westbound Service Lane. It is across the street and a few hundred feet south of Ursuline High School.
“The building was my inspiration for [the attraction],” Engartner admits. “Haunted houses and horror films aren’t really my thing but the inspiration came through the walls and the architecture. It was asking to be created. I feel like I did it justice.”
For about two years, Engartner had been using the main room of the building, where calling hours once took place for funerals, as a performance venue for local rock bands.
He began planning for the haunted house about 18 months ago, with the physical setup beginning in June.
He incorporates the building itself into the theme, as well as embalming equipment and tables. The embalming devices are very old and have a sinister look.
“We make use of all of that stuff in our scenery and it also plays into our plot as well,” Engartner says.
That plot involves a mad funeral director who is trying to reanimate corpses. “He’s a master embalmer who wants to cash in twice on bodies by reviving the dead using cat DNA,” Engartner explains.
The attraction makes use of 29 actors – about a dozen working each night – who lead small groups through the house and lurk in its rooms.
As haunted houses go, the scare level is in the mid-range.
“You’ll get scared,” Engartner says. “It’s much scarier than a kiddie attraction but it’s not an all-out gorefest.”
Guests enter through the main entrance on the side of the house, next to the parking lot, and will wait in the funeral home’s former main room until their group is called. Party size will be limited to six in most cases.
Each night, the actors will take a 20-minute break around 9 p.m., during which a local band performs.
Engartner had been using the room as a venue for rock bands known as The Wickyards and is glad to once again be able to give them exposure, even if for just 20 minutes.
The band schedule follows:
- Oct. 7: Thought Mass
- Oct. 8: Moth
- Oct. 14: Crash the Great
- Oct. 15: Miss Dreadful
- Oct. 21: Heck Vektor
- Oct. 22: Outrun Infinity
- Oct. 28: Lilith Mors
- Oct. 29: The Head Trips
Pictured at top: Erik Engartner stands before the entrance of his Nine Lives, a haunted attraction.