ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. - As far back as he can remember, there was something about Halloween that resonated with Chris Arturi.
Growing up in Pearl River, his parents would always decorate their home for the holiday. Arturi loved all the props. He admits to being materialistic, which prompts him to hang onto things. (He remembers when he was 6 or 7 years old his father making two of the tombstones that are currently placed on his lawn in Stony Point.)
His interest in, and passion for, Halloween and the macabre is something Arturi likes to share with others every year during the month of October when his garage and backyard turns into a haunted house, Thirty Knapp Road.
“I enjoy adding something to people’s lives that they don’t usually get, that surprise scare—not the real scare,” Arturi said. “Life is really scary out there. I do this so that people can get humor from the scares.”
Driving down Knapp Road the house initially is unassuming. But the battalion of dummy-zombies in the backyard and homemade decorations, including a life-size Pinhead on the front porch, signal that something is up.
Inside the garage are five rooms constructed and decorate from scratch, each with their own theme: the Funhouse room, the Demon Baby Delivery room, the Tomb room, the Haunted Hair Salon (for his girlfriend who is a hairstylist), and lastly, the Mad Scientist, a fan-favorite that Arturi has kept for the past couple years. (He typically doesn’t like to repeat room themes.)
“Every year I learn, and improve and edit the course so it makes a little more sense,” Arturi said.
This year, the course features a zombie “wall” rather than a “horde” because last year people would weave in and out of the dummies and off the course. Instead, the wall steers people past a point where reaction photos are taken.
“I enjoy adding something to people’s lives that they don’t usually get, that surprise scare—not the real scare. Life is really scary out there. I do this so that people can get humor from the scares.”
Initially Arturi used to just decorate his house. Over time the haunted house just grew out of that. Now he has about 12 volunteer live actors who work the garage and another few in the backyard. He even had friend and neighbor Dave Green create original audio for each room.
In the last two years Thirty Knapp Road has drawn about 2,000 people--1,000 each year--in just four to five nights. The house has been open each Saturday this month in the buildup to Halloween with Arturi expecting the busiest night of his season to be the weekend before Halloween.
He describes his haunted house as a hobby but passion or labor of love might be more apt: he estimates that he has invested $10,000 in the haunted house to date, but he doesn’t charge a dime to enter. (There is a donation pumpkin.)
“I don’t charge admission because I make enough money doing what I do, and this is my hobby. I don’t need to charge money so I don’t,” Arturi said. He manages to find time to set up Thirty Knapp Road when he isn’t working his day job as the manager of Hot Topic in the Palisades Center.
“It’s fun when it’s free. When you start charging money people become critical and have expectations and judge you.”
It’s also an art; his art, and he credits his parents for encouraging him to pursue his artistic passions.