What began in 2007 as a friendly battle between two neighbors for the best Halloween yard decorations has become a community event spilling over multiple nights and filling Mount Airy’s crisp Fall air with specters, spooks, and startles.
Necrosis Valley Haunts is an annual community haunt conceived in the cobwebbed brains of Mount Airy neighbors Jeff Zolkiewicz and Greg Keller.
The Haunt evolved from that October of one-ups-manship to a 2008 garage competition between Zolkiewicz and Keller. For weeks, each toiled alone inside their separate closed garages on top-secret haunt displays. On Halloween night, the sun set, darkness fell, and the doors were rolled up to unveil two completely over-the top haunt tableaus. While Keller had constructed a deep, dark and witch-laden haunted woods, Zolkiewicz had designed a stunningly detailed Diner of Death where decomposing bodies surrounded a glorious banquet table laden with inedible morsels of horror.
It was then that the pair decided they could be better than the sum of their parts, and Necrosis Valley Haunts was hatched. 2009’s haunt was an elaborate cemetery, while 2010’s was even larger, featuring a 25 foot tall rising and sailing grim reaper.
2011’s Necrosis Valley Meats haunt introduced the world to Chopper Valley, who instantly became the gang’s official mascot, and “friend!”
2012 marked the beginning of a multi-year theme based loosely on actual historic figures who once lived and breathed in Mount Airy. The centerpiece has been the Garrett Sanitarium which existed in Mount Airy from 1887 until sometime in the 1930s. You can read about the history of the Garrett facility here. 2013 brought a complete clown show to town in the H&H Brothers Clown Corps Haunt. It was without question the most elaborate set of props we have built.
2015’s “The Contagion” haunt was set in the 1940’s with a rapidly spreading pathogen, resulting from all the death and disease which accumulated over the years, consuming the clean-up crew and releasing a zombie-type apocalypse. Zolkiewicz noted, “It actually may have been a bit too scary, which is good…and bad, but mainly really good.”
The haunt took an unplanned
1-year 2-year 3-year hiatus from 2016-2018 as the families dealt with college visits for the kids, and other interruptions.
In January 2018, the pair begin designing and planning the 2018 haunt, and decided to blow the lid off past haunts and design a 5 building, multi-location haunt. Then, they did NOTHING.
But 2019 looks different – and wheels are in motion. Will they STAY in motion?
Coming up with a concept, conceptualizing a layout, identifying props for construction, laying out plans and designing the site starts very early in the year. Construction begins in the late spring and summer. Work to build and apply the right art look to the scenes can take months. “I think that’s why we opted to not haunt in 2014! After six or seven lost summers, you need a little beach and lake time,” Keller observed. “We were beat.” And neither works in a field related to the construction, engineering, electric, and art design required to pull off the haunt. “We build pretty much everything. Not much store-bought stuff at this haunt. Not bad for a veterinarian and a human resources consultant.”
Necrosis Valley tries to provide neighbors a little added extra fun on Halloween weekend. While not a professional haunt, it is run like one with a website, blog, and a large social media presence with a few crowd-favorite characters having their own twitter feeds and Instagram accounts to keep in touch with fans. Trick-or-treaters in the Summit Ridge area are invited to take a detour through the free haunt this October. Dates and times will be announced in the coming months.