Arx Mortis included in top U.S. haunted houses

Upon the entrance of the haunted attraction you will find this small grave yard, with a touch of spooky looking fog.

Being chased by a large man drenched in blood and holding a seemingly lethal chainsaw is not everyone’s cup of tea. But those who are intrigued by this scenario, have probably already visited Arx Mortis this year. A favorite local haunted house has returned, this time with a new notch under its belt of accomplishments.

Arx Mortis was named one of the 10 spookiest U.S. haunted houses of the 2014 fall season by USA Today.

“It makes you excited because this is kind of like a passion,” said special effects make-up artist Jeff Creasy, known around the attraction as Doc. “Suddenly you’re being rewarded or acknowledged for your hard work.

And now because they reported us, everybody else is coming out and wondering who we are — it’s kind of snowballing.”

Sophomore Ariel Bell said she thinks Arx Mortis deserved to make the top 10 list.

“The actors are awesome, the costumes are incredible, and the special effects really add to the creepy atmosphere — you never know what might happen,” she said.

Arx Mortis co-owner, Vinny Grosso, said he credits the attraction’s success to his entire team, especially the actors.

“My volunteer actors are what makes us the top 10 in the nation,” he said. “Without the actors we’ve just got a museum. They are what turn us into a haunted house.”

Judging by the ticket price, patrons may think Arx Mortis is pocketing a large amount of money, but there are more expenses that come with running a haunted house than one would expect, Grosso said.

“What they don’t understand is that we spend $38,000 per year on advertising and the rent for this property is $84,000 per year,” he said. “We may see $250,000 come through this place during a 20-day period, but 80 or 90 percent of that goes back out. I do it not because of the money but because I love doing this, and it is a hobby for us.”

Visitors get their money’s worth in the attraction, said sophomore Josh Meza.

“It’s suspenseful, a good time length and incorporates tons of settings,” he said.

Lauren Griffin, Arx Mortis actress and special effects artist, said she invites thrill-seekers to see the attraction.

“We encourage people that love the adrenaline rush and want to come through and actually be scared,” she said. “We’re not here just to scare people and that’s why USA Today named us top 10. We’re going to give you your $25 worth either way.”

The actors of Arx Mortis genuinely enjoy their work, Creasy said.

“If you did this anywhere else in the world you’d go to jail,” he said. “We’re wired a little differently here — we enjoy scaring people.”

Griffin said working at Arx Mortis has changed her life.

“You can either find somebody you hate or find somebody you want to spend the rest of your life with out here,” she said. “I know that sounds really demented, but I found my fiancé here.”

The actors lightheartedly refer to themselves as a sick and twisted family, said Ashlee Davis, Arx Mortis actress.

“We have to love each other,” she said. “In order for everyone to work here and make their characters believable, they have to get along and agree on a level like we do. We’re all like family, though.”

Although Arx Mortis is a successful business, it is still a hobby to the staff, Grosso said.

“This is not a make or break for me,” Grosso said. “I’m over animal control in Florence. That’s my job. This over here (Arx Mortis), I’ve always said if it just breaks even, I’m happy. The first few years it did.”