COLUMBIA — Bill Schnell's office is littered with frightening masks, a plastic chainsaw and a set of Halloween costumes, including one of a demonic clown.
“My parents were really big Halloween fans,” said Schnell, who created The Necropolis, at 1207 Rogers St. in Columbia.
What: The Necropolis
When: 8-11 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m.- 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 1
Where: 1207 Rogers St.
Admission: $11 for Necropolis, $7 for the 3D Freakshow or $15 for both
“I started to get into Halloween and going to haunted houses when I was in junior high.”
In The Necropolis, Schnell, 29, said he realized his vision of creating a truly scary adventure.
When he was young, he said, his parents would make elaborate costumes for him. He fell in love with haunted houses in junior high and volunteered to help with haunted house fund-raisers in high school. At MU, he began to see business potential.
The International Association of Haunted Attractions, based in Niles, Mich., lists 400 members worldwide that together attract 300,000 paying customers annually, usually over a 30-day period.
Missouri has nearly 3o haunted attractions, including two in Columbia and another two that run year-round, one in Hannibal and another in Branson.
Schnell wants The Necropolis, which opened in 2005, to be the most intense, in-your face Halloween experience in the state. To that end, The Necropolis promises a set of gruesome monsters, graphic scenes of violence, terrifying noises, electric shocks and laser effects.
“Freakshow in 3D” gives viewers three-dimensional glasses to witness a circus freak show.
Housed in the former Wilson’s Meat Co., The Necropolis also bills itself as a haunted meat factory. For a script, Schnell developed the legend of the Bishop Factory butcher, a madman who committed a series of sadistic crimes, including the deaths of nine women.
At The Necropolis, which has between 25 to 30 rooms, the visitor first encounters an animatronic creature called Yogath, then moves through rooms with smoke and lasers designed to imitate a haunted sewer.
“From the first time you first walk in the door until you leave, we are focusing on intensity,” Schnell said. "We use high-tech special effects and props as a backdrop for our actors.”
The staff of 50 regards the place as an interesting work environment.
“Bill is a bit of a mysterious character,” said Aaron Waltrip, 30, who calls himself the "head freak ringleader" of The Necropolis. “You never know when that shadow of him will come out of nowhere. He is a force to be reckoned with.”
Beth Scheiding, 23, an actor since the haunted house opened, works as a human spider. She calls The Necropolis "a great place to work, great people, and overall exciting for a great weekend.”
Off-season, Schnell's crew starts planning in January to determine what needs to be tweaked for an even more intense experience.
"Everything from the linguistics to security stuff, safety issues, the usual room changes and such," Schnell said.
He said he is committed to making things scarier and creating a stylish art form.
“We’re definitely not in it to make a fortune," he said. "We’re in it for the art and for the entertainment for customers who come through each night."
He said he would like to move The Necropolis to a larger location with more attractions.
"We don’t want to add just a cheap third attraction," he said."We want to make sure that it’s as high quality as the other two we have.”