Archive for the Home Haunts Category

Friendly Neighborhood Monster: Adam Grignon on Being A Home Haunter

Posted in Home Haunts, Interviews on October 31, 2020 by bluefall8

It’s no secret that Halloween is big business these days, but in America’s Midwest that passion allows bleeds in many a home owner who craft elaborate yard displays and backyard mazes. We refer to these folks as “home haunters” and 31-year-old Adam Grignon proudly counts himself as a member of this curious slice of Americana.

Adam and I share the same hometown of Lincoln Park, Michigan and it was there, at his parent’s home not far from Carr Elementary School, that Adam spearheaded Terror on the Blvd., a home haunt that he re-imagined annually from 2005 – 2016. Adam relocated in 2017 to Southgate where he wasted no time ingratiating himself to his new neighborhood with Churchill Cemetery.

Adam, as a shady medical man at his Sanitarium home haunt circa 2016

Horrorlust: Adam, what inspired you to become a home haunter?

Adam Grignon: I can say my inspiration came in two separate moments. When I was young, there was a house not too far from my elementary school that would put a lot of stuff out on their front lawn. I always loved what they did and it spurred an interest in wanting to do something of my own. So, when I turned 15, I asked my parents if I could decorate the front yard and our porch. That year and the next was my start as a “home haunter.”

But it would be amplified when I went to the super popular Halloween event at Universal Studios, Halloween Horror Nights. I knew I wanted to do something significant in 2007 but my plans and theme were fairly generic. Early in the year, a few videos on YouTube caught my eye that were of the previous year’s event. It looked like a blast and I became obsessed with wanting to check it out. Luckily, my dad just so happened to be doing work down in Florida and I made plans to visit.

That year, the event was themed to a creepy carnival with a ringmaster clown called Jack the Clown. All it took was one visit and seeing what Universal Studios did to completely transform my idea of what a “haunted house” could be. Their elaborate sets and rich storytelling left me speechless and really set me on my path. It was after that event, on the flight home, that I decided that I wanted to do THAT for a living.

Horrorlust: Any other examples from pop culture that have served to influence your style as a home haunter?

Adam Grignon: My favorite horror film is John Carpenter’s The Thing because of the amazing use of practical effects and awesome set designs. It has been a huge influence for me when it comes to doing things practically.

Horrorlust: How long have you been actively pursuing this passion?

Adam Grignon: I’ve been home haunting for 15 years now. My first two years were small front yard decorations. But then I started doing elaborate backyard mazes at my parent’s house. That lasted until 2016 when I decided that I was going to finally look for a house of my own.

So, 2017 was a test to see how busy Halloween was in my new neighborhood. Unfortunately, I live on a dead street and I just cant get the crowds I use to get at my parent’s. So, I will probably only be doing front yard set ups for the foreseeable future. 

Churchill Cemetery circa 2017

Horrorlust: What kind of crowds were you drawing at your parent’s house prior to your move in 2017?

Adam Grignon: Attendance has been a little all over the place for my home haunt. When I was at my parent’s, we had few visitors on Halloween. As we got more popular, I would open the haunt on Devil’s Night and we would get around 300 to 400 people over both nights. As for my new house, I’m lucky to get 30 people down my street. I’m hoping that things get better and traffic increases over the years.

Horrorlust: Have you experienced any other growing pains transitioning the home haunt from your parent’s place in Lincoln Park to your own now in Southgate?

Adam Grignon: Aside from the financial aspect of moving, I knew I would miss having the huge crowds. Halloween was a family affair and I got closer to my mother and other family members because they would participate and we would have a blast entertaining the neighborhood. And the fact that people from the neighborhood have told me how much they miss my haunts really hits me hard.

I’ve had a hard time these past three years finding where the crowds are and trying to reach out to them. Although, I will say that I have had a few of my neighbors come up to me to say how much life I’ve breathed into the Halloween season on the street. So that does keep my spirits up even though I get very little foot traffic on Halloween. 

Horrorlust: I have no doubt that for the kids who attend, the decorations and haunts are an added bonus to a bounty of candy. However, I’m always curious to know, what was your LEAST favorite candy to receive on Halloween as a kid?

Adam Grignon: I hate anything that’s chalky so my least favorite candy is SweeTarts. I’m also not a fan of chocolate covered raisins and black licorice.

Author’s Note: I am aghast at Adam’s disdain for black licorice. It’s a favorite of yours truly.

Horrorlust: What kind of expense do you incur building a home haunt?

Adam Grignon: For the first four years of doing a backyard haunt, my budget was pretty low. I would spend around $200 and that was, mostly, for building materials. As I got more into the hobby and built my knowledge of the craft, things got more expensive and I would spend closer to $500 every year. The last two years of doing the backyard haunt at my parent’s saw a budget of over a thousand dollars. I had a good year at work so I ended up with a good chunk of disposable cash. And because I knew I would soon have my own house, I wanted the last two years to be special.

Now that I own my own home and have much more financial responsibility, I have a very small budget. This has forced me to get creative with how I build things and rely on a lot of hand outs and scrap materials from my work. I doubt I’ll ever have a big budget to work with going forward but that’s not an entirely bad thing. My neighborhood is very quiet and it doesn’t see much trick or treating action on Halloween. So keeping it more of a “decoration” style of home haunt is perfectly fine right now.

A modest backyard maze at the original location of Adam’s home haunt
The highly-detailed Sanitarium facade

Horrorlust: When do include a walk thru maze, how many actors do you require to properly staff the attraction?

Adam Grignon: I’ve always managed to run my haunts with minimal actors. And I usually design my mazes to be run with four actors but leave room for more if I can find more people to help.

Adam and friends engaging in some Halloween fun

Horrorlust: You mentioned gathering scrap materials from work a moment ago. Does your professional background lend itself to the construction of a home haunt?

Adam Grignon: My background is very limited as far as what I would call professional. I’ve always had a knack for building stuff and I took two years of building trades in my junior and senior years of high school. That class helped me build my knowledge of basic construction methods which helped me build more elaborate structures. I also try to absorb as much info as I can from how to YouTube videos and haunter community sites. I’m always trying to learn new things and try new methods or techniques.

Horrorlust: How many hours do you spend creating your haunts with particular attention paid to your signature facades?

Adam Grignon: I usually spend a lot of time coming up with designs and making sure I know just how I want them to look before I start building them. The design process is done during the winter and summer months whenever I have free time. Then I usually start constructing my display around mid to late August. I try to have things done before the end of September so that I can get as much exposure to people driving down the street. My hope being that more people see my display and want to visit it on Halloween.

Churchill Cemetery in Southgate revamped for 2020 photo credit: Shirley McFarland of Shirley Ann Photography

Horrorlust: I know that you enjoy getting into costume for your home haunts, what characters have been particularly memorable for you over the years?

Adam Grignon: When I first started doing backyard mazes, I had dressed up as a character from Universal Studios Halloween event. The character was a clown called Jack (the very same mentioned way back at the beginning of this interview) and I just loved interacting with people as that character. Other than that, I’ve been a myriad of characters that fit the theme of that year. My character for the first two years at my new house has been the grim reaper and I enjoy interacting with people as him because I put stilts on and can loom over people and be very intimidating.

But last year, I made a new character that I plan on using more. It’s a scarecrow style character with a pumpkin head called Patches. I utilized the stilts again but it’s more of a family friendly kind of character. I’ve had a blast as Patches because he seems to go over well with kids of different ages. He’s not too scary but he’s also no push over.

Horrorlust: How long did you have to practice on the stilts before you felt comfortable? Any spectacular falls?

Adam Grignon: It didn’t take long for me to get use to stilts. The ones I use for my tall characters are drywall stilts so they’re made to be used with no need for a staff. I can free walk with them and not have to use a staff but both of my characters have staffs that fit the theme of the character. Obviously the grim reaper uses a scythe and my pumpkin scarecrow character “Patches” uses a long pitchfork. I have yet to take a tumble and I intend to keep it that way.

Adam as the kid-friendly Patches

Horrorlust: A moment ago you talked about some of your favorite characters to portray, but what was your WORST Halloween costume?

Adam Grignon: My worst costume was in 2013 when I did “The VOID” maze. My intention was to go for a look similar to Pinhead from the Hellraiser film series. I went through the trouble of getting fitted for contacts to enhance the look of the character but I was unable to get over the fear of putting things in my eye. I was able to create a complete character for a photo shoot, complete with a bald cap and other prosthetics. But on Devil’s Night and Halloween, I ran out of time to put the character together. So I threw some makeup on as a last ditch effort to save time and I ended up looking awful.

The Void circa 2013

Horrorlust: Do you have any experience working in the commercial haunted house industry?

Adam Grignon: My experience in the haunted house industry is limited at the moment. I started helping the Wyandotte Jaycees haunt a few years ago, but I now work for a haunted trail in Romulus called Deranged. The man in charge is a fellow home haunter and made the decision to try operating a legit haunted house back in 2018. I act in it and I also help with designing the layout as well as designing and building the facades that are littered throughout the maze.

Horrorlust: Even those of us who obsess over Halloween and haunted houses are afraid of something; what was your greatest fear as a child?

Adam Grignon: Growing up, I was always afraid of being alone in the dark. I never particularly believed in ghosts, but my paranoia would be off the charts if I was somewhere pitch black, all by myself. There were times where I would even get paranoid in my own maze when I was working on it late at night.

Horrorlust: Adam, what can trick r’ treaters expect from you in this most unusual year?

Adam Grignon: For 2020, I decided to change the theme for my display. The past three Halloweens have been a graveyard theme with characters that fit that theme. But this year is a classic haunted house and small graveyard. And I plan on being my scarecrow character, Patches, to entertain trick or treaters. We will only be open during trick or treating however since that’s the only kind of traffic we get.

Regarding the current pandemic, this year is set up a little different to keep people safe. We will all be wearing safety masks and will utilize a way to give candy out that’s unique to the aesthetic of this year’s display and our characters. I will also offer hand sanitizer just in case people want to use it. And if anyone wants to take a photo with us or in front of the display, we will allow it but still emphasize social distancing.

Churchill Cemetery, less than a block from Anderson High School photo credit: Shirley McFarland of Shirley Ann Photography

Horrorlust: Halloween obviously had an enormous impact on me as a child and I often recall many formative memories of the holiday. But what about you, Adam? Do you have a specific recollection of the spooky season that has stayed with you through the years?

Adam Grignon: I do recall being very reluctant to go through haunts as a young kid. But the particular haunt that got me out of my shell was The Extreme Scream that was set up at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor. I remember all my friends going through it without me because I was too chicken to go through. But, after a few minutes, I composed myself and just went through it by myself. And I had an absolute blast despite being alone.

*All photos provided by Adam Grignon unless otherwise noted.*