10 People. 10 Interviews. 10 Unique stories. These are not one-sided conversations, but rather a paired-off exchange—two people, journalist and subject, sharing a special moment in time in front of a recorder. That, coupled with a hand-picked local photographer to capture their image, offers those rare instances that we can peek into the lives of [...]
These are not one-sided conversations, but rather a paired-off exchange—two people, journalist and subject, sharing a special moment in time in front of a recorder.
That, coupled with a hand-picked local photographer to capture their image, offers those rare instances that we can peek into the lives of the extraordinary—the individuals who have motivated, created, and inspired—the folks who bring us credence when we struggle ourselves. This special issue is meant to serve as a relic—an artifact of words documenting the thoughts and desires of the shakers and movers of our fair city.
Let us introduce you to Columbus’s most fascinating subjects. Welcome to the Interview Issue.
Like many a fiend of silver screen fame, the origins of Kelly Collins’ career in terror involve some teens, a campground, and a fateful ride into the deep, dark woods.
Thirty-eight years ago, Collins was general manager at a
campground. Every Saturday at noon, he’d hook up a wagon to a
tractor and treat the young campers to a hayride through the woods.
The route Collins followed circled around an old oak tree, before
turning around and coming back to the start. One Saturday, some
mischievous teens sprang out from behind the tree, giving quite a
scare to the unsuspecting wagoneers. All of the children screamed
in surprise—then they laughed.
This gave Collins an idea. To spice up his little hayride, he would
arrange for the teens to act out the same routine the next Saturday—
but this time, he’d up the ante by giving them rubber masks to wear.
His plan was set in motion, and this time, the startled youngsters on
the wagon cried all the way back to the campground.
“That was a bad idea, but it got me thinking...Why don’t we have a hayride at night and call it the ‘Spooky Hayride?’ ” Collins recalls. By fine-tuning the balance between fear and fun, Collins’ new enterprise was a success, and would set him on the path to a lifelong
career in the haunted house business, or “haunting” as it’s known to
Early in his career, Collins became a key figure in the Central Ohio scream scene. After his haunted hayride, he spent a couple of seasons overseeing the Hallowscream event at the now- defunct Wyandot Lake. It was there that he was approached by Ken Schnacke, General Manager and President of the Columbus Clippers baseball team, who tapped Collins to create and lead the “Terror Park” event that was held at Cooper Stadium for a decade.
When the Clippers made the move to Huntington Park, the
Terror Park event was shelved. Collins set out again on his own,
founding the Scareatorium: a haunted house attraction occupying a
40,000-square-foot space in a northeast Columbus strip mall.
Over the next decade, the Scareatorium would serve as a hub for haunters, attracting and nurturing some of the city’s top talents in the field. From actors, makeup artists, set designers and people who just appreciate a good scare, the group that grew from Collins’ enterprise came together over buckets of blood and latex viscera, but now enjoy the valuable connection of a genuine community.
A longtime compatriot of Collins, Keith Newsome was one of the creative minds behind Terror Park and the Scareatorium. Though he specializes in visual effects design and fabrication, Newsome’s talents in haunting are wide-ranging. Since retiring from 13th Floor, Newsome has remained a vital member of the community, teaching classes on topics ranging from makeup application to mask making and performance.
This season, he’s lending his skills to an attraction in Lancaster, Ohio titled “A True American Haunt: Birth of a Nightmare.” The house is set up in the Miller Building, a “poor house” originally built in 1828, which event promoters suggest may in fact be haunted. According to Newsome, the building is classified as one of the top-10 haunted houses in the United States, and was recently filmed for an upcoming episode of The Travel Channel show Destination Fear.
“It’s actually a haunted place. I don’t believe in that crap...I do now,” says Newsome. “There’s something in that place. I don’t go on the third or fourth floor anymore.”
Whether patrons can expect to encounter bona fide spirits along with latex-clad actors in this haunt remains to be seen, but whatever the case, the event serves an important purpose. All proceeds from this haunt will benefit Habitat for Humanity’s plan to revitalize the historic Miller Building, and to help build housing for local veterans.
The charitable angle for this event comes as no surprise in an industry
that at times seems like an extended family. People attracted to haunting
come from every imaginable background, but are united by a common
“I’ve had people who are financial managers of huge companies, down to people who are almost homeless,” says Newsome. “The cool part about it is that we treat everybody equally. When you walk in, you’re automatically family.”
One member of Newsome’s haunt family is Bobbi Jo Gonzalez, an
artist who has turned a passion for body art and makeup into a year-round
Gonzalez’s first foray into the industry came while volunteering with her eldest daughters at a home haunt. Stepping up to fill the need for a makeup artist, Gonzalez gleaned what she could from YouTube videos. Her tool kit at that time consisted of, as she calls it, “that really crappy makeup you get at Kroger around Halloween.”
After encouragement from her peers at smaller attractions, Gonzalez eventually made her way to the Scareatorium, where she met Newsome. Newsome introduced her to higher-quality, water-based makeup, and she went on to mentor under the more experienced effects artist for two years.
Today, Gonzalez is the owner of Aftershock Art, a thriving face painting and body art company that operates year-round. She’s also found a healthy sideline doing moulage—the art of creating realistic, simulated injuries on actors during training exercises for the military and first responders.
Like her mentor, Gonzalez sees the past support and encouragement
from members of the haunt community as a foundation of the success she
“It’s something that we’re all passionate about, so once you find your niche in that community, it doesn’t matter what your background is, what your religion is, what your sexual orientation is—you have that weird background, and you have a family for life,” Gonzalez explains.
While basking in the warm embrace of your fellow ghoul is reason enough to keep some hooked on this line of work, there’s another essential element that unifies all haunters: the love of the scare.
“I fell in love. I didn’t know you could have so much fun scaring
people,” says Ashley Shilling, another former employee of Collins from
the Sacreatorium days who today serves as general manager of the 13th
“Being an actor is a huge stress relief,” Shilling explains. “Getting to
scare people kicks in your endorphins, especially if you can make a big
man that looks very intimidating scream like a little girl—that’s a lot of fun.
At the end of the night, you’re just relaxed.”
Whether drawn to a sense of community that can sometimes be hard to find in the world at large, or simply in it for the thrill of scaring people, the haunting industry has an undeniable pull for those that find their way into its spooky ranks. Even retired industry veteran Collins is unable to fully step away from the work, and is gearing up for his first season as manager of a Spirit Halloween supply store in Newark, Ohio.
“When you scare people, and they scream and run away from you, it’s
a great way to let out pent-up frustration,” Collins says. “You could have
the worst day in the world, and within a few minutes of working at the
haunted house, you feel so much better. It’s a great tension reliever.”
In professional haunting, one person’s fear is another’s bliss.
For more information on the 13th Floor Haunt and other haunted houses happening in October, click here.
Every day, people all around Columbus drive/ride/walk to their jobs, eager to contribute their passion and talent to the city. This series aims to highlight those people and give them a platform to spread their love for their careers. Welcome to I Love My Job.
You may not know his face (depending on your seats), but you definitely know his name: LEO! Longtime Columbus Blue Jackets national anthem singer Leo Welsh has been stealing the hearts of hockey-goers at Nationwide Arena with his impressive pipes and passion for the game since 2003.
Here is why he loves his job so much:
614: What do you love most about your job?
LW: The thing I love most about my position with the CBJ is being such a fan and being part of the game experience. It is a total thrill every single time.
614:What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
LW: The most challenging part would have to be maintaining my health during the winter. Hard to sing well when you aren’t feeling your best.
614:What is the most rewarding part of your job?
LW: The most rewarding aspect is when I am singing and I can see young people singing along to our National Anthem.
614:What’s the best story you have from your time with the Columbus Blue Jackets?
LW: So many great stories and interactions with fans and our military honorees. Most recently the playoffs from last year strand out. The CBJ had a World War II veteran on the ice with me every night. These men were all special and excited the crowd and made it very easy for me to be focused on honoring our country. Several were arm in arm with me and singing along to our National Anthem, very special moments.
614:Who has been the most influential mentor in your career so far?
LW: I have had many great teachers and mentors. Maestro William Boggs stands out. He is one of the reasons I moved to Columbus following graduation from Ohio University. He offered me a job with Opera Columbus. He was critical when he needed to be, demanded preparation from his singers and was supportive by offering examples and best practices at all times. Truly a great mentor.
Leo will be leading players and fans in the national anthem this Friday as the Blue Jackets open their season against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena. Puck drops at 7pm.