|Jeff Keiling of Sterling built the Madhaunters Madhouse Halloween Haunt in an industrial park in Sterling. About 3,200 square feet of his rented warehouse is filled with strobes, animatronics, optical illusions like the light tunnel he is pictured in, and other scare tactics. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny|
Halloween has always been a favorite holiday for Sterling resident Jeff Keiling.
As a kid, Keiling worked at Algonkian Park's haunted forest. He would often decorate his front yard for All Hallows Eve.
This year after returning with his family to the Northern Virginia area from California, he continues to scare the public with his self-made persona “The Madhaunter.”
In a partnership with the Potomac Falls Cheerleading Squad, Keiling built the Madhaunters Madhouse Halloween Haunt at 21580 Atlantic Ave. in Sterling.
The Haunt is in an industrial park and is about 3,200 square feet – with every inch covered with clowns, ghosts and goblins.
For a month every year, Keiling takes time off work at Thompson Creek to build custom and public haunts as his side business.
After previously designing haunts like the 2011 Track of Terror at Laurel Park Race Track, this is Keiling's first all indoor haunt.
Starting in the front yard
After getting out of the military, Keiling started his Halloween based business creating custom carved pumpkins.
The intricate pumpkin carvings – which he still creates for the haunt – led to the idea of building a haunted hallway from the street to his house.
From there he extended the hallway to two rooms going into his garage.
“The next year, I thought I could do one encompassing the whole driveway, so we did that. Before you know it, we had eight rooms framed up outside of the house with 11 hallways,” Keiling said. “It got to the point where it would take me five or six minutes to get from the car to my doorway.”
With a yard-sized haunt – complete with a full-size gallows – “we were getting like 500 people going through it a night plus 10 to 12 actors.”
For those going through the haunt in his front yard, Keiling asked people to donate items for Toys for Tots.
Now, at the Madhaunters Madhouse in Sterling, every night is $15.
An eye for decoration
Keiling's Haunt consists of strobes, animatronics, lights, optical illusions and more.
Many of the decorations were accumulated over time.
“I have an eye for stuff you would never think I can use. My wife is like 'what are you going to do with that?,'” Keiling said. “I get odds and ends from the thrift store, like a mannequin made of wire, that I have no idea what they used it for.”
Keiling built a headless horseman out of the mannequin, using wood to fill out the rest of his body and coat hangers bent together for hands and fingers.
Additionally, he builds a large amount of decorations, including a hand-made vortex tunnel and the maze of hallways throughout the facility.
“I built that tunnel from scratch. I ordered rings for it and everything else was built by hand. It took me a week to put that thing together the first time,” Keiling said. “There are six sets of bicycle wheels that the rings ride on with a motor and pulley system.”
In all, the haunt took approximately a month to build.
Keiling has 10 to 12 actors performing in the haunt when it's open Fridays and Saturdays.
One of those actors serves as his make-up artist and several students from Potomac Falls participate to scare a few of their friends.
His family also participates, including both his daughters.
His wife, who is happy the haunt has moved into a separate building rather than her home, also participates.
NOTE: If you go, the Madhaunter's Madhouse is open every Friday and Saturday in October and Halloween Night from 7 to 11 p.m. The cost is $15.
There will also be a kids' night, which consists of a less scary version. All the animatronics will be turned off and kids can walk through the haunt with the lights on at a reduced rate of $7. That will be held Oct. 30.
|Jeff Keiling smiles after turning on an animatronic that provides a surprise scare to passersby of the haunted nursery. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny|
|Jeff Keiling of Sterling stands in front of his handmade vortex tunnel he built for the haunt. Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny|