On Halloween night, things get gory and gruesome at Cash Fuller's Farmington home ... and it never fails to draw a crowd of people willing to wait in long lines to experience the thrills and chills it provides.
An annual tradition for eight years running, Fuller and his fiancé Stacy host the scariest of scary haunted houses in the front yard of his home at 509 Center Street in Farmington.
“I’ve been doing it for about 18 years total,” Fuller said. “It’s been eight years here. I started out with one tent and it just gets bigger and bigger. People show up here well before dark. I can only function in the dark with the shadows and lighting. Everybody waits and waits and there’s a moment — we set off a firework and [Stacy] starts flowing them through in groups.”
The King of Creeps — Fuller has a lamp in his living room with a skull and crown proclaiming it — has a screaming passion for Halloween. He spends two weeks each year constructing an abysmal abode for a complete collection of mad monsters, voracious vampires and creepy clowns for a one night only mansion of mayhem. According to Fuller, Center Street becomes a madhouse as a result.
“It’s all word of mouth,” he said. “I run into people all the time. They will ask if I do Halloween. They say that there’s this house in Farmington that we go to now. Then they find out it’s us and get excited. It’s a nice feeling. [People mention] other houses that decorate. I say, 'You know that there are probably 1,000 people that show up here.'
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"We know that by handing out one little candy. It may not be the best for really young kids. [My neighbor] handed out 550 pieces at one per person and she ran out halfway before we were through. The street is just packed. There’s standing room only — you can barely get down the street.”
Advertised only by word of mouth, Fuller said that the crowd grows quickly.
“The first time my friend did it, we were jumping at people and were getting a good flow," he said. "We chase somebody out of here sometimes. I stopped, went back in and told my friend to go outside. There’s like 250 people out there in front of the house.”
Fuller does not charge admission for the spook show, and all of the living actors (or are they?) are strictly volunteers.
“I have two people that tried it and thought it was being weird,” he said. “Now they are like addicted to it. I don’t even see them until Halloween, I don’t even know where they are. They just show up. ‘Are we doing that?’ ‘Oh yeah, we’re doing that.’”
Sporting an impish smile and eyes that hint of a sneaky surprise yet to come, Fuller shared the backstory of how he became the scare of Center Street. Amusingly enough it all started in California.
“I was born in 1965,” he said. “Around the 1970s was sort of the unusual height of Halloween. I remember a guy had his garage open and he was like a carnival barker, ‘Come see the wild girl!’ It was a box, you go around the side, the girl shakes, the bars break and you would run for your life and get chased down the street.
"I knew a family that opened their home. You walked in their home. You go in the backyard and they had a trail next to a pool. Imagine now the public walking next to a pool at night with monsters jumping out. Always, some kid was falling in. They all did that. There was a lot in my neighborhood. Then, it sort of just went away.”
As Fuller grew into adulthood, his taste for the terrible continued and led him to start a haunted house wherever he lived.
“Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach ... everywhere I go, I do it,” he said. “It takes about a year or two for the crowd to know. Where I was in Huntington Beach, it got so popular that it started to grow,” he said. “We were at a condo type unit, and the next block over, a guy completely did the side of the street. One guy saved boxes and did a kind of maze with fog that led up to his door. It was very infectious. When I moved, I didn’t really tell a bunch of people. I heard later that hundreds of people showed up, and it was like, ‘Oh no!’ I felt bad about that.
“I had a friend that had a magic shop in Newport Beach. He would sell costumes at Halloween time; that was his ‘Black Month’. He said he made more money at Halloween than any other time. On Halloween night, I was in the store and said I was going to grab all the props and take them home and bring them back in the morning. He said ‘Whatever, we’re done’. I would lay all these props out and they were so popular. I remember that I only brought about half of them back and told him what I was keeping and he would put it on my tab.”
These days, Fuller mostly makes his own props, including what he calls the “bodies.” He points to a fierce-looking bloody ghoul.
“He’s wearing my pants and shoes from way back,” Fuller said. “He’s one of the oldest. I’ve actually replaced that head. It’s kind of funny, some of the masks I have. That mask was probably produced in the 1980s. I got it around 2000. It got old and rotten and I found a company. A lot of companies will buy licenses and produce them.”
Fuller pointed to a monster in a suit.
“This was the first one I made about 20 years ago. You can’t get those eyes anymore, they’re made of glass. I’m particular about my blood. There’s brands that when it dries, it still looks like it’s fresh and wet, it never changes. Some of this stuff you buy, it changes, it’s pink later. There’s this gore stuff that has chunks in it. You put on clothes or whatever and let it dry, it still looks wet.
"It’s called Perma Blood. The crazy thing is, it’s made right here in Missouri. Too much is never enough of that stuff. I can turn cheap props into better looking high-end props and horrific looking things by using that stuff. That’s what we do at night in October. Last night my fiancé was painting this vampire’s eyes — we want them to glow. She went to put it on his body, I said, 'Careful, it’s wet, the meaty bits are still fresh.' She said, 'Sorry.' These are real conversations we have.”
To keep the frights fresh, Fuller prepares well in advance and looks out for new props year round.
“It will be in the summer and if I see something, and my fiancé and I will see something and say it is good for Halloween,” Fuller said. “Pool noodles made of foam are great for filling up body parts. I’ll buy those at the weirdest time, and I get mad because I forget to. They don’t sell them in October.”
Buying props for moments of madness throughout the year brings up some odd misunderstandings at retail shops. Fuller says he looks at things very differently than anyone else at hardware stores and other places of business.
“(I’m the) guy that walks into a thrift shop and looks around at cheap bridal dresses and says ‘It’s too much, I want them for less than $15,'” he said. “They laugh at me and I tell them they don’t understand, this is not going to a wedding, it’s going to be messed up. I buy little kids' beds sometimes, people will go, ‘Oh, is this for your little girl?’ 'Uh, no. It’s going to be for monsters.'
"I had a little circus called ‘Nightmares.' I had these little mini-clowns walking around a bed — that was a theme. I used to go to amusement parks. I’m the guy that would see a huge fog machine and I would get in the bushes and I’m trying to read the name and model so I can go look it up.”
Fuller also occasionally attends haunt conventions.
“The biggest haunt convention in the country happens in March in St. Louis," he said. "It’s the Halloween and Attractions Show. That’s where you see the big stuff for the big boys. It’s a huge trade show. They have good stuff. It’s great. It’s like going through 100 little mini-haunted houses on display. There’s a lot of pro things that you look for.”
The horror of hanging around someone like Fuller is definitely not just for anyone.
He said, “You meet somebody — ‘So, I have a lot of monsters in my basement.' These bodies, there’s like 15 in one room. I am now forbidden from putting them in the bathroom. I put one in the shower and my fiancé was washing and caught it in the reflection in the mirror and yelled.”
And yes, Fuller is occasionally shaken up by his own sentinels of scare, especially when he first started building them.
“Once in a blue moon, I will catch one out of the corner of my eye and jump, because I’ll think there’s person sitting in the kitchen,” he said. “When I am trying to build the haunted house, they are all over the living room because I’m pulling things out. I will forget when I put one in a corner, and am walking by and ‘Oh! It’s you.'”
Running a house of horrors is much harder than it sounds. Fuller says he needs to have six to seven volunteers to run his scare show.
“We have run it on five, but it’s a short staff and we are running around a lot,” he said. “We try to have at least one person in each type of theme room. I have people that are called rovers. I have a girl about 5 feet tall in a clown outfit. Because she is little, she can hide anywhere, she can even invent hiding places.”
Even though Halloween is on Sunday this year and a weekend would lend itself to more nights of nightmares open to the public, Fuller says he will only be operating one night.
“It’s so much to get the staff to be here," he said. "The people do this because it’s fun. A friend and I tried to do this more than one night and it was killing us, and it wasn’t really worth it.”
With two weeks of construction going on in his front yard of fright, Fuller spoke about the anticipation people feel as Halloween night approaches. During the interview, a couple of school buses drove by.
“They will make a run this time of the year in front of this house and they slow down,” he said. “It’s my best advertising because the kids go wild.”
Fuller brought up several memorable incidents from past nights of chaos and chills.
“I will sometimes just run out in the crowd," he said. "I have this clown horn with a battery. Kids scatter. Even guys that are afraid of monsters, sometimes they’ll get that jolt. I love it. I have a few know-it-alls that go through. They point at a curtain. I say, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ But the person that is behind you and grabbing your arm, that’s who our target is.
“You see funny things. I had a couple they got really low and ran through as fast as they could. Other people, they won’t get through it. You scare them and then you back off. I had a young man sit and shake in a fetal position. He got up, went in another room, there was doll that jumped out and screeched at him and he fell on the ground again and wiggled.”
One of Fuller’s volunteers who was dressed as a creepy clown got a little carried away with his terror tactics.
“My friend was scaring this girl," he said. "She was just screaming. He ran out here to their car. He got in the back seat of their car and was scaring her while her boyfriend was driving. They drove off with him. I’m yelling, ‘Somebody just stole my clown!’ It was like a full 10 minutes. They pulled up and dropped him off. I asked him if he knew them and he said 'no.'"
He mused about the future of his creepy creations.
“I don’t know how long I will do this, but I will do it as long as I can,” he said. “I’m not 25 anymore. I don’t touch this on the first of November. I can barely move because I’ve been hopping around the night before. I wake up in the morning, I’m stiff. I will sit and stare at it.
“This will be my legacy. I remember going to those houses, I can tell you I did all these things. I know when somebody is my age and I’m long gone will go, ‘I remember this house in Farmington that I went to every year.'”
More information about Cash Fuller’s Haunted House can be found on his Facebook page, Cfhaunts.
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
“This will be my legacy. ...I know when somebody is my age and I’m long gone will go, ‘I remember this house in Farmington that I went to every year.'” – Cash Fuller