Big Halloween thrills in a small Denton County town

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on October 30, 2012 at 10:49 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 8:02 PM

The Dark Path Haunt

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LAKEWOOD VILLAGE — What may be the most frightening thing about Dan Baker’s homemade haunted house is how passionate he is about Halloween.

The father of two has spent a month and $12,000 turning his backyard into The Dark Path Haunt, a sprawling maze of thrills.

“We’ve made probably the largest home haunted house in the state of Texas,” he boasted. “Everyone’s blown away; they’ve never seen anything this big.”

For years, Baker has been decorating his yard to thrill trick-or-treaters. This year, however, he teamed up with friends who share his enthusiasm for Halloween to build a haunted house larger than he’s ever built before.

“We have never come across anything that is even close to this,” said Steve Hancock, who donated many of the props to the haunted house. “We try to take this to the next level that, really, nobody’s ever done before.”

The men spent months constructing a maze of a haunted house out of 500 wood pallets stacked seven feet high. Expansive rooms are filled with elaborate, gory props that would look at home on a Hollywood set.

Thirty actors in full make-up and costumes volunteer their time to operate the attraction. It takes at least 15 minutes to wander through the house.

“It literally encompasses every square inch of a quarter of an acre,” Baker said. A real coffin, along with a hearse in the front yard, greet arriving visitors.

“This is a haunted house,” he said. “Our goal is to scare you. There are things that are going to be creepy and just downright scary — that's the point.”

Baker opens his attraction — for free — to anyone for only two nights: on Halloween and the Saturday before. Any donations will be given to a charity, he said.

Baker expects the haunted house to draw a thousand visitors to his home on Lakecrest Drive when he opens it at 7 p.m. on Halloween. Nearby, empty fields have been designated for parking.

“There have been complaints,” Baker allowed, “but that's okay... nobody's really said anything to me.”

Indeed, it all might seem overwhelming for the tiny town of Lakewood Village, 35 miles north of Dallas. The town, which sits on the shore of Lewisville Lake, is home to only a few hundred people.

Mayor Mike Schnittker said town leaders enthusiastically supported the idea when Baker approached them, proposing to incorporate his haunted house into the village’s annual hayride.

“The homeowners thoroughly discussed their plans with the town and we sanctioned their efforts,” Schnittker wrote in an e-mail to News 8. "It was determined that it made a great addition to our Halloween Hayride. This is an informal and popular community event in an informal and small community.”

Safety, Baker insists, has been fully considered. The men have allowed for multiple emergency exits. Even details like using fake candles, and low-heat LED lights, haven’t been overlooked.

“We spent days and days making sure this is as safe as possible,” he said.

But it is Baker who gets the biggest thrill from his haunted house as a way to demonstrate his love for a holiday he never outgrew.

“Halloween’s not given the attention it deserves, in my opinion,” said Baker, who works as a salesman for a recruiting company. “The coolest thing for me about being an adult is now I can afford to do all the cool things I wanted to do as a kid.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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