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Newspaper article appeared  in Elmira Star-Gazette
Moday October 27th 2008
Article and pictures are Copyright Star-Gazette 2008

Couple scare up family fun in their Kingsbury Avenue home


CORNING -- It started out as a lark for Keith Hoover, but after the neighborhood responded overwhelmingly to his Halloween display, the Corning man has turned it into a spooky extravaganza that he believes rivals many professional operations.

Hoover, an electrical engineer with Corning Inc. by trade, said he's always liked Halloween and was intrigued about eight years ago when he saw something called a flying crank ghost on the Internet.

Hoover started with a small cemetery display but interest was so intense, he started investing more time and money. Before long, he had converted a good portion of his house and yard into a haunted house known as Kingsbury Cemetery that draws hundreds of thrill seekers.

"I always liked tinkering with electronics. My education has allowed me to understand the many technical things we've built over the years or acquired," Hoover said. "We have audio, lighting, programmable lighting on tripods. It was something for me to do, and it was so well- received by the neighborhood, it prompted me to build it out."

Hoover and wife Anna -- who he says has the patience to let him wreck the house once a year -- travel to trade shows and conventions around the country looking for ideas.

There's a whole cottage industry out there known as home haunters, Hoover said, and many of them are very serious about creating cutting-edge and supremely creepy haunted houses.

Unlike some haunted houses, which are often a hodgepodge of horror scenes, Kingsbury Cemetery is built around a theme that involves a fictional branch of the Kingsbury family.

Something else Hoover tries to do is make his haunted house suitable for the whole family.

"I like scary movies and horror, but I don't like slasher films. I like making the hair on your neck stand up instead of grossing you out," he said. "It makes it a little more family-friendly. I've never had a guy with a chain saw. I don't make all that gory blood kind of thing."

Even without menacing masked killers and bloody murder scenes, Hoover can still make chills run up the spines of visitors with a clever combination of light and sound, computerized animation and lots of realistic props.

It also takes a lot of hands to make it all work. Hoover rounds up 20 to 30 volunteers to help him assemble the haunted house each year, and starts as early as August. He's also invested a sizable sum of money on equipment, although he won't specify how much.

It also takes a dozen or more volunteers to operate the haunted house when it's open, Hoover said. He rounds up friends, neighbors, relatives, members of his church and others to help pitch in.

The haunted house is open two nights a year, the Saturday before Halloween and Halloween night itself, and last year attracted about 600 visitors. Admission is two cans of food per person, which is donated to the Corning Community Food Pantry.

Hoover is looking to expand Kingsbury Cemetery in the future and is always on the lookout for new features.

He takes great pride in the quality of the show he puts on, but he isn't planning on giving up his first career.

"We had one comment (Saturday) night. They went to Darien Lake for Fright Fest, and felt cheated there. They were much happier with this one," Hoover said. "I've gotten a huge number of positive comments. That always makes me feel good. People are starting to take notice.

"There are people who do this as a livelihood, but I'm not giving up my day job," he said. "My day job finances my moonlighting as a spook."


Copyright 2008 (c) Star-Gazette. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.