House of Terror scares off hunger
Read the original story at courierpostonline.com.
Carly Q. Romalino, Courier-Post Published 5:15 p.m. Oct. 26, 2017
PITMAN - A dense, cool fog rolled over Jon "Monster" Martin as skulls and strips of gauze hung from the ceiling around him.
As the Pitman dad and volunteer fireman quickly — and creepily — disappeared, he laughed, almost maniacally, and his eyes widened in delight. The fog machine mounted inside a tented section of his House of Horrors was working perfectly.
Every October, his quaint suburban bungalow transforms into a sinister scene — an asylum, a haunted hotel, or, for the past two Halloweens, a hostile prison.
In 16 years, the worlds he creates at the corner of Esplanade and Glenmere avenues have grown.
For this year's production — Pitman Penitentiary 2 — a tall, solid prison wall replaces his property's white picket fence. Behind the wall, a labyrinth of dark halls connect rooms where chilling vignettes play out.
Arnold Hatton of Pitman volunteers his time to portray a captain of the guard as Jon "Monster" Martin transforms his Pitman house into a house of terror. It costs just a canned good to get in, supporting the Pitman food bank.
(Photo: Chris LaChall/Staff Photographer)
Martin and a team of dozens from the neighborhood spun a story line that launches each visitor into the script. It's a sequel to the 2016 House of Horrors — Pitman Penitentiary — in which his visitors were booked in the prison and sentenced to death row.
"They're prisoners as soon as they walk through that gate, and we treat them as such," Martin said, giddily.
This time, visitors must outrun an outbreak of a mysterious virus in the prison, hoping to make it out alive.
But the manufactured health scare is beating a real-life issue in the small Gloucester County borough. The House of Terror has been scaring away hunger for 16 years.
Admission — a $2 donation or a non-perishable food item — goes directly to the Pitman Food Pantry housed at the First Baptist Church in Pitman.
The pantry is sponsored by five Pitman churches: First Presbyterian Church, The United Methodist Church, St. James Lutheran Church, Church of the Good Shepard Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church.
Last year's possessed penitentiary collected 2,240 food items and collected enough cash donations for $1,150 in gift cards to Aldi Food Market, Martin said.
His daughter Grace Martin, 16, sees the importance of running the haunted house for the good of the community.
She grew up in the House of Terror. The haunting tradition started in 2001 — the year Grace was born.
"When I was little, I didn't really get it," the Pitman High School junior explained.
"I didn't get to help carry the food to the food pantry before. Now I can. Now I know why we do this."