“ScareMare: The House of Death” is an event that draws in close to 300 volunteers and 20,000 people a year.
Dr. Steve Vandergriff of Center for Youth Ministries coordinates ScareMare and makes sure the event goes on, no matter what. Vandergriff said that planning starts the day after Scaremare is over.
“ScareMare is like running a business or a farm — there is always something to do,” said Vandergriff.
From August to November, planning kicks into full gear. One of the most difficult parts of putting the event on is all of the construction that is involved. Vandergriff said there are so many details that go into making the event work that volunteers are usually exhausted on opening day.
One of the difficult parts of the process is coming up with scenes for the house.
Ideas are usually suggestions from students about what scenes should be done. Vandergriff described the scenes as random acts of death. There have been scenes that have been repeated over the years simply because it is so hard to come up with new ones.
The inside of the house must conform to the fire and building codes and have signs that issue warnings to people attending the event. Eight to 10 people have gone to the emergency room from having panic attacks. Vandergriff said signs are posted so these circumstances can be avoided.
Another obstacle that faces the workers of ScareMare is the weather. Last year there was more rain than usual, which affected the attendance rate. The monsoon rains forced ScareMare to be shut down.
“We still had 1,000 people one night when it downpoured, so the volunteers stuck it out,” said Vandergriff.
ScareMare could not be possible without the dedicated student volunteers who run the show, said Vandergriff. Volunteers come from many majors at Liberty University. Most students volunteer at ScareMare to knock out their 20 hours of Christian service, he said.
Vandergriff said Liberty students do enjoy participating in ScareMare, but the long nights can be tiring. After 30 minutes of scaring people, it can get repetitive, he said.
That is when he reminds them there is a bigger picture at hand.
The bigger picture is ScareMare’s purpose of getting others to think about eternal life. This is clarified at the end of the event, when people are led to preaching tents where Liberty students present the Gospel.
This year is senior Cale Duncan’s first time preaching at ScareMare.
“It was really neat to preach the Gospel to people of different backgrounds who would not usually show up at church,” said Duncan.
Last year in the preaching tents, 4,300 people made professions of faith. The ultimate goal of ScareMare is to see people’s lives changed, and for more than 35 years that is what the event has done.
Vandergriff shared some of his most memorable experiences while running ScareMare. He officiated a wedding at the site of ScareMare a few years ago. Although that might seem creepy to some, the House of Death was perfect for the couple’s wedding ceremony, he said.
“The couple met at ScareMare, and they wanted to get married there,” said Vandergriff.
He said there have been two proposals on the property as well.
Former Youth Ministry Coordinator Gordon Luff created the House of Death in 1973. Luff was described by Vandergriff as a “plain, old, hard worker.”
Vandergriff said it was because of Luff’s hard work ethic that the House of Death made it this far.
ScareMare is open Oct. 25-27 beginning at dusk and ending at 11 p.m.