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Beaverton's 13th Door haunted house or Fright Town underneath Memorial Coliseum may get more publicity, but Tigard's own haunted house has had a dedicated following for years.



TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jan Velardi, foreground, and Suzanne Parker, rehearse their scare tactics in a haunted house in the garage of Parkers home. Velardi and Parker who are next door neighbors, annually host a haunted house for those looking for a thrill.Things are getting downright terrifying on Martha Street.

The quiet neighborhood near Tigard High School is normally the epitome of suburban living, but two nights a year, the street becomes home to one of the scariest, spookiest, creepiest haunted houses around.

“Martha’s Mad House” has been a neighborhood secret for years. The house is the brainchild of neighbors Jan Velardi and Suzanne Parker; the duo transforms Parker’s garage into a fully functioning haunted house every

Halloween.

But this is no amateur hour. The pair spends months prepping for Halloween night, brings in a cast of scary actors and does everything it can do terrify.

“It’s fun thinking of scary things,” said Parker. “We scared ourselves yesterday a couple of times while we were setting up.”

‘Bigger on the inside’

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Marthas Butcher Shop is one scene in the haunted house hosted by next-door neighbors Jan Velardi and Suzanne Parker.  The haunted house, located in Parker’s garage at 9222 S.W. Martha St., opens on Friday at 7 p.m. Parker said that’s when they work out the bugs before the big night on Halloween.

The show changes each year, Velardi said.

“We don’t want to be too predictable,” she said. “We used to have someone in a gorilla outfit, but we’re giving that a rest this year.”

Parker makes it clear that the haunted house is meant to be scary and doesn’t recommend it for children younger than 10.

“For me, it’s all about scaring the teenagers,” Parker said. “The ones who say, ‘Oh, you’re not going to get me,’ and then they leave just terrified.”

Velardi said the best feeling is knowing that she’s scared the pants off someone.

“It’s fun to see people’s reactions,” she said. “The look of their faces is priceless.”

The haunted house is small, squeezed into Parker’s 400-square-foot garage, but Parker said they make the most of the space.

“It feels a lot bigger inside,” Parker said. “People can’t believe that it was in my garage. We maximize the space.”

It may take only a few minutes to go through the haunted house, but Parker said many of the children who come go through again and again and again.

“We get a lot of kids who come back,” Parker said. “They’ll go through, then go get their friends and do it a gazillion times.”

No official head counts have ever been taken, but Parker estimates they see more than 100 people each night of the show.

“We had one boy go through, then run home and get his dad to go do it,” she said. “His dad was about to go in and asked ‘Aren’t you coming?’ He said, ‘No, you go. I’ve seen it.”

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Next-door neighbors Jan Velardi and Suzanne Parker, sit in front of Parkers home where they host a haunted house.

‘We’re not professionals’

This year, Parker and Velardi are asking patrons to chip in a donation to keep the haunted house going. There’s no set amount the pair are asking for, they said, just whatever people are comfortable with giving.

“We’ve been doing it out of our pockets,” Parker said. “We like doing it, but it would be nice to offset some of the costs.”

Parker and Velardi do the haunted house as cheaply as possible, Parker said. They hit up day-after Halloween sales for cheap props each year and make many of their decorations by hand, including a massive hand-painted mural which drapes over the front of Parker’s home.

“We’re happy to have some of the cost offset so we can keep going,” Parker said.

Fright Night

What: Martha’s Mad House haunted house

Where: 9222 S.W. Martha St., in Tigard

When: 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31

How much: Free, with donations accepted

The haunted house began in 2011 as a way to drum up trick-or-treaters, Parker said.

“It was Halloween night and Jan and I saw a group of trick-or-treaters look down our street, then keep going,” she said. “We looked around and realized that we were the only two houses with lights on. So we started dressing up our yards and one thing led to another.”

Since then, the home-grown haunted house has become a local hotspot, attracting hundreds to the three-bedroom home for frights and scares.

By day, Parker and Velardi couldn’t be more different than their Halloween night counterparts.

Velardi, who has lived on Martha Street for nearly 30 years, runs a daycare out of her home. Parker runs ProDesign Solutions flooring company on Southwest Main Street.

Parker said it’s all about getting the community into the Halloween spirit.

“I like that it’s two neighbors who just do it for fun,” she said. “We’re not professionals. We just think it’s fun to do.”

The haunted house hasn’t just been a hit with neighborhood kids, Velardi said. It’s caught the attention of local parents, too.

“People drive by and tell us when we’re setting up that they love the yard and that they’re glad we’re doing it again,” she said. “And we’ve seen a lot more trick-or-treaters than we have in years past.”

Planning for the future

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A ghost scene is placed in the front yard of Suzanne Parker's house.Parker said she’d like to see the haunted house continue to grow, but said she wants it to keep its home-grown appeal.

“I like that it’s a community thing,” she said. “I’d love to carry it out into the yard, but the weather can be so unpredictable. It’s a question every year whether we go bigger or not.”

It takes about eight people to put on the annual event, Velardi said, including Parker’s parents.

“It’s a family thing,” Parker said. ‘It’s about neighbors and friends and family.”

In fact, Parker said, her parents are often the best actors.

“Everybody walked out saying that the old people were the creepiest part,” Parker said. “They missed their true calling. They really did.”

Interested in volunteering for next year’s haunted house? Call Velardi at 503-317-6136.

During the Halloween season, Parker and Velardi make sure to visit some of the Portland area’s other haunted houses to get a feel for what they should be doing.

“We get ideas,” Parker said. “What if they have something we like?”

The duo are already planning for Halloween 2016, they said.

“We already have idea for next year,” Parker said. “But really, our eyes are bigger than there is time. If we started working on it in April we’d probably be ready.”


By Geoff Pursinger
Reporter
503-546-0744
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