HR Fire's Paul Henke prides himself on making scariest haunted house around

October 30, 2011

When he's not helping people, Paul Henke loves to scare them.

For the last five years, the Hood River Fire Department lieutenant has been the brains - and most of the brawn - behind the creepiest, freakiest, screamiest, goose-bumpiest haunted house in town.

Last year, he says, somewhere between the room with a girl crawling across the ceiling and the man in an electric chair with sparks flying off his head, two adult women did, in fact, pee their pants.

And in what could be his last year putting on the community event and fundraiser, Henke promises bigger, better and scarier things for this weekend's haunted house.

"I'm going out with a bang," he said Thursday while standing next to a 10-foot-tall werewolf. "Unless something changes, unless more people step up to help next year, this will be my last year doing this. It has become too big and too much work to put together in the amount of time that I have."

A few thousand people went through the haunted house last year, and Henke's Catch-22 of consecutive bigger and better performances means expectations are getting higher and higher.

"This year, I tried to bring back everything that people said they liked from previous years," he said. "It's going to be crazy. Even if you've seen something before and you think you know what's coming, you're in for a surprise. Oh, and Freddy is back."

This year's location occupies two buildings: The former E&L Auto Parts store and the neighboring house to the north, both owned by Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. The buildings are empty and scheduled for demolition, so Henke and helpers had free rein to do basically anything they wanted to create a maze of dark corners, moving rooms, alleyways, dungeons, operation areas and a glut of other downright freaky scenes. Like last year, Henke has enlisted a group of drama students from the high school to act out the most theatrical parts of the tour.

"Expect about a 30-minute tour," Henke said. "There will be three chances for people to exit if they want out. Parents should use discretion with their kids. It's going to be scary. I'd say middle school and older is a good guide. Adults love it, too. For those who have come in years past, this is going to be the best yet."

The annual haunted house started with a simple idea Henke had one Halloween at his home. He rigged an air compressor to a bowl of candy and when youngsters said "Trick or Treat", they got both.

It got more complex the following year, and the year after that.

"When I broke something in the house, my wife said, 'That's it; no more,'" he explained. "The next year we had the first community haunted house on Wilson Street."

Since then the event has brought quality fright to thousands of kids in the community, and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"Last year we probably had 3,000 people come through," Henke said. "And we donate every penny we get. We don't take anything for our time or materials or anything."

About next year, Henke said, "I'm not totally ruling it out. If more people help and if we can get a location more in advance, it could definitely continue."

Henke said anyone interested in volunteering or spearheading a haunted house next can contact him at:

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners