Schadel’s website, The House of Doom!!! (HOD) is as simply designed now as it was when he created it in 1996.
With an unadorned black background, it’s accented only by garish red and green text and a few gruesome images thrown in for spice. It’s also become, over the years, a sort of digital living room for the Cincinnati haunt community, listing extensive reviews of haunted attractions and offering an open message board to discuss everything that has to do with local haunted houses.
Schadel started the website because he felt mainstream media’s haunt coverage lacked an appreciation and undestanding of the work and artistic toil that goes into creating a haunt. Schadel says the reviewers didn’t know the haunted attraction industry well and that he was rebuffed when he offered to help with coverage.
“They wanted to use their own so-called experts and I just figured, with the web being as popular as it was beginning to be, that I would start the House of Doom!!! and give the haunt industry the respect I thought it deserved,” Schadel says.
“Too much of the mainstream media in Cincinnati were treating it like a bastard stepchild. The houses were too popular to ignore and they would cover them, they would just do a really lousy job and try and make it into a freakshow. I wanted to show [what happens] behind the scenes at the attractions and just how elaborate and how seriously people who put them together took their jobs.”
And with this effort, Schadel created a popular crossroads for locals who run, design and attend area haunts. You’ll often find posts by creative folks involved with The Dent Schoolhouse, Mount Healthy Haunted Hall and many other local attractions. It’s at the HOD that the craft of haunted houses is discussed critically. His avocation as a niche media mogul takes up many hours of his time, as it has since he was a child, he says.
Schadel cites the Cool Ghoul, a costumed actor who used to present fright films to local television audiences, as being a major inspiration. “When I was growing up, the monster explosion was taking place in the late ’50s and early ’60s,” he says. “When I was growing up, he was the be-all, end-all.”
Schadel says Cincinnati was always a leader in the haunted attraction genre. The Sycamore-Deer Park Jaycees put on the WSAI Haunted House in 1970, the nation’s first true, modern haunted attraction.
“Something that wasn’t just a decorated yard, museum or amusement park dark ride,” he says. “WSAI was basically the first in the nation.”
He says he thinks haunts are so popular because they give people a safe outlet through which they can experience fear.
“People aren’t really scared,” Schadel says. “If they were really scared, they wouldn’t come back. They get the thrill of fear, the adrenaline rush, without actually placing themselves in danger. It’s like a roller coaster at Kings Island.”
Check out the HOUSE OF DOOM!!! at www.houseofdoom.net.