Evansville haunted house brings more than 40 years of scares

Evansville haunted house brings more than 40 years of scares
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 4:51 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Halloween is less than a week away, meaning those looking for a good scare have one more weekend to enjoy a spooky Tri-State tradition.

The Old Courthouse Catacombs in the old Vanderburgh County courthouse has been a Tri-State staple for over 40 years. The owner says he’s worked hard to make sure people want to come back year after year.

The Old Courthouse Catacombs come to life every Halloween season, and people come in droves for a dose of terror.

“We find it fascinating that people are willing to pay good money to be scared,” said Old Courthouse Catacombs owner Phil Wolter.

Phil Wolter started the attraction in 1980. Since then he says he’s put on 43 shows and supervised 12,000 actors. He says the urge to visit haunted houses must be a similar impulse to what drives people to ride roller coasters or watch scary movies.

“When you come to a theater and you see a horror film, you can look at your own fears, look at them, address them, and laugh at them,” said Wolter.

Wolter says a lot goes on behind the scenes to make the event happen each year. Wolter is an artist who paints the spooky murals in the catacombs. He also has experience in theater, and says there’s an overlap between the two.

“We’ve got live-action characters, there’s blocking, costumes, makeup, lines, special effects, sound, lighting, wardrobe,” said Wolter. “Everything you see in a regular theatrical production you’re going to have right here.”

Each year the attraction has a theme, and with one exception, it’s been different every year. This year’s theme is “The Burial Grounds,” and it’s based on local history. The old courthouse was built on the area’s earliest documented cemetery. Nearby historical markers say there are still unmarked graves on the grounds.

Wolter says he wants to scare patrons, but more than that, he wants them to have fun.

“We make it fun, safe, and scary,” said Wolter. “It’s not the industrial carve-you-up, bloody, gory kind of show. There’s a little bit of that here and there, but it’s mostly to have fun. We know it’s all fake in here, or is it?”

But be careful if you find yourself in the catacombs, there may be someone standing right behind you.

If this isn’t enough terror for you, the catacombs are just one of two haunted houses that Wolter runs. The other is “The House of Lecter,” two blocks away.

Click here for schedules and ticket information.