Posted: Sep 30, 2012 9:27 AM
Updated: Sep 30, 2012 9:27 AM
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Out with the ghouls and in with the new.
Nightmare on Grayson, which bills itself as San Antonio's longest-running haunted house, will be closing its doors after this Halloween to make room for a mixed-use development.
"I was shocked when I heard the news," said Sean Nations, 43, known as a Nightmare on Grayson super fan. "It's a Halloween staple in San Antonio. Yeah, there are other haunted houses; but with Grayson gone, they need to fill a void."
Nations said he has been attending the haunted house since the beginning. Though he's hard to scare, he still visited the Grayson attraction multiple times each season.
The haunted house has been in operation for 24 years, but a struggling economy, increased competition and high expenses also have pushed ownership to close up shop, said Gordon Wise, director of operations there.
Nightmare on Grayson will have its last run through Oct. 31.
Brayco Partnership, which owns the haunted house, is drafting plans for loft and retail space at the building at 201 E. Grayson St., Wise said.
He said he'll miss the haunted house and the quirky things that have happened there over the years, such as proposals; marriages, including the one with the bride and the groom dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein; and a visit by the Insane Clown Posse, which drew hundreds of the band's eccentric fans.
Although the ownership group enjoyed operating the haunted house, Wise said that when the building initially was bought about a decade ago, there were already plans to develop the property when the area eventually turned around. And now with the Pearl Brewery flourishing and several nearby developments under construction, the time was now.
"It has been a San Antonio institution, and it made a lot of sense when the neighborhood was so much less developed," said Elizabeth Fauerso, a spokeswoman for the Pearl Brewery. "The reason they're evolving this space and developing it is that when you have this level of residential density and retail density, it makes sense to utilize that space all year long."
After the season ends, the Nightmare on Grayson crew has 90 days to tear down the creepy sets to make room for the new development. It's expected that new tenants could be moved in by next summer, Wise said.
Plans are still preliminary for the new development but call for the footprint to grow by about 30 percent, said Wise, who lives in a loft above the haunted house. Because the building was once a distribution facility for soft drink manufacturer Double Cola, Wise said he'd like to see a gourmet soda shop that specializes in handcrafted pop to open there. The 23,000-square-foot property also is known as the Double Cola building.
The building already has one tenant, Roo & Me, which specializes in children's clothing. It has occupied space there about four months, and its owner also lives in the building.
While there aren't plans to move the attraction elsewhere, Wise said the ownership hopes to throw an annual Halloween celebration to keep the tradition going.
For now, the crew of paid and volunteer personnel is preparing for its last season. Inside the sparsely air-conditioned building is a dark maze of rooms decorated with fake body parts, scary clowns and pirate skeletons. Workers are hustling to put the finishing touches on scenes, and rehearsals are expected to start this week.
Adam Preciado, the general manager for the haunted house, said he already has called dibs on a sign that reads "Fun House." For him, it signifies the first room where he worked as an actor there.
But more than anything, he'll miss scaring visitors.
"I feel bad, but it's funny," he said. "It's hilarious to see people scream and run because you're wearing a mask or a little makeup."
While many of the workers there see the change as a sign of progress for the city and the area, there are some who are emotional about the closing.
Shelly Gracia has worked there as an actor and makeup artist since the place opened. She referred to working there as an adrenaline rush and said some of her fondest memories include making a patron wet their pants from being scared and getting her nose broken from a frightened customer.
"I'm super sad, but this is not the end," she said with a trembling voice. "This is my family. These people and this place have a special place in my heart."
She plans to use every last drop of makeup for the various characters she will play in the final season, such as a zombie Valero attendant and a fallen angel.
"Our memories are going to haunt the halls of (Nightmare on) Grayson forever," she said. "Not just mine, but everyone who has ever stepped foot in there."
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com