Bringing terror to life
For the past three years, Hoch played Bonkerz, a demonic clown, and his character became a crowd favorite. Hoch draws on a background in theater when performing at 3rd Street. “Scaring is a form of acting and entertainment,” he says. This year, he has cooked up something new, but he won’t reveal his new identity just yet. “It got to the point where everyone knew who I was, so it’s time to move on,” Hoch says.
Hoch finds inspiration year round. “I’ll have a daydream, see something in a movie or on TV, and so I write it down in a notebook,” he says. Sometimes he or one of his co-workers finds a prop they just have to have, so they plan a themed room in the haunted house around it. It doesn’t always work out, though — there’s a monkey bellhop that has never found a home in the house, and a Frankenstein-type costume ended up being used to entertain customers waiting in line.
Every March, Hoch travels with his co-workers to St. Louis for Transworld’s Halloween & Attractions Show. At the trade show, Hoch sees the latest technology in props and costumes, and makes purchases for the upcoming season. Often, the team studies large and expensive props they admire and then build their own version back at 3rd Street. The “vortex tunnel” in the house, which disorients guests by spinning around them as they walk across a steady platform, was inspired by a machine at Transworld.
Labor of love
When designing and building rooms, Hoch works closely with his friend Bryce Peterson. This year, the pair created a new room from scratch that they call the “hunter’s cabin.” Hoch and Peterson spent 80 to 100 hours and some of their own money to get it just right. “We love to do it. We want to do it. You dream it up, and then you get to see your work of art,” Hoch says.
Taking off the mask
Though Hoch and his co-workers get paid to work at 3rd Street, it is something they do on the side, mainly just for fun. By day, Hoch works as a city employee, and the team includes a hairdresser, a college student and a fire chief. “We all take our day jobs seriously, but this is where we still get to be kids,” Hoch says.
An authentic haunt
Hoch believes the historic building that houses 3rd Street Asylum is truly haunted. According to Hoch, it was built on the site of an old graveyard and is haunted by at least four ghosts. “Everyone who works here has had an experience,” he says, and the crew has brought in two mediums who have confirmed the presence of spirits. Hoch says there is a little girl named Missy who “likes to mess with people,” and a man in a top hat who is “not very nice.”
“Halloween is my Christmas. You just can’t beat scaring people,” he says.