October 26, 2021

Thefts create nightmare at Chiller Haunted House

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Jim Coon, above, creator of the Chiller Haunted House at the Burch Building in Suggett Park, said a gas mask, some Halloween masks, props and an animatronic clown were stolen, valued at a total of about $150 to $200.

Jim Coon, creator of the Chiller Haunted House at the Burch Building in Suggett Park in the city, was on his way to the building Wednesday to make a few adjustments to the attractions when he came across a horrifying sight.

Not the scary attractions themselves, the absence of them. Many of the decorations had been stolen.

A gas mask, a few traditional Halloween masks, a few props and an animatronic clown were taken, valued at a total of about $150 to $200, Coon said.

City police Lt. Rick Troyer said there was no damage to the building or any other items inside. It is still unknown who stole the items, but city police have begun looking into it.

Coon suspects the items may have been stolen while a school football team was practicing in the park, because while they are there the Burch Building must be unlocked for the team’s use, if needed. There is no chance the theft happened after the team had left, because he said when the team leaves, he locks up the building.

While Coon did call the police to investigate, he said he has no intention of pressing charges, he just wants his items back. Especially since he pays for everything out of his own pocket.

“I’m really disappointed,” Coon said. “Just because you can get to something doesn’t mean you’re allowed to take it. We put a lot of time and effort into the haunted house.”

Deanna Grantham, a friend of Coon’s who helps with the haunted house, said there were fortunately no tools or projectors stolen, but there is not a large budget to replace what was stolen. She said any extra money Coon gathers from admission fees is used to buy pizza and drinks for the kids who come to Chiller. Coon has said that some money is set aside for the following year’s event and a donation to the city Youth Bureau.

There is one item in particular he would like back more than any of the others, a green mask of a ghoulish face with silver hair. The mask was worn by one particular volunteer, Peter Oscsodal, for seven years, before he moved away.

Coon said Oscsodal was a popular attraction at the haunted house as he would act as a Hungarian chef, playing with the kids, trying to get them to speak Hungarian. Coon continues to use the mask in every Chiller event in honor of Oscsodal.

“I don’t care if nothing else comes back. I want that back,” he said.

The missing items will not stop the haunted house from being open. Coon said he has plenty of other items to replace the missing ones and he and his volunteers are working to get the building ready for its next events, 7 to 10 tonight and Saturday night.

In the 34 years Coon has been putting on a haunted house this is just the second time he has had something stolen. He said if someone knows something or whoever stole the items has a change or heart, they should not be afraid to call him and message him; he just wants his items back.