"The Asylum"

Matthew Slider and the skeleton known as “Lt. Dan” are ready for visitors at “The Asylum,” a Highland Road haunted attraction that opens for a test run this weekend.

It isn’t Elm Street, but the nightmares will be abundant at 2021 Highland Road in Maryville, courtesy of “The Asylum.”

The mad scientist responsible for the haunted house is Matthew Slider..

“When my wife and I bought the house last year, I knew I wanted to build a haunt,” Slider said. “We built a small haunt that went from the garage to the front porch. It had a carnival/clown theme. There were so many positive comments about it that I knew we had to do another haunt this year.”

The theme this year is “The Asylum,” a hospital for the mentally ill full of skeletons, psychopaths, ghosts and monsters. The haunt will take place in a building constructed by Slider and volunteers.

“We wanted to create a building that actually makes visitors feel like they are enclosed in an asylum,” Slider said. “The building was a hard project. Around 95% of the materials were free through donations, and that also includes props and decorations. We had to use what was given to us and make it work.”

The big props were donated by Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion, an attraction that Slider worked at in the past. The skeletons were refurbished to look more realistic and scarier.

“The props are mostly static,” Slider said. “We are going to rely on our actors for the majority of the scares. We have 14 acting slots to fill. Hopefully we will have those filled and have a few extra actors to offer even more scares.”

The haunt is roughly 1,600 square feet and was built one room at a time. There are 13 rooms altogether, 12 of them walk-through rooms. The haunt has tight corridors and big open spaces, adding to the feeling of disorientation.

“If somebody feels claustrophobic in one of the tight spaces, they can always go into a bigger room and take a breather,” Slider said. “If an individual doesn’t think they can carry on through the haunt, one of the actors will help and escort the person out of the building.”

How scary is The Asylum? According to Slider, it depends on when hapless victims visit.

“The tarp outside the building illuminates everything when it is daylight,” he said. “If you want to go through and don’t want to be scared too much, visiting when we open is the way to go. If you want a really scary experience, you need to go at night to feel the full effect.”

There is no admission fee for The Asylum.

“Professional haunts require people to pay to get in, the actors are paid and the haunt is making money for itself,” Slider said. “Our home haunt is free. If you do charge for admission, you have to go through all kinds of hurdles and obstacles to get (permits). We didn’t want to go through that.

“Most importantly, not everybody can afford to take the family to a haunt. We wanted to give people that opportunity. The actors enjoy doing it, and we want people to have fun at the haunt without worrying about (spending money).”

The Asylum accepts donations to cover some expenses, such as electricity. However, donations are not required. The Asylum also accepts non-perishable canned food items that will be donated to the Community Food Connection.

The haunt will have a test run from 6-10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28.

“We are having the trial run to work out any kinks the haunt might have,” Slider said. “If you want the full experience of The Asylum, you might want to wait until we start in October. The test run will have problems here and there.”

The home haunt will be open on weekends in October and on Halloween.

“We didn’t think we would have that many people last year because Halloween was in the middle of the week,” Slider said. “It turned out to be our busiest night.”

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