Under a half-full yellow beacon moon in the clear sky over the east end of St. Joseph, cars slowly pulled into the Horseshoe Lake Drive-In. Guests settled into their impromptu parking spots, forming a maze of parked vehicles that stretched across the open lot in front of the massive white screen that towered overhead. People set themselves to readiness, by adjusting their FM radios to 88.3 and dashing to the concession stand for some popcorn or soft drinks. They readied their seats to a leaning position or set lawn chairs and coolers outside of their vehicles. Every one was preparing to watch the back-to-back classic horror films that highlighted the Haunted Drive-In picture show.
The first movie shown was George Romeroâ€™s classic Dawn of the Dead in all of its black-and-white gory glory. For those with the intestinal fortitude to brave the terrors ahead, stayed and watched the horrifically campy Jesse James Meets Frankensteinâ€™s Daughter.
Bob Schultz, of KQTVâ€™s Front Row with Bob Schultz, was there to enjoy the double feature.
â€œThey are wonderfully bad,â€ Schultz said. â€œI was just hanging out with George Romero last week for the Kansas City National film festival, but we did not tell him about showing his part because of…um…he doesnâ€™t like the public domain stuff.â€
Schultz is a part of the film alliance, the Fame Group. Several members of the Fame Group, along with the Roubidoux Resident Theatre, were involved with the special effects that went into the Haunted Forest, part of the Haunted Drive-In.
The Haunted Drive-In was the mutual brainchild of Westernâ€™s theatre and video professor Deny Staggs and Horseshoe Lake Drive-In owner Jay Kerner.
With no real haunted experience for the citizens of St. Joseph due to this yearâ€™s closing of both Mad Maryâ€™s and The Bone Factory, a void was left that needed to be filled. Thus, the Haunted Drive-In was born.
â€œJay Kerner approached us (Roubidoux Resident Theatre) and said â€˜Have you guys ever thought about doing a haunted experience?â€™â€ Staggs said. â€œâ€˜I have got these great woods beside my drive-in, and we could show horror movies from the 50s and 60s.â€™ If youâ€™re a movie buff of this kind of genre, this is an amazing experience.â€
Kerner looks forward to a growing turnout over the time that The Haunted Drive-In will be in operation.
â€œWeâ€™ve got different movies every week,â€ Kerner said. â€œWe figure some people will want to come on multiple weekends.”
The movie line up is Little Shop of Horrors with Jack Nicholson and The Terror on Oct. 12 through Oct. 14; Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell and Lady Frankenstein on Oct. 19 through Oct. 21; Driller Killer and The Massacre on Oct. 26 through Oct. 31.
â€œIf you were coming out to the Haunted Drive- in, I would be aware at all times, looking over your shoulder,â€ Kerner warned. â€œI wouldnâ€™t get too comfortable; you never know what could happen. I would wear good shoes and dress appropriately.â€
A large hooded man in a black holocaust cloak gathered the group of seven together and warned them with a gravelly whisper, â€œStay together.â€ The seven â€“ a Midwestern soccer mom, her 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, along with Western student Amanda McCrary and two other young adults â€“ began the long walk through the Haunted Forest.
A path marked the way between the twisted terrain of trees and shrubbery. A dozen torches on both sides of the path revealed the disappearing entrance behind the group. With one low throaty warning, â€œNow is the time to turn back,â€ the grim guide lumbered out of the light and walked past a corpse swaying from a rope as the group stuck closely to the ominous ghoul leading them. A beaten and broke down camperâ€™s van appeared on the path with splattered blood about a wrecked campsite.
Suddenly a scream shattered the silence as a gore-covered and terrified camper ran out to the group begging them for help. The 12-year-old girl screamed in response, but the group wandered on. One of the living urban legends of redneck, backwoodsâ€™ killers exploded out of the bush with a bestial growl as he berated the group for trespassing on his land, but the group ventured on past an old rundown cemetery with an eerie ghost bride who subtly began to move, and then follow the group into the dark.
A shack with a deranged banjo-picking old man and his creepy, yet somewhat alluring daughter appeared on the path, and the groupwalked past his chorus of â€œstank bodiesâ€™ baby.â€ His devilish daughter shrieked in the groupsâ€™ faces until Leather Face leaped out of the dark with his chainsaw roaring to life. The group hurried down a sloped-exit path away from the mayhem.
The quiet of the forest returned with the total darkness, as the group moved through a heavily wooded area. Footsteps and screams could be heard all around. When least expected, someone popped out and yelled about the group wandering the wrong way. The giant lumbering guide rerouted the group several times through different paths until he gave up and bellowed â€œLOST! AARGGHHHH!â€
Rejects from the House of 1000 Corpses jumped out and assailed the group as they wandered through the fog-filled forest. Through branchless, eerie trees and web-covered passageways, past undead gypsies boding bad fortunes and skeletal parts strewn through the foliage, the group marched until at last the exit could be seen and sweet release from the torment was achieved. The group survived and finally the long walk was over.
Although the children of the group were terrified into a silent stupor, McCrary was unimpressed.
â€œIt was all right. I didnâ€™t like the chainsaw,â€ McCrary said. â€œI went to the Bone Factory, and it was more unexpected, but this is worth the money with the movies and all.â€