RANDLETT — Every October, Randy Green lives his dream — and it sets the stage for what might be your worst nightmare.
Green is chief of the Randlett Volunteer Fire Department, and each fall, he and a handful of his crew, their families and about 40 kids from the community transform an old homestead outside of town into one of the spookiest haunted houses in southwest Oklahoma, known as The House of Carnage.
“I just love scaring people,” Green said. “Halloween is my favorite time of year.”
This year, House of Carnage has added two buildings to its haunting lineup, including a 1908 one-room schoolhouse that Assistant Fire Chief David Rivers has crafted to mirror an insane asylum, complete with a graveyard out back.
“He’s as morbid as I am,” Green said of Rivers, as they both laughed on a tour of their latest creation Wednesday evening.
Green has served as fire chief for 25 years and has run the haunted house for the last 16. After a number of years moving the House of Carnage to various locations, the fire department purchased the old homestead three years ago from a local farmer.
One dilapidated farmhouse sat on the lot, and the fire department has used it for several years to scare spook-seekers at Halloween. Two years ago, they received a donation of two more old houses, but it took some time to get the buildings moved to their land.
“We finally found someone in Whitesboro, Texas, who could come up and move them,” said Green, who has spent nearly every day for four months prepping the buildings for the Halloween season.
The House of Carnage is the fire department’s only fundraiser each year, and proceeds from the house purchase gear and equipment for the firefighters, “basically anything we need,” according to Green. Two years ago, money raised from the haunted house bought a much-needed battery-powered hydraulic rescue tool, known as the Jaws of Life.
For Green, it’s about keeping his crew safe and protecting his hometown, from fire and financial hardship.
“So many departments nowadays have to send a bill out to the farmer (for extinguishing a fire on their property),” Green said. “But we don’t have to do that. And I won’t do that.”
With a record-breaking 96 people showing up for the House of Carnage’s opening night Oct. 4, the crew is having a banner year. Another 536 people came out the evening of Oct. 19.
“We’d just like to show our appreciation for those who come out every year and support us,” said Green, adding that thrill seekers have driven from all over the place to test their cool at the House of Carnage. “We love it and we love to scare people. It’s good, safe fun.”
This is also the first year the fire department is dedicating their five weekends at the House of Carnage to a cause: suicide awareness and prevention. Many of the volunteer firefighters have children, and Green said in working with many local youths throughout the month, they hope to encourage them to reach out when they need support.
Between 35 and 40 young volunteers — from enthusiastic 6 and 7 year olds to college students home for the weekend — line up outside a CONEX box each night to have their faces painted. They don wigs and costumes and embody characters meant to thrill their willing victims.
Green said many of the same kids show up year after year to help out, but new faces means moldable characters.
“We’ve got a fairly new group this year,” Green said, “but they’ve really stepped up and figured out they know how to act when their faces are painted.”
All ages are welcome at the House of Carnage, though it doesn’t scrimp on the scares, so Green said it’s up to parents to decide if their children are ready for the House of Carnage.
No matter your age, Green said the best way to enjoy the haunted houses is to have the right attitude.
“We know we’re not going to scare everybody,” Green said, “but the ones who come in with an open mind and ready to have a good time, they’re the ones we love to see. ... And they’re the ones the kids get into scaring pretty good. It’s kind of like a shark smelling blood — they can smell the fear on them and they attack.”
Firefighter Milton Honeycutt has volunteered at the House of Carnage since its inception. His secret scare tactic?
“He’s probably the only firefighter in the state of Oklahoma with a prosthetic leg,” said Green of Honeycutt, who tapped his left shin.
Honeycutt has played a number of creepy characters at House of Carnage over the years, including a murder victim getting his leg cut off with a chainsaw.
“Sometimes I just take it off and shake it at people,” Honeycutt said of his prosthetic.
In addition to the insane asylum, the other two house themes are equally as creepy: one is home to “retired killers” — Leatherface, Freddy Krueger and the like; and the other is a clown house.
Green said he gets much of his inspiration from horror films: “I’m digging the new ‘It’ movie,” he said. “But the scariest movie every is ‘The Strangers.’”
Next year, he plans to connect the three houses with a 34-by-8-foot spinning tunnel, and the ideas only flow from there.
“My main goal,” he said, “is to see this continue when I retire.”