There is a warehouse in Erie known to the locals as the old Cohen’s building. It has stood vacant for years. The building’s only noticeable residents are the vibrant green vines that slither up the dingy cement block walls on the outside.
In late August, as I was driving across West 12th Street to class, I noticed a few cars and a large orange dumpster in the parking lot and thought, “Are they going to be ready in time?”
I watched the parking lot with a dozen or so empty cars outside this menacing building for any clue to what they were doing inside every day for more than a month. Finally, as if it crawled and clawed its way out of the top of the building, a dark industrial billboard announced “Eeriebyss Factory of Terror.”
I was so excited! Erie had not had a large haunted attraction since the K-104 Jaycees Grubb Road Haunted House, which closed in 1990. How do I know this? Simple, I used to work there. I spent my younger years working in the haunted houses and now I travel every October to see the biggest and best.
New co-owners Greg Sutter and Steve Popovich purchased the building last year and had a crew working 12-hour days since July preparing for opening night. I asked Sutter why venture into the haunt business.
“I was born on Halloween,” Sutter said with a sly smile. “It’s in my blood.”
Sutter said the haunt covers two floors and is filled with 50-60 monsters decked out in costumes, makeup and masks. Eeriebyss Factory of Terror has a variety theme. Something ghoulish and grotesque for everyone. I was determined to venture through this shroud of darkness on opening night. The haunt opened Oct. 4 and runs through Nov. 2.
Opening night arrived. The weather was unseasonably warm and the humidity oppressive. I walked through the parking lot, which is a mixture of grass and hardened mud leading up to a concrete lot. I have stared at this lot for months waiting impatiently for Erie’s newest and largest haunted attraction to open its doors.
As I walked through the open glass doors, I was greeted by a human skull comparable in size to the skull of Tyrannosaurus rex with a black widow spider perched on top. Two friendly ladies sat with the skull greeting people and selling tickets. With a ticket in hand, I was directed into a solid black hallway that led to a door and a large security guard.
In line, I was surrounded by the sounds of screeching cats, rattling chains, creepy music and the nervous banter of fellow patrons. A few minutes later the security guy said, “Go ahead in.”
I was immediately immersed in darkness as I stumbled down a cold cement floor flanked on both sides by wood walls. I soon encountered my first monster. His timing for the scare was perfect. He was standing over me and growling in my face before I could figure out where he was hiding. Eeriebyss has monsters tucked into all different types of dark and damp spaces. You don’t know they are there until you disturb them.
Eeriebyss uses misdirection to confuse and disorient their patrons, giving everything lurking in the dark a chance to introduce themselves up close and personal. The she-monsters have piercing screams that rip through the darkness like Jason’s machete in “Friday the 13th.” These frightening little ghouls have the ability to hide everywhere – even overhead. The silent but eerily bothersome monsters seem to vaporize next to you.
While venturing through endless hallways and stairwells, I came upon many disturbing scenes filled with monstrosities begging me to come closer or screaming at me like a wild banshee to get out. Some scenes incorporate parts of the original building. The hallway opened up into an area against a smoke gray block wall with hooded minions walking silently up a conveyor belt, carrying sacks over their shoulders. When I reached the front of the scene, I saw the conveyor belt lead into a dark dirt-colored floored basement and the unmistakable smell of wet, rotten leaves filled the air. Staring into the dark abyss instantly made me not want to go down there.
I could hear other adventurers around me scream, laugh and comment how much fun they were having. I heard girls in another section begging the ghouls to leave them alone in between blood-curdling screams.
Upon exiting, there was one final unexpected scare. I walked out a little more quickly than needed, smiling and expressing my enjoyment of making it through the haunted attraction in one piece. I stopped to tell the owners how much I enjoyed their haunt when two girls ran past me at lightspeed with a silent terrified look on both their faces. Instantly, pleased smiles crossed employees’ faces throughout the lobby.
Sutter said his future plans include a themed monster restaurant and a dark ride named the Fright Zone, which ran in Westfield Park in Pittsburgh originally. Sutter purchased the dark ride himself and intends to set it up in the basement of the warehouse for future use.
Eeriebyss is open 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 7 p.m. – midnight Fridays and Saturdays. The cost is $20, but you can find $2 discount tickets at local business, such as Dominick’s, Carol’s Bakery and all Spirit locations.