There’s a new place to shop for a haunted house experience in Wichita

When putting together a creepy haunted event, it helps to start with an eerie, rundown, deserted venue.

Jack Sandberg, a veteran creator of haunted houses in the area, has found one such venue this year – the long-vacant, weed-choked former Dillons at Douglas and Meridian. On Thursday, he opened Wichita’s newest haunted venue – called Horror Wood – inside the cavernous, 20,000-square-foot building, and fright fans are already shopping for scares there.

Every Halloween, Wichita is home to several haunted houses, fields and islands. The first of them opened for business at the end of September, and the rest are operating now.

Sandberg has run various haunted fields and zombie havens in Hutchinson for nearly a decade. For the past two years, he’s operated Horror Wood at the former Fun Valley Waterslide property in Hutchinson. But the city did not renew his lease this year, so he and partner Matt Vierthaler decided to bring Horror Wood to Wichita, he said.

Sandberg, a professional theatrical makeup artist, says Horror Wood is different from most Halloween haunts because it’s more actor driven. The 50-plus actors who staff Horror Wood must audition and are given acting and dialogue training.

“It’s very much a theatrical-style production,” he said. “We don’t go for any of that jump and and go ‘boo’ kind of thing. We treat this as if it’s a giant interactive play.”

The attraction is filled with evil clowns, zombies and areas of scare that are so real, they seem straight from a Hollywood movie, Sandberg said.

Wichita was set to get a second new haunted attraction this year, but it was canceled at the last minute.

Tunnels of Terror, a haunted house in the bowels of Cessna Stadium, was going to open this weekend and serve as a fundraiser for the Wichita State University Track & Field team. But organizers found out on Wednesday they did not meet the National Fire Protection Association International Safety Code set up specifically for haunted houses and enforced by the State of Kansas. They’ve decided to put the event off until next year.

Horror Wood’s owners plan to donate 25 percent of the money raised to the Joyland Restoration project.