Growing up in Richardson, Texas, Halloween has always been my favorite day of the year. 🎃 It started at a very young age when I would visit the Pumpkin Patch at Cox’s Fruit Stand just east of Central at Beltline. My parents and I would search around forever looking for the perfect pumpkin. My favorite memory was the small pumpkin they had on a rope and pulley system. Someone would pull the rope keeping it just out of reach from all the children. Every now and then some lucky kid would grab hold of it and hold on for dear life.
Cox’s Fruit Stand on the NE corner of the intersection of Beltline and Central Expwy.
Video from Mark Stegar in 1989 – Pumpkin Patch at John Cox’s Fruit Stand.
Every October my parents would take me to the State Fair of Texas ⭐️. (Still a tradition to this day) Me and my friends loved sliding down the grassy hills at the Fair on slabs of cardboard! After all the rides were ridden, corn dogs and candy apples eaten, and the day faded into night, we’d slowly make our way to the back of the Midway to the Haunted Cannon Manor. I remember holding on to my Mom’s arm sobbing in tears as I watched my Dad walk into the Haunted House. In my mind he was never coming back. 💀
The Haunted Cannon Manor 1977. Photo by: Nick Dewolf
As I continued to grow older, I became more and more intrigued with the idea of venturing into these Haunted Death Chambers, and finally started making my way into some of the “less scary” attractions. One being the Ride and Laff Haunted House on the Midway at the State Fair of Texas. The creepy Witch stirring her caldron, with her terrifying knife-wielding monkey, sent shivers down my spine. 🧙♀️ The flying pterodactyl, and the head-on collision with an on coming semi truck, were among the most memorable features in the attraction.
Ride and Laff Haunted House. Photos by: William Rutledge III
Eventually (Around 8) I was brave enough to go inside The Haunted Cannon Manor with my Dad. The Cannon Manor was a Southern antebellum-style mansion owned by four former Disney Imagineers. It was a bone-chilling experience for me as a small kid, but I was hooked & LOVED IT. 👻
The Haunted Cannon Manor now known as The Haunted Verdun Manor
Before long it was tradition for all my friends to meet at my house on Halloween weekend, and pile into the back of my Dad’s truck to visit as many haunted houses as we could in a given night. 🧟
Some Haunts that stick in my mind are the Jackson Jaycee’s Haunted House, and Leonard Pickel’s March of Dime’s Haunted House. Pickel designed rooms in his haunted houses based off of his own disturbing dreams. Some of the best memories came from waiting in the long lines with my friends wearing our neon glow-stick necklaces, and drinking hot chocolate ☕️ from the concession stand. At the end of the night we’d all end up back at my house, and my Mom would read us poems from Edgar Allen Poe.
Visitors are scared of a Dracula at the Jackson Jaycees Haunted House in 1978
March of Dimes Ghoul Jerry Fleming scares Marie Rossman (center) of Carrollton and Amy Walker at the March of Dimes Haunted House on Halloween Night in 1979.(File Photo / John Rhodes)
Sixteen-year-olds Natalie Monzingo, Kristina Hughes and Lora Moss scream as they walk through the March of Dimes Haunted House on Oct. 21, 1988.(File Photo / David Woo)
In 1989 The Cannon Manor at the State Fair was purchased by the late Lance Pope and relocated to Forney, Texas, and renamed The Verdun Manor. Lance Pope is considered a legend in the Haunt industry. He created costumes and makeup design, and acted in scenes. Lance Pope passed away unexpectedly in December 2002. 🏚 The Verdun Manor became our absolute favorite Haunted House hands-down. The Verdun Manor stayed in Forney from 1989-1996, and then relocated to Terrell, Texas where it became the foundation for the now sprawling Thrillvania. Lance Pope’s parents have continued to carry on the Thrillvania torch for their only son who loved it and all things haunted house so much. HauntWorld Magazine, the bible of the industry, has said that Thrillvania will “go down in haunted history as one of the greatest haunts of our time.”
Me and some friends purchased this 3D photo out in front of the Verdun Manor in 1989. I’m the kid in the coffin!
The Verdun Manor. Grand Dining Room.
I’ll always hold those days of my youth close to my heart. Every year I still look forward to Halloween and now have a daughter of my own. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to hold my hand through a haunted house! Happy Halloween everyone and stay safe! 🐈⬛
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