This is the second in a two-part series. To read the first part on Rick Colerich’s Troy Hill Halloween wonderland, go here.
If you passed through Troy Hill during October, you probably saw Rick Colerich’s elaborate haunted house on Niggel Street.
His display of homemade props, sculptures and models ranged from a real, stuffed mountain lion to a miniature Bates Motel to a giant spider made out of PVC pipes and rigid wrap, and everything in between.
Originally, Colerich wanted to work in movie special effects and earned a degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. About the time he graduated, he said, computers were taking over most special effects. Now he’d like to open a haunted house.
“This is what I would call my amateur set,” he said, looking over his myriad props, “and I’d like to move on to the professional.”
He’s been searching for the right place, an old church or firehouse, something with character that’s near ample parking and preferably has a house attached so he can live where he works. Although he hasn’t found it yet, he’s confident that he will.
Colerich isn’t interested in starting something that will be open for a few months out of the year. Unlike most haunted houses, he envisions his as a yearlong attraction that will serve as both a museum and haunt.
For most of the year, the “haunted house” would showcase skeletons and real stuffed animals like his mountain lion in an educational and interesting fashion. At night it would be a different story.
“We’d have lights out tours for Halloween when we scare the crap out of you.”
Colerich has been working on his collection of skulls and skeletons for a few years now. While visiting his parents in Fox Chapel he stumbled upon a deer skeleton, and thought it would be perfect for his haunted house. So he took it home, and set up a colony of dung beetles in a jar to clean the flesh off the bones.
“It’s really creepy and really gross,” he said of the beetles. “It’s been a learning experience.”
The beetles have a two-month life span, and the size of the colony shrinks or grows depending on the size of its food source. Currently they are munching on the dried flesh of a groundhog skull, which he also found by his parents’ house.
In the future, Colerich plans to buy most of his skeletons and skulls, partly because the beetles take months to clean bones. He has about a dozen different animal skulls, most of which he purchased from a website called Skulls Unlimited.
But Colerich still has to find a location to host his year-round haunted abode. When he finds a building in his price range — about $100,000 — that doesn’t require too much renovation, he wants to set the skulls up in the queue line. While people wait in line to get the crap scared out of them, the skulls will set a creepy mood.
But they’ll also have informational tags, allowing visitors to learn while they scream in terror. And, at Halfoween, he would offer half-price haunted house tickets.
Colerich also plans to recreate his “amateur” scene as one room in the house. Other ideas for rooms include a “morgue” where visitors would have to push bodies out of the way to get through, pitch-black hallways covered in spider webs and floors that crunch when walked on, as if they’re covered in bugs.
He believes the dual museum/haunted house idea will work because of the public’s reaction to his current setup. People love seeing it at night with the creepy lights, but they also enjoy seeing it during the day when they can see the detail and appreciate the art and work that went into creating the set.