Round Rock friends create epic haunted house tour
Karlen Alexander's spookhouse hisses and spits as the skeletons, spiders, witches and ghosts come to life inside the hydraulic-powered haunt.
The fake snakes, spiderwebs, ghouls and fridge full of body parts that Alexander has accumulated for a decade in his four-car garage in the Stone Canyon subdivision make up what Alexander calls Terror on Two Jacks, named after the street he lives on.
"Terror" is his part of a three-stop Round Rock Haunt Tour that Alexander and fellow Halloween enthusiasts Steve Reeves and Don Powell have put together for residents looking for a scare.
For Alexander, Reeves and Powell, what started years ago as black plastic bags and costumes for kids parties has turned into a yearlong hobby, finding the latest technical effects to trick out their yards and garages and treat their neighbors to a free thrill.
"It's a lot more sophisticated than just the simple stuff we started with," Alexander said. The overstuffed switchboard with dozens of tangled wires in the back of his garage attests to the high-tech nature of his venture.
Alexander met Reeves and Powell through Garage of Evil, an online network for haunted house hobbyists.
Reeves started turning his front yard into a graveyard about seven years ago and spends all year working on his haunt.
"In July, I'm shooting out emails to all the people on these forums. It's kind of an addiction," he said.
Everything is homemade. Reeves said he rarely buys anything at stores but will frequently be called out by employees as he's "looking up a witch's skirt" to see what makes the machine work.
"I'm looking at the inner workings of this thing; I could make this," he said. "It becomes a challenge."
Powell, wife Mary, and best friend, former roommate and soon-to-be neighbor Greg Winslow have been up to homemade tricks for decades.
The team spent the past year building a haunted dresser, with drawers that "come to life," and has been filling the front yard with gravestones. The final result is the Gothgloom Spookhouse.
Powell met Reeves at a garage sale, where they spent "3½ hours talking about Halloween." Reeves already knew Alexander, so the three came up with the idea of a tour to promote each other's haunted houses.
"There's no other holiday like it. The Halloween display is interactive," Reeves said.
Round Rock Haunt Tour