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story.lead_photo.caption David Thompson, left, presents the Spirit of Batesville award to Kim Wilson and Steve Murphy. Wilson and Murphy have been volunteers with the Main Street Batesville haunted house since it began.

— Two people who have been instrumental in the success of the Main Street Batesville Haunted House were honored earlier this year with the Spirit of Main Street award.

Kim Wilson of Batesville and Steve Murphy of Searcy have been involved with the haunted house since it started five years ago. They were presented the Spirit of Main Street award in March.

“They have been volunteering [with the haunted house] for the past five years,” said Mandi Curtwright, executive director of Main Street Batesville. “They helped start it.”

Curtwright said the Spirit of Main Street is the only award her organization gives each year. It’s usually presented during the Winter Gala in February, but Wilson and Murphy were not able to attend that event.

Wilson is originally from Batesville but was living in Searcy until earlier this year. Murphy lived in Batesville at one time but moved to Searcy.

“For most of the years, they both lived in Searcy,” Curtwright said, “so they would drive to Batesville to help, drive back home, then wake up and do it again. Kim and Steve are just friends who met through volunteering. It was a coincidence that they were both from Searcy.”

Murphy said it is a great honor to receive the award.

“I’ve been working with haunted houses for years,” he said. “To be acknowledged for doing this here is cool.”

Murphy said he got involved after reading something about the haunted house needing volunteers.

“I met with board members David Thompson and Suzanne Magouyrk and Kim,” he said. “They said to come down to the Barnett Building and do whatever I could to help. I helped build walls and put stuff up until it was ready.”

Murphy said he took great pleasure in being a character inside the haunted house.

“I had a blast scaring people and dealing with the people out front,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Murphy had a stent put in a coronary artery and has not been able to help this season.

“The doctors told me I had to take it easy for two to three weeks and not do all that scaring that I wanted to do,” he said. “I’m supposed to be inactive for two weeks. I’ve still got to have more tests run. I hope to be there before [the haunted house] ends this year.”

Wilson was surprised to receive the Spirit of Main Street Award.

“I was really surprised with that award,” she said. “I started volunteering for Main Street five years ago when we opened the haunted house. I just got into it because I love Halloween. I wanted my kids to do something fun and teach them about volunteering.”

Wilson is now assistant director of Main Street Batesville, working for Curtwright.

“That first year, we made $7,000 for six weeks,” Wilson said. “The next year, we got the old Jaycees building and a 10-year lease. We went in there, and it’s a huge, empty space with no air conditioning and no bathrooms. We started putting up a few walls. It’s pretty crazy how things have developed the past few years. Last year, we made $13,000. We have a goal of $20,000 this year.”

Wilson said she and Murphy are the two volunteers who have stayed the longest, working with the haunted house.

“We have put in a lot of hours,” Wilson said. “Some days, I was up there 10 to 12 hours at a time, going to McDonald’s or a gas station to go to the bathroom.”

Wilson said her three children have grown up helping with the haunted house.

“They are on the work schedule,” she said “They have painted. They have helped me build props and move huge, awful, nasty dirty things. They’ve killed wasps. They have helped me make Halloween craft things I’ve gotten off Pinterest.”

The theme for the haunted house is The River Haunt. Previously, it was called The Darkness.

“We wanted to change the name to something that was more in line with the house being close to the White River and in Batesville,” Wilson said.

The haunted house, at 570 Stadium Drive, opened in late September and is open from 7-10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in October, plus Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1. Admission is $10.

“It’s been going really well,” Wilson said. “On Oct. 5, we had 186 people come through. The flow was really great. We had a full staff of people.”

Wilson said Main Street has been asking questions of patrons on Facebook

@theriverhaunt. The most recent question is what sort of things creep a person out.

“People are just chiming in about what they are afraid of,” she said. “We’ve got pretty much everything covered so far, including clowns, dolls, spiders and snakes. We’ve got a lot more than that.”

Wilson said she is in a room near the end of the haunted house, portraying a witch.

“I wait all year for this,” she said. “You work so hard all these months to come up with all these different things to scare people. We do so much research and go to conferences. People love it. I can’t tell you how many people came out and hugged me when I went outside this past Saturday (Oct. 5).

“I had a bunch of women come up and hug me and say, ‘This is the best thing ever.’ It about made me cry. They were excited.”

The time it takes to go through the haunted house varies, Wilson said.

“It’s different for everybody,” she said. “It depends upon how fast you are. Some people will literally run through it. I would say anywhere from 10 to 35 minutes. Some people will creep through it and barely move because they are terrified. Others are terrified, and they run. It’s so hilarious.”

One thing Wilson likes to do is find out the name of a visitor to use when that person gets close to Wilson’s spot in the haunted house.

“We found out a couple of people’s names, and you wait for them to come in, and you scare them to death,” she said, adding that she called out a girl’s name on Oct. 5. “When she got almost to the end, I say, ‘There’s Reagan.’ She fell on the floor.”

Wilson said it’s not the same with Murphy not being a part of the project this year because of his heart procedure.

“He was our wolf man,” she said. “He had this crazy saying where he’d yell, and we didn’t get started until he yelled ‘boogie woogie woogie.’ We’d just all die laughing.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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