HOLLIS — As a kid, Dan Hopkins, 69, never went to haunted houses.
“I couldn’t see spending money to get scared,” Hopkins said as he toiled in the heat on Wednesday, putting final touches on the Haunted Chicken House, a Cleburne County attraction which opens next week.
Hopkins, known as “Chicken Dan,” is the manager of the Haunted Chicken House, which is the fundraiser for the Hollis Fire Department.
And jumpin’ pumpkins, it sure seems to work. Last year the gross receipts were around $165,000 and the expenses were $100,000, according to Hopkins.
“So we netted $65,000, which is a lot better than a chili cook supper or a Boston butt or a car wash — that’s what we used to do,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins said the proceeds went into a certificate of deposit towards a new fire department.
“We’ve bought six and one half acres of ground, it’s paid for, we used proceeds one year to buy a new rescue truck,” Hopkins said.
Besides the Haunted Chicken House there are two other attractions at the 62-acre site to spook visitors: a haunted walking trail and a haunted hayride.
Hopkins said many improvements have been made to the multi-room chicken house since last year.
“We started in November last year and tore out nine of the 15 rooms and then started from scratch and made new rooms. Some of the rooms that were good, we kept them, we relocated them to another position in the house so people won’t say, ‘oh this is next, this is next,’” Hopkins said.
In addition to the spooky attractions there will be celebrity appearances including the Dead City Collective and The Clown Cartel.
Hopkins said the Dead City Collective put on a major show.
“They had somebody eating fire, they had somebody eating glass, they had a guy that they actually stapled money to his body, he had money all over him and a little blood too,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said the Chicken House will be featured in an episode of Ride With Norman Reedus either this October or next year.
Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl on “The Walking Dead” TV series, and Michael Rooker, who played Merle in past episodes, toured the Chicken House earlier this year.
“It was great. I was expecting them to be kind of distant and everything but they were really nice, good guys,” said Hopkins.
“We opened one half of the house, they went through just as guests, they enjoyed it. We put ol’ Norman back a-ways, we had him jumping and jiving,” said Hopkins with a grin.
Hopkins credits the success to the 90 volunteers who partner together to leave visitors screaming.
Hopkins said due to the notoriety of the Chicken House, HauntWorld magazine ranked it as the 49th best haunted attraction the U.S. out of thousands of haunted attractions across the U.S.