Year after year on Halloween, neighborhood kids would run screaming from the Striffler house in Manorville when Eric Striffler would spring from a life-size coffin in his front yard as they approached.
His father built the coffin at his request and warned his son: “You’re going to scare those kids to death.”
But Eric Striffler has always known the joy of a good scare.
“They would scream and run to their parents at the street,” Stephen Striffler said. “But they loved it.”
Over time, Eric Striffler’s passion for scaring grew stronger and more thoughtful. He’s not a big fan of robots or animatronics, he’s “completely against chain saws,” and he thinks the scariest thing about a haunted house is the darkness and the participant’s own imagination.
“And the other major thing,” he said. “You have to go through one at a time.”
Believing his is the model for Halloween success, Eric Striffler, 20, is trying to raise $25,000 by May 13 to build his own haunted house.
Striffler created a page on Kickstarter, a fundraising website, and has 193 backers who have pledged $6,150 so far.
If he doesn’t raise the complete amount, he doesn’t get any of the pledge money, according to the website’s stipulations.
But Striffler believes he’s going to make the goal, in part because his ideas have already seen success.
Last October, Striffler spent $20,000 and built his dream haunted house. It was three year’s worth of savings he earned from the advertising linked to two YouTube channels where he posts videos he’s produced. He called the haunted house Nyctophobia -- fear of the dark -- and he didn’t charge admission.
“Basically, I’m trying to make a haunted house for the right reasons,” he said. “Not just to make money.”
He rented the barn at the Dream Come True Farm in Manorville for 10 days, leveled the ground, put down a floor, and constructed a maze of walls in the barn, said Concetta DeRosa, manager at the farm, who admitted she was too scared to go in.
Striffler also hired friends that were actors to play the characters stationed in the house, and purchased props like a claustrophobia wall, which seems to close in on people as they walk through, his father said.
At the time the location was secret, and invite-only participants were put in blindfolds and bused to the barn from a nearby parking lot. Eric Striffler said about 200 people attended -- plenty of which were too scared to complete the course, a sign of success in his business.
But he can’t afford to fund Nyctophobia again, he said, so its fate is in the hands of donors. He plans to charge admission this year, which he hopes will pay for the following year’s operation.
Stephen Striffler said they have their eye on a bigger location on the North Fork, but the exact spot is a secret.
Eric Striffler said he has high hopes for his fundraiser, but no matter what happens, he was happy to have seen Nyctophobia finally come to life.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do forever,” he said. “It was absolutely worth it.”