She was just a tot when Amber Arnett-Bequeaith first saw her prank-loving uncle, Monty Summers, scare visitors at her great-grandfather’s farm near Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. Sometimes, he slathered himself with mud and deer hair, hid in a cave and jumped out at the terrified kids. Other times, he dabbed handmade glow-in-the- dark paint on a cousin’s face and buried the willing victim up to the neck in the dirt.
“Here was this head rolling around, glowing in the dark, moaning and groaning,” laughs Arnett-Bequeaith, 45. “This would send people into a frenzy.”
In 1973, when her mom, LaRetta Summers, and her grandmother, Joy Summers, decided to trade the family’s outdoor performance theater for a business that didn’t rely on good weather, Monty suggested they create a haunted house.
For their first attempt, the two women tricked out a local high school locker room in haunted style and sold tickets
to raise money for the school. The next year, they rented space in downtown Independence, Mo., set-up a weeklong haunted house and watched the visitors pour in. The following year, they opened the Edge of Hell, now billed as America’s first commercial haunted attraction, where family members performed as ghosts and goblins, with 5-year-old
Arnett-Bequeaith sprinkling dead flower petals from a second-floor coffin.
“People absolutely loved it,” says “Queen of Screams” Arnett-Bequeaith, who today operates Full Moon Productions in Kansas City with cousin Monty, 53. “You wouldn’t believe how many people say, ‘I had my first date there.’”
Full Moon is currently celebrating its 40th Halloween season, with more than 100,000 visitors expected to line up this year for some serious night fright at four separate attractions in Kansas City’s revitalized West Bottoms neighborhood. In The Edge of Hell, brave souls encounter rats, lunging vampires and a live 350-pound reticulated python— the longest in captivity, according to Guinness World Records—before spiraling down a five-story slide and into the “arms of the devil.” Inside The Beast, which opened in 1991, guests lose their way trying to escape the Werewolf Forest, locked castle and swamp.
The two newest haunts—The Chambers of Edgar Allen Poe, which brings the author’s claustrophobic tales to life, and Macabre Cinema, where guests become victims in a horror flick—were built to raise funds for non-profit groups, including the national Dream Factory, which grants wishes to critically and chronically ill children. Full Moon casts a big shadow as a scare industry leader, says Ben Armstrong, President of America Haunts, a consortium of top haunted houses nationwide. “People love haunted houses because they love to be scared in a safe environment,” he says.
“The thrill of adrenaline, followed by laughing with their friends and creating memories, is priceless.”
Each season, Full Moon hires more than 350 workers, including scene installers and actors who must prove they can give visitors the heebie- jeebies. “Auditions are absolutely hysterical,” says Arnett-Bequeaith, who interviews potential werewolves, vampires and zombies. “It’s kind of like American Idol.”
Running seasonal attractions isn’t easy, she admits, but it’s worth it. “Our love and passion for the haunted business has kept them alive,” she says. “It really is a love for the holiday and the flair of Halloween.”
For Amber’s tips on creating your own haunted house, click the article link below!