Thousand Oaks’ Reign of Terror grows bigger by the year; its rising popularity matched only by the literal expansion of its physical walls. In 2017, the long-running haunt expanded its already impressive scope to be bigger than ever, occupying 100 rooms and a mind-bending 23,000 square feet, all of which will be open for a special off-season event this Saturday, March 10, 2018 to benefit victims of December’s Thomas Fire.
“[The Thomas Fire] was such a horrible, horrible chapter in Ventura County’s history this last fall and early winter,” says Peter Ranck, a member of the Marketing and Operations team for the haunt, which enters its 19th year in 2018. “Whether they’re your direct neighbors or not, they’re still in our neighborhood here in Ventura County, and we just thought, ‘There must be some way we can try to help a couple people and improve their lives through that horrible situation.’”
Horrific as the decor inside its hundred rooms may be, Reign of Terror is no stranger to acts of goodwill. For the nearly two decades since owner Bruce Stanton moved his personal home haunt out into the open at Thousand Oaks’ Janss Marketplace, the haunt has enjoyed a permanent, year-round home, free of charge, in exchange for donating proceeds to the Conejo Recreation and Park District, which, in turn, supports the Thousand Oaks Teen Center. It was only in the last several years, however, that the folks at Reign of Terror thought to creak open their doors in the off-season.
“One of our actors, he was actually a young father […] suddenly found out he had lung cancer,” says Ranck. “Never smoked a day in his life, but suddenly had this aggressive cancer hit him, and the family got smacked with an amazing amount of medical bills. We said, ‘Jeez, maybe we can run a Haunters’ Night and help them out.’”
After a massive turnout from fellow haunters who were normally consumed with providing their own frights during October, it began a tradition of holding yearly off-season events for various charities that the haunt would like to benefit.
“The next year, we did a fundraiser for a local Make-A-Wish chapter in Ventura County. Then last year, we did a special one for some animal rescue charities who were local,” says Ranck, who is himself entering his 10th season of volunteer work with the haunt. “It’s nice because it lets us shake off the dust a little bit or maybe put on the dust, depending on how you look at it.”
According to Ranck, the special off-season events that Reign of Terror offers double as guests’ last chance to see the gargantuan haunt in its current incarnation before any alterations that might occur for the upcoming Halloween season.
“I think it’s a little bit of the Disneyland factor. When you go to Disneyland and you want to see the same things, hear the same speech, enter the Haunted Mansion, and hear the same introduction over and over,” he says with a chuckle. “You never get tired of it because you love it, right? We’ve got fans that come over and over and over again. They walk through anticipating those things; they’re anticipating getting scared–and they still get scared of the same things and they love it.”
The haunters won’t be resting on their laurels, however, with major renovations planned to two of the house’s sprawling segments (though Ranck was tight-lipped about exactly which two). But whether locals are looking to relive some of their favorite frights, or taking a trip for the very first time, Reign of Terror is certain to make a terrifying impact that will tide them over all the way until October.