Laboratory of terror returns to Sheffield

Times Observer photo by Stacey Gross Ken Sheldon, of Sheffield, has been creating the haunted attraction for the past 16 years.

Brains in a jar?

Skeletons hanging from the ceiling?

Murderous kids?

In Sheffield, look no further than Sheldon’s Terror Lab — which has become an annual chilling haunt.

The recently-retired Ken Sheldon has been creating a haunted house in his garage and carport area at 4 Mill St. for the past 16 years, each year growing larger and larger.

Times Observer photo by Stacey Gross From full size skeletons to miniatures, there is no shortage of bones at Sheldon’s Terror Lab.

He has “at least two” storage units full of props and other elements, said Sheldon’s wife, Jill.

While some enjoy sitting quietly and doing little of anything or nothing in retirement, Jill said Ken has kept up with his prop-making, as it seems to keep him relaxed.

“He gets wound up when he doesn’t have stuff to do,” she said.

Ken has worked around the county at various jobs, including Ellwood and being the press foreman right here at the Times Observer.

He’s always been a Halloween buff, and he’s also been into theater set design and set building for many years.

Times Observer photo by Stacey Gross The elaborate laboratory setup only gets more elaborate each year, Sheldon said, as it’s the original inspiration for the local haunted house that’s been a Sheffield staple for nearly two decades.

Sheldon used to work for Warren Players building sets, starting with its production of Peter Pan in the 1990’s. While he’s no longer a set builder, Sheldon puts his craftsmanship and attention to detail into his annual Terror Lab.

It takes around 28 days each year to set up the attraction, and Sheldon started in September this year. It also takes money. How much? Sheldon said in a story last year that it takes around two to three thousand dollars a year to produce the haunted house.

“There’s 80 to 90 dollars of just batteries in the place,” he said at the time.

It is free and open to the public.

Last year, Sheldon said over 400 people showed up to tour the haunted house.

Times Observer photo by Stacey Gross Live characters add to the creepy qualities of the experience.

This year, the rain and cold put a damper on things in the week leading up to Halloween, but he expected the majority of visitors to be coming through on Wednesday, Oct. 31, this year. Halloween is always his busiest day.

Understandably, given what folks can see inside Sheldon’s Terror Lab– Everything from medical experiments (on dummies, of course), to elaborate chemistry setups to chests brimming with body parts, skeletons in gas masks, and a haunted deer camp are on display.

There is also a large collection of monster stuffed animals, which Sheldon’s grandchildren, Link and Killian, helped design, using teeth designed for pumpkin carving and an untold volume of fake blood.

There are live scares in store, too, with community members who love to deal out screams donning masks and taking their turns in the control room. They watch for unwary haunted house-goers to spook with hidden compartments and dropping windows.

The haunted house is scary for anyone from around age five up, said Sheldon. His interest in Halloween has been pervasive throughout his life. “It’s the only holiday that’s not mandatory,” said Sheldon for why he loves Halloween with such intensity. It’s also just a fun aesthetic to indulge in, he said.

The lab will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday. Sheldon’s work has been inspired from years of attending prop-making, haunted house and steampunk conventions, and he has won awards himself.