Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

September 10, 2013

Fear Factory sneaks up early

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — During its third fall of terror, Fear Factory will creep into area residents’ nightmares earlier than in the past, opening in four days. “We could not pass up the opportunity to celebrate Friday the 13th,” explains Mary Ellen Rippe, who voluntarily co-directs the attraction with Bill Flannery.

The tour has almost tripled in size at RomWeber Marketplace, expanding from 10,000 to 25,000 square feet. Those who love to be horrified are in for a few surprises. She notes, “If they’ve come before, this truly is a whole new experience.”

With the help of three grants (city of Batesville, $6,900; Ripley County Local Coordinating Council, $2,500; and Ripley County Community Foundation, $500), “we’ve spent $10,000 between marketing and enhancing.”

“It’s really, truly professionally done,” Flannery reports. “With the creativity of Hill-Rom engineers and the money we have, we were able to provide better special effects.” According to Rippe, “Animatronics have been upgraded. Every scene has been enhanced.” With strobe and black lights and costumed adults and students, “the scare factor is much greater.”

When imagining the tour, “we looked at what was originally in the building,” which used to house Batesville Coffin Co. It had a saw room, so Fear Factory does, too. Rippe promises, “It’s going to be really gory.” She adds, “I gravitate toward the spider room. We have a new 5-foot spider!” Flannery says the twisty maze is much longer.

Just beyond an eerie drunk driving accident scene, a larger cemetery area looms. Flannery points out, “Last year we really didn’t have a big ending. This year we do.” According to Rippe, “Visually, it’s something where people can sit and enjoy.” Gravestone words “spread our antidrug message more strongly.”

To add to the evening, Oldenburg Academy Students In Sports are providing concessions.

Two special types of events (please see box) will be offered again. Spooktastic midnight tours encompass two building levels instead of just one. Lights-on tours for kids 10 and younger “will be less intense and scary” than the evening hijinks. Tykes also can participate in crafts and face painting and even pet Batesville police K-9 Jinx then.

Proceeds benefit Cierra’s Club, named in memory of Cierra Adams, who died of a drug overdose July 16, 2011, her 18th birthday. She would have been a senior at Batesville High School. The club was founded by her mother, Karen Adams; Rippe and Flannery. “Our mission is to raise funds to be used to provide safe entertainment choices for teens that do not include drugs or alcohol.”

According to Rippe, “Because we got so much money upfront that covers our expenses, everything we make” will be used to provide future activities. Adams adds, “We had talked about doing another laser tag event because that went over really well.”

“So many people get involved” with the haunted house, Rippe says. “We’ve been meeting every Tuesday since January” building the multitude of sets and props. BHS students Ian Williamson “was always there helping us, and Colin Brown and other football players.” BHS, OA and Batesville Middle School students have popped in to lend their talents. “At this point we have 35 students signed up to be actors and help at Fear Factory.”

On his own, BHS student Grant Greene produced a video that “was just too good to pass up. We wanted a YouTube video because we want to appeal to the kids,” she says. It can be viewed on the Web site

Adults Jen Saner and Katie Welsh contributed graphics skills for advertising materials and Angie Straub enhanced publicity photos.

The co-directors gave a presentation to three Hill-Rom leaders – Senior Vice President of Corporate Services John Dickey, chief technology officer Brian Lawrence and Hill-Rom Center manager and employee engagement lead Mary Jon McCaig – to gain support for the project. Rippe notes, “Hill-Rom was looking for ways to support the community, particularly with drug prevention. They really jumped on board because it was something they wanted to do. It was good timing.” The company’s assistance “has been tremendous. They let 20 of their employees give their time. In addition, they’ve donated supplies.”

Former Disney “imagineer” and current Hill-Rom advanced engineer Mark Chiacchira designed a series of moving haunted faces similar to a former Disney haunted house exhibit. McCaig explains, “The Hill-Rom engineering and model shop team took his drawing and programmed it into a computer laser to create the master vacuum head mold. The outcome is an optical illusion from a concave space. The eyes appear to follow wherever you move to.”

After diagramming the tour’s layout, while she was on vacation, project manager (and Halloween fanatic) Carol Dial and two friends, Susie Rowland and Joan Westerfeld, worked eight to 10 hours a day some days.

Senior electronics technician Chris Newport became Fear Factory’s technical adviser and even created a light show set to music. Also heavily involved were project administrator Linda Fullenkamp; Vice President of Engineering Tom Gillis; engineers Jim Voll, Tim Johnson, Mike Buccieri, Alejandro Conejo and Kennita Dobbs; Bob Kinker and the Model Shop team; test technicians Gary Dakin and Dale Struewing; project manager Charlie Howell; engineer specialist Steve McCaig; and even Chiacchira’s wife Ginger and sons Daniel and John.

Of Hill-Rom’s generosity, Adams says, “We really appreciate that. It’s been awesome.”

Other businesses have been supportive, too. “Every year Gillman’s (Do It Best Home Center) has helped us” by selling materials at cost and making monetary donations. The after work hours help of Gillman’s employee Bill Moody “has been huge. Bill’s got some great carpentry skills.” Batesville Tool & Die contributed money; Hillenbrand Inc. and Fabric Finishing Partners, Cincinnati, gave materials; Gibson Theatre offered free advertising; Enneking Auto Body towed over a demolished car; Pro-Prints reduced its marketing rates; Batesville firefighters helped with exterior decorations; and French’s Meat Locker donated – wait for it – bones.

Citizens can pitch in as well. Organizers would like to borrow “a big fortune teller chair. We can always use monetary donations and actors,” according to Rippe. She can be reached at or 513-519-9936. Tax-deductible checks made payable to the Batesville Community Education Foundation and earmarked Cierra’s Club may be sent to BCEF, P.O. Box 121, Batesville, IN 47006.

When asked why they continue to be involved, Rippe answers tearfully, “Because of Karen Adams” and her family tragedy. “And having kids. Just the whole drug issue. I want to try and help my children and the children of the community .... I’ve always loved Halloween ... and haunted houses.”

She observes, “When Karen came to me three years ago and said, ‘What can we do’ to steer youth away from illegal substances?, “it seemed like the perfect answer. The whole community is embracing this.”

The aim of Fear Factory: “You can have fun without drinking … and having to do drugs.”

Flannery hopes “we get a very, very large crowd and everyone enjoys themselves so we can utilize those funds to do more fun things for kids in the community.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.


Schedule of tours • Attendees should use the Depot Street entrance on the east side of the street between East Pearl and South streets. • Regular 7-10 p.m. tours, $5: Friday, Sept. 13; Friday-Saturday, Oct. 4-5, Oct. 18-19 and Oct. 25-26. • Lights-on 1-3 p.m. tours, $5: Sundays, Sept. 29 and Oct. 13. • Midnight tours, $10: Fridays, Oct. 4 and Oct. 18.