It’s one of those rags-to-retches tales.

A 12-year-old boy creating his own Halloween fun house in the backyard, in his parents’ basement, anywhere he can find space to fill with ghouls and demons. Just a boy with old scraps and half-rotted pumpkins trying to scare the candy corn out of strangers.

Over time, the props get bigger and the thrills, ghastlier. Before you know it, monsters are everywhere and the street has to be closed because so many people are coming to see the young man’s Halloween horrors. What started as a lark in a boy’s imagination outgrows everything and evolves into a landscape of horrors that now requires a 78-acre farm to contain it.

It’s a tale that might make you weep, if you weren’t so busy running from chain saws and headless horsemen.

Welcome to the Haunted Overload in Lee, N.H. The 12-year-old who created it all is Eric Lowther, but now he’s all grown up.

Sort of.

“Once I got that first scare out of a trick-or-treater, I was hooked,” Lowther says. “The best is when you get the big burly guys and make them scream.”

The Haunted Overload is fast becoming one of the hottest attractions for Halloween spookification in the nation. Located on Coppal House Farm, it’s a large-scale forum for all the traditional spooks you’ve come to love and loathe.

And more than a few you don’t expect.

There’s a headless horseman roaming on a horse that’s real, but somehow too large to be believed. There are finely detailed pumpkin men, some towering as high as 35 feet. There are grim reapers and witches and, yes, freaks with chain saws who will sneak up behind you in the dark and fog.

Now 44, Lowther has been doing this since he was 12. He knows what scares you.

“Everywhere you go, I want you to have that feeling of enclosure. Even though there’s open sky, there are things looming over you,” he says with chilling glee as he talks about the walk through the Haunted Overload grounds. “It’s pretty horrifying walking through there. “We’re very good at startling people. When you have a chain saw starting up right behind you, it’s scary.”

Lowther’s story is like one of a rising entrepreneur — where that entrepreneur is more than a little demented.

He worked his ghoulish magic at his parents’ house until he could no longer kick them out of their own garage on weekends. He joined the Army and later went to college in New Jersey, where he enlisted buddies to help him continue the grave arts.

Keg parties are fun and all, but so is scaring the snot out of frat boys.

“We rented a house and made up a little haunted house,” Lowther said. “It’s kind of weird, I know. I just got more and more into scaring people.”

In 1999, he bought his own house and almost immediately started up again. In 2002 he built his first monster. By 2005, things were really taking off at the Lowther homestead, so much that police had to close down streets to accommodate the traffic.

“That’s when it started getting really big,” Lowther said. “It was awesome, don’t get me wrong. But it was getting out of hand.”

That’s when Coppal House Farm got involved and it was a marriage everyone could live with. Each Halloween, thousands come to the Haunted Overload and now there is space for them to wander.

“I want everyone to have a really fun experience without having to stand in line for three or four hours,” Lowther said. And if you’ve been to one of the mainstream attractions somewhere else, you know of what he speaks. In some, if not most of the haunted attractions, you stand in line for hours and then get rushed through a 10-minute maze of strobe lights and faux fog.

Lowther and his crew work to organize the event so that visitors are in the attraction quickly and then it feels like it lasts forever, as all frightening experiences do.

As twisted as his mind might be, Lowther also has a head for business. He quickly found that buying the top-shelf, easily accessible animatronics was both expensive and redundant — those things cost a lot, and sooner or later every attraction on the block has one.

It’s a lesson that happens fast when you start shelling out a thousand dollars for one 30-foot creature.

“I was spending a fortune on it. Instead of spending $20,000 on animatronics, I’ll try to make something myself,” he said. “By doing that, I’ll have something that’s totally unique. Something you won’t see somewhere else.”

Now the Haunted Overload team uses natural materials and builds most its own props. They recently teamed with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and began splitting profits, to the benefit of the show and to the animal group.

In its third year, Haunted Overload brought in $10,000 dollars. “It was awesome. That enabled me to keep expanding,” Lowther said. “At some point I thought: If I’m spending this much time and effort on a hobby, maybe I should try to make it into a business.”

And there you have it, the dream of a 12-year-old realized, to the benefit of those of us who will travel hundreds of miles just to be effectively scared beyond repair.

The farm also hosts a six-acre maze for those who want outdoor thrills without outright terror. There are “Spooky Walks” for kids during saner hours in daylight. Nice and safe.

But Lowther really wants you to come back at night.

Directions from Maine

•Take I-95 South to Exit 5 (Route 4 / Route 16) towards US-1 Bypass
• Newington/Portsmouth.
• Merge onto Route 16 North Spaulding Turnpike, travel 4.4 miles
• Merge onto US-4W via Exit 6W towards US-202 Dover Point/Concord
• Travel 9.9 miles
• Enter turnabout and take 3rd exit onto Calef Road/Route 125 South.
• Travel 1.7 miles, turn left onto George Bennett Road
• Travel 7/10 mile
• Turn slight right onto Route 155, travel 1 mile
• The Haunted Overlaod is on your right hand side, across from Blue Bell Greenhouses.

More directions and maps at

Daytime haunts for parents and kids start Oct. 17, $3
Fright Night Lite, Oct. 22, $10
Haunted Overload main event, Oct. 23-31, $17 for tickets
More info:

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