The man behind the mask: What it’s like to own a haunted house

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A guest makes his way through the clown chamber at the Anguish Asylum at the Provo Towne Center. (Photo courtesy of Randy Lee)

A guest makes his way through the clown chamber in the Anguish Asylum at the Provo Towne Center. (Photo courtesy of Randy Lay)

Randy Lay, owner and operator of Anguish Asylum, a haunted house located in Provo, has one of Utah Valley’s most interesting day jobs. Or should we say night jobs? In addition to creating and running the haunted house, he scares guests nightly in the autopsy-themed room.

The Orem native started out spooking his neighbors during Halloween by decorating his workshop. When he decided to open a haunted house for profit, he searched for a year for a location to fit his needs. Fire codes required that the space have sprinklers in the ceiling and he need an area big enough to create the right experience for guests. Provo Towne Center’s parking garage fit the bill. And parking garages are scary enough to begin with right? (A Google search of the term “parking garage phobia” yields more than 1,650,000 results).

Randy chose a psychological terror theme that encourages guests to “get committed.” The haunted house leads guests through a tunnel of different rooms including a funeral parlor, a cemetery, a serial killer’s hidden chamber and a gas chamber with no exit — just to name a few.

Anguish Asylum also houses live spiders and snakes.

“Most people have an innate fear of spiders and snakes and we wanted to play off of that,” Lay said. “People hate them, and we love that.”

Lay keeps the creepy critters as pets in the off-season.

Many of the items in the haunted house are handcrafted, like the gravestones carved by Payson’s Keri Jean or the 3D carnival maze built by BYU student Tyler Shanks. One of the few props Randy has purchased, and the most expensive item inside, is the “Last Ride” coffin simulator.

Randy’s family is involved in running the haunted house, whether it’s set-up, ticketing or brainstorming new ways to make guests scream.

But what scares a guy who scares people for a living? You’d be surprised.

“I hate being touched,” Lay said. “Everybody gets a big kick from trying to hug me.”

Editor’s note: My favorite thing about my visit to the Anguish Asylum was that they didn’t overdo it with too many actors jumping out to scare you. It left my husband and I confused about whether or not we were following the right path and if we were supposed to go into certain rooms.

If you decide to go: Admission is $18 or $20 if you want to add the coffin simulator ride, and hours are 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekends. Closed on Sundays. Visit anguishasylum.com.

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Kate Lehnhof Nash first joined Bennett Communications as a summer intern in 2009. Now, as an associate editor, she writes for magazines including Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley Bride and Prosper. Kate lives in Springville with her husband Steve and enjoys running, reading, sushi and her french bulldog, Chief.

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