You cautiously follow a dark hallway into a cramped, cinder block room.
Through the dim lighting, you can see that it looks to be a hospital room of some kind. On one side, an elderly patient lies lifeless, strapped to a gurney. (It’s just a doll, but still — it’s super creepy.)
Then you see her. An old woman, sitting in a wheelchair wearing a floral robe. She’s bludgeoning a nurse with a bloody wrench as she wails: “You can’t make me eat any more peas and carrots! I won’t do it!”
If you’re me, you run screaming from the premises and never return.
But this actually happens every night at the Warehouse of Fear in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, one of the areas most popular Halloween attractions.
That haunted house grandma is no teenager in makeup, though. She’s Mary Lou-Williams, a local 93-year-old who knows how to have a good time.
2016 marks her fifth year as an actress with the haunted house, which her son, Kevin, helps manage.
She’s not the world’s biggest Halloween fan, but when her son asked her to help out, she figured, why not? “When you get older like I am, anything you can do, you better hop at the chance,” she said.
During the first year of the attraction, Mary-Lou played an unassuming women in a quiet but spooky living room scene. Her feet rested on a bear skin rug. The bear, by the way, had killed her character’s husband. And you were going to be next.
This year, Mary-Lou has finally graduated from merely uttering cryptic things to haunted house goers. Now, she’s the one swinging the wrench, and she’s giving it everything she’s got.
“They’ll be some of them so scared, they don’t want to go into the next room,” she joked. “It’s just fun.”
Murderous nursing home patient might be Mary-Lou’s oddest job to date, but her life story is anything but boring.
She worked in factories most of her life, she said, including a cannery, then a muffler shop. Later, she found work at a laundromat. In between, there were various gigs loading and unloading packages. She worked until she was 78 years old.
In other words, Mary-Lou is not a woman who shies away from a tough job.
She gets paid a small hourly rate to work the haunted house, but that’s not what motivates her.
“I just like doing it, and I like all the people,” she said. “They’re all really nice.”
Now, she spends her days with her family, taking cabs to the market, and getting pedicures. And, of course, she also frightens the bejesus out of the local youths come Halloween, too.
“I thank the Lord to be able to do it,” she said. “There’s a lot of young people that’s worse off than I am, so I just enjoy every minute of it.”
Once the rush of fear has died down, a lot of the visitors are happy to meet and talk with Mary-Lou, too.
Many of them, even ones who have never met her, call her grandma.
That’s what keeps her coming back year after year.
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