People looking for the haunted house along Versailles Avenue in McKeesport need not know the house number, they just need to roll down the car window and listen for the squeals and screams.
Eyes peering from behind a skull mask, Ashtin Goreck, 18, greets the costumed Halloween revelers as they cautiously peer up from the sidewalk and points them towards the steep set of concrete stairs leading to the front porch. Most take some urging them to climb the steps, children draw in to their parents pant legs, teenagers giggle, wide-eyed as they grab each others arms and inch forward past wooden gravestones, strewn bones, and snakes.
Above the concrete steps, around a wicked witch, and up on the spiderweb strewn porch, Earl Goreck waits inside a coffin, the mastermind behind the Goreck family’s haunted house.
With eight children, a wife with a talent for costume makeup, a gracious mother-in-law handing out full-size candy bars, and a handful of good friends, Goreck has no shortage of enthusiastic helpers to make his vision come alive.
Born on Halloween, Goreck, a beverage distributor manager, has been celebrating his birthday with the creation of his homespun haunted houses for 19 years. This year, at the advent of 40, the ritual is no different.
“I laid my first coffin at 21,” says Earl, who says he is inspired to one-up himself year after year.
His sons and daughters and their friends talk excitedly in between waiting for trick-or-treaters, peeking their heads from their posts around different corners in the backyard. By the end of the night, word has gotten out. People are driving in from other parts of town to make their way through the Goreck’s maze, though some take a look at the mix of bones, graves, and screams and choose to wait in the car.
From the front porch steps, Earl Goreck lifts his ghoulish mask, smiling at another year of Halloween fun well executed. A few hours later, the blood red lights exchanged for the warm yellow glow of the Goreck’s kitchen, screams and shouts have turned to laughter, stories, and jokes.
Dogs at his feet and birthday beer in hand, Goreck says he’s already thinking of ideas for next year’s haunt.