By: Jim Longworth
Eddie McLaurin is two-faced—literally. Just spend an evening at his haunted attraction Woods of Terror and you’ll see what I mean. He patrols the haunts in a costume of his own creation. His character name is “Bone Daddy,” who is a tall creature with spiked hair, and whose neck is adorned with a live boa constrictor. If McLaurin’s head is turned to the right, you’ll see Bone Daddy’s “skeleton,” but if he turns to the left, you’ll see the face of a dedicated businessman whose smile is infectious. You’ll see a face that has worn well throughout 26 grueling years of owning, operating, managing and upgrading Woods of Terror, which is perennially named one of the top haunts in the nation. You’ll see the face of community service, evidenced by, for example, his hosting of an annual fundraiser for breast cancer awareness called “Terror for Ta-Tas” (which takes place on Oct. 20 this year). You’ll see the face of economic impact, both in terms of the hundreds of people he employs, as well as the boost that Woods of Terror gives to local businesses each year.
I spoke with McLaurin and both of his faces when he visited Triad Today.
Longworth: You look scary when you’re in costume, but out of costume, you look normal.
McLaurin: I have two sides, the business side, and the scary side.
Longworth: So you’re bilingual as Barney Fife might say.
Longworth: What’s the first Halloween costume you ever remember wearing?
McLaurin: I dressed up as The Crow, from the movie starring Bruce Lee’s son Brandon.
Longworth: What frightened you as a kid?
McLaurin: My father (laughs). He was a real disciplinarian, but he did right by me. No, probably my fondest memories are of watching Poltergeist and seeing the clown coming after the girl.
Longworth: So it scared you?
McLaurin: Yeah, it was scary, I mean graves coming out of the ground, my goodness! And I didn’t get to watch a lot of horror movies as a kid, so that was my favorite scary memory.
Longworth: Well, you’re giving people a lot of scary memories now. Hey, I went behind the scenes at The Woods recently, and it was like watching a military invasion combined with a Broadway show opening. I was amazed at the amount of work that goes into your production, and the huge number of folks involved.
McLaurin: We have a hundred actors, and it takes almost another hundred for management, parking lot security midway, and maintenance. It just takes a lot of people to get it right.
Longworth: In addition to hiring hundreds of full and part-time employees, you also have a positive impact on the local economy, especially along Church street.
McLaurin: Yeah we do. The local store owners say their business goes up 35 percent when we’re open.
Longworth: You’ve received a lot of national honors and recognition over the years. What makes Woods of Terror so special?
McLaurin: One thing is hard work. If you decide to work hard and you want to make something happen, it will happen. A lot of folks think this happened overnight, but it didn’t. I’m in my 26th season here.
Longworth: You seem very committed to your work and to helping others. Who influenced your work ethic and community spirit?
McLaurin: Probably my grandparents because of their honesty and integrity, and the things they instilled in me. My Dad also taught me a lot about hard work. If I hadn’t been taught those things, Woods of Terror wouldn’t be open. It’s a big challenge to keep this place open. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a year-round process, not just during Halloween.
Longworth: I saw your Mom helping out too.
McLaurin: Yeah, my Mom is incredible, she manages my midway. I also want to say that it’s the people who make this work. From the maintenance staff to the midway staff, to the actors, it’s all about the people. I couldn’t do it without them.
Longworth: What new attractions do you have this season?
McLaurin: The biggest thing is our 3-D House, which has been totally redesigned. We also have a huge calypso scene in the pirate section, and we have some other things in the Fun House that will shock everyone.
Longworth: You once told me that Woods of Terror isn’t for everyone.
McLaurin: We recommend 13 and under probably should not come unless they’ve seen all the horror movies and love it, but we don’t let kids 5 and under in at all. This is for adults, and it IS scary.
Longworth: I think I’m too young to go.
McLaurin: I think you’ll do alright (laughs).
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today”, which airs Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on abc45, and Sundays at 11 a.m. on MY48.
Woods of Terror is open every Thursday through Sunday in October, and again on Nov. 3 and 4 for a special “Terror in the Darkness” event. For more information, visit www.woodsofterror.com.