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FARMINGTON — The dirge-like electric guitars of 1970's heavy metal band Black Sabbath play out of an open truck's stereo as a papier-mache Grim Reaper, perched about 10 feet above, peers over a suburban street in Farmington. 

"I'm honestly more of a Christmas person," said Shelly Cunningham as she stood directly below the Grim Reaper figure, "I just kind of got sucked into this."

This is the Cunningham Haunt House.

Started by Shelly's husband, Darrell, and his father, James Cunningham in 2011 as a way for the Cunninghams to experiment with making papier-mache horror props, the idea has blossomed into a series of elaborate displays.

Those include a cardboard tower, a "spider alley," a papier-mache graveyard, projectors playing the music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller," a haunted maze filled with evil animatronic clowns and other terrifying creatures meant to scare brave trick-or-treaters.

The Haunt House spans the entirety of James Cunningham's front yard, and a good part of his backyard. Shelly jokes that James and Darrell considered buying the house next door when it went up for sale in order to expand the Haunt House. 

"The neighborhood loves it, I think," said Darrell, who constructs the Haunt House with his father with the help of other family members at a cost of what he estimates to be at least three thousand dollars a year.

Darrell estimates that around 700 children, and older members of the community, attended the Haunt House last year, and he expects more to come this year.

"It just keeps growing," Darrell said, "but with that we take safety seriously."

Darrell said the cardboard tower is reinforced with wood planks so it won't fall down in high winds. They're also planning a route around the maze, so that children who don't want to go through the maze can still enjoy the rest of the displays, and get some Halloween candy.

Darrell's dream is to find an affordable space in town to set up the Haunt House from August to the end of October and charge a small fee for entrance, and to build a Christmas village display in December. He hasn't found an appropriate space yet, but while he and his father are on the lookout, they're content where they are.

"I'd say we do it for the kids," Darrell said, "but I think it's more for ourselves honestly. It's so much fun." 

The Cunningham Haunt House is located at 2308 E 14th Street in Farmington.

For more information, visit facebook.com/cunninghamhaunthouse 

Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at sribakoff@daily-times.com.

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