ASHLEY, OH (WCMH) — A top rated Ohio haunted house with nearly 8,000 visitors last year is being forced to close down, and you might be surprised by who is behind the government seizure of property.
The Haunted Hoorah in Ashley is being sued by the Buckeye Valley School District using eminent domain, meaning as a government entity they can seize the land for their own use.
Owner Brent Stooksbury said he and his wife Angie spent the summer getting the Haunted Hoorah ready for the spooky season, knowing this will be their last at this location.
“It is really a letdown, in my heart I am hopeful that something is going to happen, that we are going to pull this out. I know I can’t win the eminent domain case, I’ve been taught that now, I was a dreamer and thought we would win somehow,” Stooksbury said.
Buckeye Valley Local School District Superintendent Andy Miller explained why the district is reclaiming the land.
“The district is building a new elementary school which is funded from the passage of a 2015 bond issue,” he said. “The property is directly adjacent to the current building that is being renovated and constructed. A portion of the west wing of the building will be on the property as well as the bus loop. The bus loop is particularly important as it allows the school to be accessed from Ashley Road and will enable the district to keep bus and car traffic separate allowing for better site circulation and increasing student safety.”
Stooksbury said he gets that, but said his family has poured their heart and soul over the last five years in the haunted house.
“They valued it simply as an old house. They made him a low-ball offer of $95,000; in fact our expert appraiser said the Stooksburys are entitled to $330,000,” said Joe Miller, Stooksbury’s attorney.
The superintendent said, “before the eminent domain case was filed and soon after it was filed, the district tried to negotiate a fair price for the property. The district remains willing and open at any time to negotiate fair compensation for the property.”
“Emotionally I am irritated! The whole thing, including the bullying the school district throws down on us as we try to get through the season,” Stooksbury said.
Stooksbury says the district put up a chain link fence the same week the Haunted Hoorah opened in September. Before the imminent domain he said parking spaces were shared by the spook house and school over the last few years.
He said he is dealing with all that, he just wants a fair offer.
“If we had enough money to move this business it would lessen the anger and put us more in build mode,” Stooksbury said.
Joe Miller with Vorys Law Firm said the school district had an option to buy the property back in 2013 before the Stooksburys bought and built it into one of Central Ohio’s most well-known haunted houses.
“It is customary in Ohio when a property is taken in eminent domain the entity pay relocation assistance, that has not been offered,” Joe Miller said.
The Haunted Hoorah was voted most unique haunted house in 2015-16 by the Ohio Valley Haunts, and top ten in the state among 112 sites in Ohio.
The next step for the Haunted Hoorah is a civil trial scheduled for March at the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.