Ethan Babcock, Special Assignment Reporter
Herkimer County House of Horror presents, “The Dark Side of the Valley.” Sontino “Sonny” Cacciatore is bringing fear and terror to the valley this October with his haunted house located at 111 South Main Street, Herkimer.
Cacciatore is only 21 years old and has been in a business role ever since his father opened a family owned pizza shop, “Primo Pizzeria,” in Ilion when he was a child. He dove into the world of being an independent and young entrepreneur by opening his own haunted house to bring a little horror to the people of the Mohawk Valley.
“I was born in October and I’ve had a love for Halloween ever since I was a kid,” Cacciatore said.
This is Cacciatore’s second year organizing the haunted house. He is excited for this season after having a successful first year managing the new staff and creating a new atmosphere for people to enjoy.
“My goal this year is to really make this place alive,” he said. “I want to reach and show this to as many people as we can and really give the valley some life this fall.” .
Last year the house’s attendance was just over 1,000 people. Cacciatore expects to double that this year. The cost of admission is $15 and the indoor haunted house tour should last about 10 to 15 minutes because of the intensity and fear of roaming the maze. This is not exactly an experience for children, but with parental consent they can sometimes accommodate.
“Students need a scare too, but it’s tight on a budget,” Cacciatore said. “Sundays we have three dollars off admission with a valid student ID.”
Preparation for this year’s season started in March with countless hours and required roughly 25-30 staff members to complete. New this year is an “interactive” admissions gate where patrons will enjoy themselves from the moment they wait in line, to paying, and to leaving the haunted house.
This year also features food trucks near the wait line that will be attending on separate nights of the season. There are a few restaurants and bars close by if you want a bite to eat or something to drink to calm the nerves from the scare of Cacciatore’s haunted house.
Newly brought out this season, Cacciatore is introducing blackout nights. This is an event where the lights are cut for the tours and people will have to navigate the same house with only a glow stick.
Daniel Sportello, an Ilion resident, attended the opening night of the haunted house on Sept. 27. He has been to various haunted houses and mazes during his military career and said he thoroughly enjoyed Cacciatore’s haunted house.
“I was extremely impressed,” Sportello said. “I can honestly say this was one of my favorite ones. Sonny did a fantastic job and this is only the start for him as it’s his second year.”
Cacciatore said there was an aim to create a unique sensory experience that would excite and induce fear to the brave hearted, but enough so people could enjoy themselves for a night.
“We use lights, strobes, scents and music to create a sensory mix that has been known to overwhelm our visitors,” he said.
A tour of the house showed the separate rooms with a floor plan like that of a maze and featured “themes” in each one. Cacciatore provided a few pictures to give us a look at what one might experience, like ghouls and monsters roaming the house waiting for someone to wander in.
This year’s hours include every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night in October, as well as Nov. 1 and 2. Students have plenty of time to plan a trip to see the work put in and have some fun. You can purchase tickets online at thedarksideofthevalley.com. For more information on special nights, food trucks, and location you can check out their social media pages at, “Herkimer County Haunted House” on Facebook, or “herkimercountyhouseofhorror” on Instagram.