PRESCOTT VALLEY - Leave it to Jody Drake and the Blue Rose Heritage and Culture Center to combine spine-tingling history with a modern-day haunting.
The Blue Rose crew has built an outdoor maze that leads visitors through the tragic final days in the life of English aristocrat Thomas Gibson Barlow-Massicks, who built a smaller version of his family's English castle that still stands today in Prescott Valley's Fain Park.
"The Lonesome Valley Haunting" runs from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday through Sunday in October at the Blue Rose Heritage and Culture Center, 7200 2nd St. in Prescott Valley. Cost is $5. Call 227-2737 for information.
Drake is no newcomer to building haunted houses and mazes, having run one at the former Young's Farm for years. She also oversaw the theater program at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott for many years. She's now the founder and director of the Blue Rose center.
Drake brought volunteers together for a practice run Thursday night, advising them not to touch visitors - or they might get hit.
"My daughter got her two front teeth knocked out" by a man at the Young's Farm haunted house, Drake noted. Drake also hurt herself in the melee - after picking up the man by his neck.
The Hardesty family from PV is among those volunteering to help scare the haunted house visitors. Eight-year-old Lucas and 3-year-old Veda were helping their dad Seth during the ghosts' practice run Thursday, producing some scary screams and laughs.
"It's spooky," Lucas said as he offered various ideas to make it even spookier. His mom Ann Marie made the costumes.
Summer Solon of Chino Valley is dressed as a nun who follows visitors around with a stony stare. "It's a lot of fun," she said. "I've been a dancer awhile so I'm really good at facial expressions."
Visitors pass by several rooms and the grounds of the Massicks mansion that are decked out with real antiques including a chuckwagon, wheelchair, church bell and china from Drake's Prescott ancestors.
Massicks sailed to America in the early 1890s and quickly became a prominent miner along Lynx Creek in what is today Prescott Valley.
"Some think he brought 'it' with him," Drake said - explaining people need to visit the haunted maze to find out what 'it' is.
Massicks built his "Castle on the Creek" to help tout the value of investing in his Lynx Creek Gold and Land Company. The castle sat along the region's major thoroughfare, the Black Canyon Trail. Massicks also built a store, stamp mill and other structures and incorporated a town with his name.
Sharlot Hall - whom Drake has portrayed countless times over the last several decades - was one of the frequent visitors to the castle.
Carrying on a family history of mining and invention, Massicks brought hydraulic mining to Lynx Creek. His brother-in-law William Peddley built a dam on the creek that later burst, leading to soured relations with Massicks, Drake said. Massicks' sister and brother-in-law soon left the castle and moved away, leaving the bachelor and his servants to run the place.
Massicks was riding a buckboard to one of his 47 mining claims when his gun fell out of his holster, hit the floor of the buckboard and shot a bullet through his kidney before lodging it in his lung, Drake said.
"For 11 months and four days, he laid there and suffered" before dying of his wounds on April 13, 1899, at the age of 36, Drake said. He's buried in the Oddfellows Cemetery in Prescott.
Massicks' company fell apart soon after his death, alongside the small mining community he incorporated. Only his castle, the store's chimney and mining equipment remain. The Massicks mansion is a private residence owned by the local Fain family, which plans to donate the castle to the Town of Prescott Valley someday.
Drake has a special place in her heart for the Castle on the Creek after spending many happy days there as a child. Her father was a friend of the residents.
"It was so beautiful," she said. "I loved it so much."
Board member and actor Parker Anderson has been researching the life of Massicks and even made contact with one of his descendants.
"There are several plays in the making," Drake said.
After settling building permit issues, the Blue Rose should be ready to start offering indoor theater productions at the start of November, said Drake and board member Randi Wise.
Even though the haunted house will be gone, theatergoers still might see a ghost.
Both Drake and Wise say they have suddenly experienced a strong smell of a sweaty person when no one is around. A neighbor told Drake that a construction worker died at the site years ago.