HIS DESIGNS WON'T ever make the cover of "House Beautiful," but that doesn't bother Klane Anderson, whose idea of good interior decorating includes dismembered body parts and bug specimens.
Anderson is one of several creators of Salt Lake's annual ghoul parade of homes _ the Halloween haunted houses that began last week and continue through Oct. 31.
What New York City is to theater, Salt Lake City is to Halloween haunted houses, says Anderson. Per capita, he says, we create more haunted houses _ and more elaborate haunted houses _ than anywhere else.
Anderson has been drawn to haunted houses since he made his first spook alley in his best friend's basement at age 6. In the 26 years since then his interest has never waned. Now an engineer who travels around the country designing robotic welding machines for nuclear power plants, he makes it a point to check out haunted houses wherever he goes.
"The competition is greater in Salt Lake," he says.
Like the creators of the city's other haunted houses, Anderson and his wife Sheri spend months dreaming up new frights for their aptly named Institute of Terror on State Street.
"I come up with my ideas by thinking of my particular fears," admits Sheri, whose loathing of cockroaches has been translated this year into a bug-infested walk through the dark.
The Andersons take pride in being purveyors of high-tech ghoulishness. They use lasers, video projections and robotic equipment. In a large room, just past a man being electrocuted in the electric chair, the Andersons have let Sid Romero set up a Tesla coil that produces four million volts of lightning.
The area's other haunted houses have also added lots of scary new stuff this year. Although once upon a time the March of Dimes had the only haunted house in the Salt Lake Valley, haunted houses have now become a small cottage industry. There are four in the Salt Lake area this year, plus one each in Provo and Logan.
"Your Nightmares" is the theme of the March of Dimes house. "Mine would be huge credit card bills," notes March of Dimes special events coordinator Jenny Wiscomb. But the 200 volunteers working on this year's house have chosen, instead, to feature Jack the Ripper, spiders and a graveyard.
The Haunted Old Mill, which scared nearly 39,000 people last year, is back, this time with gruesome operating rooms and bloody executions. Wheeler Historic Farm's Haunted Woods is also back, this year with a cast of 70 in a nightly show called "Wolves in the Woods." (see box for times, prices).
Although Wheeler Farm generally draws a young crowd, farm spokesman Wayne Miller says the haunted woods nighttime show is for an older crowd, especially teenagers who like gore. The 45-minute walk includes disgusting characters from scary movies such as "Nightmare on Elm Street."
Miller urges parents to bring children ages 4 through 7 to the Tot Walk, a daytime excursion through the same haunted woods. In the light of day, when it's more apparent that monsters are really people in costumes, Wheeler Farm hopes to help children "separate fantasy from reality," notes Miller.
Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea for adults either. Maybe Klane and Sheri Anderson could start doing daytime tours for those of us who get too scared at the real thing.
In the reassuring glow of a 100-watt bulb, even the Institute of Terror is put into perspective. The floor is a friendly linoleum, and the dragon's silver treasure turns out to be wads of aluminum foil. And those cockroaches that seemed to be flying in your face are really just Rice Krispies.