“I felt like I was burning with it…” Shattered Nightmares fire biggest seen in years
In the middle of all the chaos, police made an arrest. But, Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse says they cannot confirm if it`s related.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – The fire at Shattered Nightmares Haunted House was one of the biggest in Terre Haute in years.
Crews responded to a 911 call regarding flames coming from a warehouse around 10:30 p.m. on Friday evening. They arrived at the corner of 10th Street and Third Avenue to find a building fully engulfed in flames. Arson investigator Norm Loudermilk says in fact it’s one of the biggest he’s ever seen.
“The Modesitt fire at the Modesitt law office a few years ago had a big fire load, a lot of paper products. That was a big fire as well. This I think is even bigger,” he said.
And then, in the middle of all the chaos, police made an arrest. But, Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse says they cannot confirm if it’s related.
“The firemen noticed somebody was just kind of saying things that were kind of just different about the fire. Like they deserve that to happen to them, laughing at the fire, which most people don’t laugh at a tragedy like that. So they notified us and when our officers went there to talk to him he took off running. So he got arrested for resisting and fleeing police,” Plasse said.
But let’s not forget, this was more than just a building, this was someone’s home away from home. For Paco Hoopingarner, Shattered Nightmares quickly turned to shattered dreams.
“I felt like I was burning with it,” said Hoopingarner. It was late Friday night when Hoopingarner got the devastating phone call, one that would change his life.
“We jumped out of bed. I don’t even think my feet hit the floor in the dining room, but it was devastating to hear it,” said Hoopingarner.
Paco and his wife Tammy quickly drove to their haunted house, only to find it suffocating in flames. “It’s kind of like you lost somebody,” said Hoopingarner as he described what it felt like when he saw the fire.
The Hoopingarner’s would stay well into the early morning hours, but all they could do was watch as the building burned.
“I stayed until the last flame,” said Hoopingarner.
Luckily no one was injured in the fire. As for the Hoopingarner’s the business they spent the last five years building crumbled to the ground in just a matter of hours.
“We really put our heart and soul into it. When I wasn’t working I was here until 11, 12 o’clock at night,” said Hoopingarner.
The building and the hundreds of props inside were a total loss, costing upwards of $30,000, but together they lost more than money.
“This was our home. Our haunt family helped us, we grew really close. We kept a lot of kids out of trouble. We slowly became more of a family than a haunted house,” said Hoopingarner.
THE CROWD THAT GATHERED
Neighbors also began crowding the streets Friday night. Some stating they saw smoke for miles, heard small explosions…
“We saw the smoke and how big it was and my heart started racing,” said Gerrick Ratliff who lives across the street from the warehouse.
The fire damaged six other houses on Third Avenue.
“The side of it got melted, the back of it, and there was discoloration,” said Ratliff as he explains the damage to his house and car.
Due to the extent of damage, determining the cause of the fire, Loudermilk said, is difficult.
“We can’t say that it’s an arson because we just don’t know. We are still looking at the cause. It’s still under investigation but the person that was arrested is a juvenile.There are no charges pending on him with relation to the fire,” he said.
Hot spots had firefighters still spraying the day after. For now, investigators say they need the public’s help.
“We weren’t out here when it started. Some of the neighbors may have seen something, heard something, and if they did we just ask them to give us a call.”
If you have any information for investigators call Terre Haute Police at 238-1661 or arson investigator Norm Loudermilk at 244-2710. If you want to be anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 238-STOP.
RISING FROM THE ASHES
The loss is tragic for the Hoopingarner’s and the Shattered Nightmares’ family..but what they have gained is overwhelming support.
“I had people from fellow haunted houses in Ohio and Illinois just saying they will be glad to help us,” said Hoopingarner.
Rising from the ashes, with the help of their fan base, they plan to re-build.
“This time it’s going to be twice as good, so look out for us. We’re not done.”
Unfortunately the Hoppingarner’s did not have insurance during the off season.