Every October, the Roller Barn in Oak Harbor transforms into a labyrinth of horror.
This year, the annual haunted house at the barn has been renamed “Twisted Barn” and, on some days, will include a unique blend of laser tag and frights. It will be open 6-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the entire month. A talking skeleton will narrate the journey visitors take through a series of 26 connected rooms, each more terrifying than the last.
The story is about Jack Twisted, a greedy man who moves into a mining town where people begin disappearing.
The Twisted Barn is the creation of James and Priscilla Croft, who have owned the Roller Barn since 2020. Before that, the couple volunteered every year at Frightville, which was organized by the Boys and Girls Club. Now, proceeds go toward rebuilding the barn, which needs a new roof, among other things.
The structure was built in 1912 by Otto Van Dyk for the Neil family’s dairy farm. When it was first built, the family hosted a party for Oak Harbor and the surrounding towns.
“The barn started in the community as a center for people just to gather and through the years it was a dairy barn,” James said.
The history of the barn is mostly unknown from the 1930s to 1950 when two families decided to open a skating rink in the building. James and Priscilla said they both grew up roller skating at the barn.
Their main goal is to keep the barn a fun gathering place, and turning it into a haunted house every autumn is definitely fun. Last year, about 3,000 people attended.
“We try to hit most all of the fears – spiders, snakes, rats, claustrophobia, darkness, chainsaws,” James said.
He did warn that people who have strong phobias, heart disease or epilepsy should proceed with caution. At any time when walking through the barn, people can ask for the scaring to end and will be escorted out. For young children and the faint of heart, there are “matinees” during daylight hours. The lights will be on and these walk-throughs won’t include any actors or jump scares.
Other things attendees will experience include walking through dense fog, a swamp and a collapsed mining tunnel.
The couple spends the entire year planning, building and decorating. They do everything themselves and make or customize a lot of their own props.
During the rest of the year when it’s not a haunted house, the barn has laser tag, which James describes as “playing Call of Duty in real life.” On the last three Thursdays in October, people can play laser tag in the haunted house and shoot at the actors.
“We found people that were scared to walk through, they had a little courage when they had a laser gun,” Priscilla laughed.
James said it was the only haunted laser tag he was aware of in the entire state of Washington.
The Twisted Barn is a family affair. James and Priscilla’s daughter is coming home from college specifically to be an actor at the barn. Priscilla’s nephew, Jacob Boyes, also helps with the set up and is an actor. He met his wife because one day she came in asking for a tour of the haunted barn.
“If it weren’t for this place, I would not have the kids I have today or anything,” he said.
James and Priscilla’s favorite part is seeing everyone’s reactions when they finish walking through. They hope the attraction helps keep the barn open as long as possible.
The jury is still out on whether or not the historic building is haunted in real life. James said that if there are ghosts, they bring only a positive feeling to the barn.
“If anything, it’d be a cow,” Priscilla said.
A casting call for volunteers who wish to scare unsuspecting victims will soon be posted on facebook.com/rollerbarn.