People keep setting up haunted houses in hollowed-out buildings, and area officials are warning to stop

The number of empty large buildings in cities like Hamilton and Middletown have led to a little-known consequence: People are setting up impromptu haunted houses.

The Journal-News looked at the dangers of these industrial shells recently in a story about their challenges for firefighters.

Aside from the structural issues, area law enforcement personnel are forced to watch for groups setting up unauthorized events. Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli called them “‘renegade’ haunted houses” and said they happen “not just at Halloween time.”

“We have recently had several individuals attempt to open up haunted houses without the proper certificate of occupancies nor attention to following proper building and fire codes to operate legally,” he said.

“People need to understand that proper license, certificate of occupancies and fire codes have to be followed to operate such business.We don’t want disasters occurring like the Station Night Club fire in Rhode Island in 2003 killing 100 people; nor one like the Oakland, Calif., converted warehouse Ghost Ship (artist collective) killing 36 people (in 2016).

“Situations such as these and vacant structure fires are what keep fire chiefs awake at night.”

Middletown officials have shut down two, including a Christmas haunted house, he said.

“And we’ve received information of a possible Valentine’s Day ‘The End of Love’ haunted house, which we are currently looking into,” he said.

On the positive side, “We’ve had several inquiries from people that once we told them the process, backed off,” Lolli said.

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