Reinke brothers bring Halloween fright to Littleton

Siblings have been into haunted houses since childhood

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As a child, Greg Reinke hated being scared. 
 
Reinke remembers being 6 years old when a neighbor gave him a fright one Halloween night. Afterward, Reinke said, he was determined to face his fears and sat in the dark in his parents' unfinished basement waiting for the boogeyman. 
 
“I was scared to death, but he never showed up,” Reinke said. “That's when I went 'I got it.'”
 
Now, more than 53 years later, Reinke and his brother, Chris, make their own boogeymen to send shivers down people's spines. Reinke Brothers, a year-round costume store located just north of Main Street in downtown Littleton, has for years been home to a haunted mansion that attracts visitors of all ages.
 
After a shutdown last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the store's haunted mansion has returned in full force to offer those who dare a scare. But Reinke promises it remains a family-centered attraction. 
 
“We don't do any blood or guts, we don't have any chain saws, no scenes where it's really gory,” Reinke said. “My house is more like Disney, a lot of special effects, a lot of illusions.” 
 
The mansion, which sprawls roughly 10,000 square feet and is made up of 35 individual rooms, boasts over 1,000 moving parts and sends frightened souls through various worlds including a sinister swamp and a disorienting tunnel engulfed by floating specters. 
 
As visitors enter, they'll encounter a host of ghoulish props. A voodoo doctor waiting in the shadows. A wrinkled witch gazing into her crystal ball. Undead, life-size skeletal horses pulling a dark carriage from the underworld. 
 
The attraction is imbued with the brothers' childhood love for makeshift haunted houses, which first began in their childhood basement in 1968. 
 
At the ages of 9 and 10, the brothers constructed a house of horrors made from whatever they could get their hands on: A plaster skull from their older brother, their father's footlocker for a coffin, blankets for the walls. 
 
“We caught a shopping cart fishing and cleaned it all up because I wanted to mechanize it,” Reinke said. “I thought it would be cool if we could roll people through and have control of them (so) we put them in the basket and had a strobe light in the front.”
 
The brothers charged one penny for their guests. 
 
“I think we made maybe 30 cents one year,” Reinke laughed. 
 
But soon their haunted house graduated from the basement and began popping up in schools and local church events as the brothers built their Halloween empire.
 
In 1984, the brothers set up their first purely commercial haunted house off Mineral and Broadway. In 2004, they bought their current store, located off South Prince Street, where their haunted mansion is housed. 
 
And the brothers haven't lost their knack for resourcefulness. 
Weaving his way through the haunted mansion, Reinke points out a cut-up hose acting as a sewage drain and the lids of plastic storage containers painted to look like rusted doors. 
 
A small team of artists and technicians begins every March on the mansion, which usually changes about half its rooms each year. In late September, it opens to guests. 
 
Outside the mansion, the brothers' store is a treasure trove of costumes and decor. 
 
With more than 50,000 items, Reinke said he has diversified his pool of inventory, from buying out party stores that are going bankrupt to sourcing handmade masks and decorations from locals. 
 
“The reason why I don't buy in one specific place is then I look like everyone else, I'll look like a Walmart or a Target, and I don't want to do that,” he said. 
 
The novelty and breadth of Reinke Brothers is what draws customers from all over.
 
“It's the Halloween store we were hoping to find,” said Sarah Russett, who stumbled upon Reinke Bros last week after coming to Littleton to watch a marching band. 
 
Milo Salisbury, a Littleton native who now lives in Aurora, said she made the trip back to her home city for the store. 
 
“It's an adventure whenever you come in here,” she said. 
 
For Reinke, it's the screams, and the smiles, that have kept him in the business for so long. 
 
His haunted mansion seeks to not just brew up a good scare but to tap the imagination of minds as young as his when he and his brother built their first haunted house. Reinke said he will do lights-on tours with children to show them how his haunted mansion comes to life. 
 
“(People go) why would you do that and I say, 'Why wouldn't I?'” Reinke said. “Maybe they'll make a great haunted house someday.”

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