Yikes! Haunting time is near - Odessa American: Local News

Yikes! Haunting time is near

By Nathaniel Miller oanews@oaoa.com | Posted: Friday, October 4, 2019 3:00 am

Andrew Cavender has spent half his life scaring people.

What started as an inquiry for the then 15-year-old and a group of his friends about working with Def Con 1 Murder Maze has led to life-long friends and memories for the now 28-year-old Cavender.

Now about to start his 14th year with the attraction, Cavender now manages people at Def Con 1. He recalls what he did his first year with the group: he was a zombie.

“I stood behind the wall and was probably the least intimidating zombie ever because I’m only 5-foot, 6 (inches), Cavender said.

Even though his roles have changed since his first year with the group, Cavender still has a passion for the annual Def Con 1 Murder Maze and Circus of the Dead that has been a staple in Odessa since 1998. Founder Billy Pon said the location is still at 2215 W. Second St., and the price will remain at $8 per person, or $10 for a combo pass.

This year’s event is scheduled to take place starting Oct. 11, 12 18, 19, 25, and 26 from 7 p.m., until midnight. The attraction is also scheduled to be open Oct. 30, 31, and Nov. 1, from 7 p.m., until 11 p.m.

“I keep the price low because it’s about the tradition, the family and friends … it is a Permian Basin tradition,” Pon said.

A master of scares, Pon has also directed two films; “Doll Boy” and “Circus of the Dead.”

In 2018, Pon said he had to take a hiatus because he was diagnosed with cancer, and said he is doing better since his initial diagnosis. On social media, he responded to people saying his diagnosis would put the haunted houses on hiatus, but he credited the people who help put on the attractions for keeping it going.

However, Pon said another scary thing has popped up: updated building codes and needing to upgrade the sprinkler system could put the events in jeopardy.

Saying he cannot predict the future, Pon added the cost of updating the sprinkler system could be too expensive to cover, and this year’s event may be the last.

“Hopefully we can keep haunting,” Pon said. “The city has been good to me, (but) laws change, and we have to do what’s safe for the people.”

For Cavender, the haunted houses have been a big part in his life. He said Pon took a chance on him when he was “some little weirdo punk-rocker kid” and has made life-long friends through the Def Con and Circus of the Dead events – adding he and another manager have attended each other’s weddings because they have become such great friends.

More importantly, Cavender said Pon and the group of like-minded people helped him during his formative years, and may be able to help someone like him find their way in life.

“Maybe there’s that other kid with the mohawk and the metal in his face … and just have an obsession with ‘80s slasher flicks hoping to meet with like-minded people,” he said.

Cavender said doing an event for more than 20 years shows that people still love to be scared, and credits Pon for giving the community something to look forward to every year.

“We’ve been around for 20 years, there’s a reason for it,” Cavender said. “Billy Pon really knows what he’s doing.”