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Couple in Newport News creates haunted house for son who has Asperger's

Newport News couple haunted house.jpg
Posted at 4:40 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 20:45:22-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The spookiest night of the year is less than five days away. With that in mind, a couple in Newport News is keeping up with their tradition of getting their family and the community in the Halloween spirit.

News 3 got a sneak peak of a Halloween tradition and a family journey to meet a special need.

Neighbors, first responders and friends come out to experience this haunted thrill. This spook-tacular event was all started for 16-year-old Gabriel Gonzalez, who battles Asperger's syndrome.

Stephanie Koling, the creator of the haunted house, said, "We were trying to prep him months prior to leading up to Halloween, telling him, 'This year you're not going to be able to go,' and he just felt bad and sad, angry, depressed."

Turning those emotions into excitement the Kolings got creative.

"I said, 'You know, you can help me pass out candy, but I'll make it scary for trick-or-treaters.' So, that's how it got started, and it was just a basic maze without any tunnels or anything like that," said Stephanie.

Created for their son, who was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 8 years old, the now-16-year-old says this haunted house is a way for him to let loose and enjoy the thrill.

Gonzalez said, "I really have a lot of stress on my hands, and I feel like Sunday will be a good way to let it out. Don't focus on anything - just have fun."

Throughout the screams and some yells - and tears, even - the Koling family does not see themselves ending this haunted house, even when their son moves out.

"I'm pretty sure they will still continue this because it's fun and I think the community really likes it," said Gonzalez.

One of them being their neighbor, Karen, who has witnessed the haunted house/maze but never walked through it until Tuesday.

"That was really cute. Yeah, that's the first time I been through it, so that was pretty neat," said Karen.

People can check out the haunted house on 50 Bruton Avenue Saturday and Sunday from 6-10 p.m.