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Obituary: Lance Pope 1965-2002

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Lance Pope spread his time throughout the costuming, horror, were and animal welfare communities. He was a marvelous person, always ready to help the little guy, and it's with great sadness we present this obituary. The delay was required to have it cleared and approved, but it's still timely, as I know many readers have had the pleasure of meeting Lance in one of his incarnations, at furry conventions, on mail lists, or just stopping by Thrillvania.

From Mel White:
"LANCE POPE (1/27/65 - 12/17/2002)

Lance Pope, the multi-talented, energetic Texan who created Verdun Manor, one of the most celebrated commercial haunted houses in America, died December 17,
2002. He was 37 years old. He was an entrepreneur and businessman and a renowned craftsman with a keen eye for detail and a good understanding of how to create a memorable evening of spooky fun.

His fascination with haunted houses began early, when Haunted Cannon Manor became an attraction at the annual State Fair of Texas. Lance persuaded the owner to let him help around the attraction and started out sweeping the floors and cleaning up after the crowds left. He moved from that to acting in the scenes and eventually to creating scenes for the house.

In 1981, at the age of 16, Lance took $1,000 and built his first haunted house. The 400 foot square walk-through house was called Haunted Verdun Manor; the beginnings of what would become one of the most notable haunted houses in America.

click Read More for the full obituary. Thank you, Mel White, for providing this obituary.

His fascination with haunted houses began early, when Haunted Cannon Manor became an attraction at the annual State Fair of Texas. Lance persuaded the owner to let him help around the attraction and started out sweeping the floors and cleaning up after the crowds left. He moved from that to acting in the scenes and eventually to creating scenes for the house.

In 1981, at the age of 16, Lance took $1,000 and built his first haunted house. The 400 foot square walk-through house was called Haunted Verdun Manor; the beginnings of what would become one of the most notable haunted houses in America.

College didn't stop Lance from continuing with this dream. He moved Verdun Manor to Arlington while he attended college and worked at Six Flags Over Texas. His informal education at Six Flags included insights on how theme
parks work and how to do mascots and mascot costumes. At UTA, he specialized in Technical Theatre and used the techniques he learned in his coursework to make the new Verdun Manor in in Forney, Texas, a legendary commercial haunt.

In 1981, he opened Wolf Studios and began creating special effects for film, television, live theater, and haunted houses. Wolf Studio's film credits include "Armageddon Fabulosa" and "Graduation Day". His groundbreaking
werewolf costume designs (and the "Verdun Pack" of costumers who wore his creations) were well known throughout various fandoms.

In 1996, Haunted Verdun Manor was moved to Terrel, Texas, on a site with enough land to allow the expansion that Lance had always dreamed of. New houses and features were added each year; the latest was his spectacular, Disney-level animatronic feature, "Granny Lupus' Seance Theatre," which opened in October, 2002.

Lance is survived by his parents. The Verdun staff, Verdun vendor partners, Verdun actors, and the "Verdun Wolfpack" costumers."

The Verdun website can be found here



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Yes, but how did he die?

37 years is very young to die in the USA.

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He just... died. I don't know if anyone has heard the official cause.

Melissa "MelSkunk" Drake

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He was poisoned by some of the chemicals he worked with and simply sat down and went quietly in a chair. His friends are reopening the park again this year.

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He was found on the floor of his mobile home, and a friend of his suggested that there was the possibility of foul play involved.

I used to try and buy materials from him for my own fall shindigs. Unfortunately we had a disagreement in 2002 and he died before it was worked out. That bothers me.

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He will be greatly missed. My sympathies to all his survivors. He lives a bit with each of you.

David Cooksey

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"LANCE POPE (1/27/65 - 2/17/2002)"

--You may want to change the date, this shows he died in February of last year, not December.

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Lance Pope was a man among men. I metLance when I first came to the terrell area and had lost my job, I heard Lance was looking for help at Trillavania so I applied, arriving at Trillavania the firt person to speak was Lance himself and the rest is history i became the Genreal in Lances'; hayride, lance was not a boss but a real man I respected dearly, I now am in my 7th year at Verdun Manor, my memories of lance are priceless. If the line of folks touched by Lance Pope were straight a man would never reach the end,,

I can see it now whe Lance got to heaven the first thing was "If we tear this out we"ll ahve plenty of room for parking, but the dang house has to be much bigger LOVE YOU LANCE THE GENERAL AKA DAMON NEWTON

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This never records my comments. Last attempt He evidently died of inhalation of chemicals while working, peacefully in achair while taking a break.

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He was working on some new material when he sat down, from apparent dizziness and rested his head on a hand. He simply did not wake up. His friends are preparing for another opening this year. I spoke to one of them recently since I'm offering my hearse for rides to haunted houses this year. Gene

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we are setting up a first year exhibit at the Scare Grounds, called The DeMente Graveyard, and we thought it was way cool that we could add some skulls and things that Lance made. We also designed a king sized tombstone which is a fancy tribute and looks great. One of his guys did up a corpse for us and it looks wild. I like to think it would give him a laugh if he saw what we have for display.

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I just watched a show on cable that spotlighted the Manor. Honestly, I really wanted to know how Lance died. Sometimes I have a morbid curiosity about those things, I'm sure this crowd understands. But my visit was for a different reason altogether. I wanted to see how somebody who created something so powerful & long lived could be taken away. Now I know, it does blow. But His spirit is so very much alive in you... So much that I(and surely many others) have been affected in Northern California. I'd say "Rest In Peace" but I don't think he'd be cool with that, not his style. Thanks to you who do not forget

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Lance was an amazing person, a leader, and a winner. I remember when I first met Lance, it was not at U.T.A., but at 6 Flags Over Texas whilst working in 6 Flag's Shows department. Being solely into Horror films; BUT also into ACTION--Fast cars, women, and explosive events--we immediately became friends. In short, despite us living, and breathing horror movies--WE WERE NOT NERDS...AT ALL! I remember the night when he was in The Godzilla head for BLUE OYSTER CULT'S, GODZILLA SONG, WHEN THE GIANT HEAD OF GODZILLA ROSE UP BEHIND THE BAND WHILST PLAYING GODZILLA, AS GODZILLA WAS ANIMATE--OPENING IT'S MOUTH, AND SPEWING OUT FLAMES! LANCE WAS IN THE HEAD OPERATING THE MOUTH, TRYING TO KEEP FROM BEING BURNED ALIVE FROM THE FREE-FLOWING FLAMES! It was all funny as hell!
We later saw George Romero's classic, "CREEPSHOW", which prompted Lance to immediately make a duplicate living dead suit like Tom Savini's suit from that film--(for the first story in "CREEPSHOW")"I WANT MY CAKE!"
--And did a SUPERB JOB! Will, later, I rented that suit from Lance to do a Publicity shoot for my friend Casey Orr's band, RIGOR MORTIS! It was indeed a damn good shoot, and the photo with Lane's suit, with me in the suit was printed in the newspapers, and International Media when the band was signed with CAPITOL RECORDS.

At U.T.A., the adventures continued--we worked on each others films, as-well-as had beers and chased skirts! We also worked together in Radio Television classes, and once I directed a show where I had Lance on as a guest whom was looking to do bigger feature films as a Special Make Up Effects Artist. This show was recently found--and is hilarious, but also very serious.
Lance did a living dead make up on Joe Gagliano where Joe rose up from the dead as a Vietnam soldier to kill all of the sissies whom ran to Canada to avoid the draft!--And it was EXCELLENT!
FANGORIA MAGAZINE soon came out, and boy we loved it, got every issue, and co-ordinated our lives around it.
But Lance acted first, and went out for FANGO'S FIRST HORROR MOVIE CONVENTION--WHICH IS STILL HAPPENING TODAY--and, WITH NO END IN SIGHT! Lance went out there, for their first convention with the sole intent of entering their make up effects contest, which he did, AND WON! OK, even I knew this, and was proud of what he did...BECAUSE WHAT HE DID WAS WENT OUT TO L.A., ENTERED THE WORLD'S MOST WATCHED MAKE UP EFFECTS EVENT, AND WON IT--HANDS DOWN! MAJOR Make up effects Houses in the arena of major feature films was booming with innovations, and new and exciting things happening in horror, creature, and science fiction films by which Lance could have been hired at any of the MAJOR MAKE UP EFFECTS HOUSES IN HOLLYWOOD--OF HIS CHOOSING, AFTER HE WON FANGORIA'S FIRST MAKE UP EFFECTS CONTEST!!!
--And what did he do...nothing, NOT A DAMN THING! WHY?! BECAUSE LANCE WAS A GENIUS! Lance Pope was also creating a major league horror product on his own initiative, and this was beginning to take off. LANCE had rented an old shit house, which was directly behind my eldest brother, Frank Rainone's house on Cooper street in Arlington. This house was right near U.T.A., on Main street, right next to Cooper. This Haunted House was to be a MAJOR, HALLOWEEN-HORROR-SHOCKER SPOOK HOUSE! Now, this was the first of it's type. Yes, there have been horror spook houses in this country's past, BUT NOTHING LIKE THIS! Lance was incorporating all of today's major, and all new make up effects, animations, visual trickery in a House, that again, WAS THE FIRST OF IT'S KIND! He formed a professional crew, putting in his place his main frame peoples, and figuring out all of the business angles--which he did ALONE! He formed a Corporation, with his principles running the crews with high end walkie talikies, with proper lunch breaks, breaks in general for his hard working crews, as all was ran professionally. 'AND' His House was just spectacular! The floor would give out as huge, winged demons bursts from the floor! Today, this sort of Haunted House is MOST COMMON, BUT THEY EXIST TODAY, ONLY BECAUSE OF LANCE POPE, AS HE INVENTED THIS WHOLE CONCEPT! Needless to say, the monies spurned upon Lance as it did in great big bleeding batches! It was like a well hitting a major pay-off of dinosaur wine when Lance's HAUNTED VERDUN MANOR was unleashed to the public! God bless him, he worked hard, and made it all happen! No excuses, no bullshit, he MADE IT HAPPEN! Also, Lance Pope was also the nicest fella one could ever meet, but additionally, a fella YOU DID NOT WANT TO SCREW OVER, BECAUSE, YOU WOULD INCUR THE WRATH OF THE BEAST! Meaning, if you ever tried to rip off, screw over, or even just STEAL FROM LANCE POPE, LOOK OUT! You see, Lance loved Werewolves; kinda liked 'em a whole helluva lot, and well, if you were of a sinister being, you'd be pounced upon, and beaten just like if LON CHANEY, JR. WAS ATOP OF YOU WHILST PLAYING, THE WOLFMAN! Lance was a small guy, why hell, as a Dago, so am I, but Lance was smaller, but if he ever crossed him, he'd quit literally walk out, and beat the living shit out of you! This was just another heroic quality about Lance. He was priceless--a real, true American, whom built up his empire from a dream, and made it work, and if you got in the way as an aggressor, would get your head stove in!

From here, Lance bought Walt DISNEY'S OLD HAUNTED HOUSE, MOVED IT TO LAND HE ACQUIRED IN MIDDLEOTHIAN, TEXAS, and built the ultimate, and permanent estate for, HAUNTED VERDUN MANSION!

After this was established, he commenced making a Werewolf movie. I served as the camera operator, and set co-ordinator. Now, just prior, I made a major, 16mm epic, "ARMAGEDDON FABULOSA", by which Lance made all of the demons from hell which a shadey/phoney Southern Evangelist was hallucinating just before he wiped out a country town with machine-guns, armored vehicles, and all he accumulated to deal with Satan when the Apocalypse broke out! Naturally, 'REVEREND BUXTON' was nuts, and just was killing normal folk..! Lance did a stupuendous job for me, and I for him on his movies. In Lance's werewolf film, there was a point by which Lance fought an actual, all fit, real, non doped up COUGAR! 'YA KNOW, A MOUNTAIN LION--NOT SOME OLD BROAD! HE FOUGHT IT IN HIS WEREWOLF SUIT WHICH WAS EQUIPPED WITH REAL CLAWS, AND OPERATING TEETH HE COULD CONTROL! This battle was amazing, but also, even for me, a little concerning..! But all went fabulously, and by the way, Lance's Werewolf suit is what he won the FANGORIA contest with.
I was soon Nominated for a Student Academy Award, and went West where I immediately started working on feature films. My father was then, suddenly killed in an airplane crash, with his brother, and life long friend, and my world ended into hideous tragedy. I came home, and Lance was there. He knew my Dad quit well, but was there despite all walking me through this tragic time.
A year past, and I WENT BACK OUT TO LOS ANGELES to work for a Producer whom remembered me, to work for him, as Lance built VERDUN MANNER into arenas of spectacular enjoyment the world has never seen! He acquired wild animals--inclusive of Lions, and panthers! He had a carriage ride, where people sat in the hey in the back, as their horse drawn carriage took them through the Texas country at night where they saw hundreds of zombies rising from the ground, to wild animals, and so on...AMAZING!
This HAUNTED HOUSE was not only amazing, but a world innovation, as he was THE FIRST TO TAKE MODERN MAKE UP EFFECTS AND INCORPORATE THEM INTO A HAUNTED HOUSE--AND DID IT WELL--INCREDIBLY WELL! HELL, HE HAD THE ROLLING STONES PERSONALLY TAKE A TOUR OF HIS HOME! HE KNEW I WAS A STONES FAN, SO HE GAVE ME WHAT JAGGER--RICHARDS GAVE HIM IN A SOLID GOLD STONES LOGO TIE EMBLEM!Lance and I would talk every couple of years, and get caught up...I'd tell him of all the hideous idiots in HOLLYWOOD I'd have to deal with on features, as he'd tell me how things have grown with HAUNTED VERDUN MANOR--Which was excellent as he was dealing with problems on his sole vision, and in TEXAS! Lance was also raking it in, millions were being spent, as he once again pioneered a field which SO MANY DO TODAY with haunted houses! Lance died from horrible complications from make-up effects. When an item is curing after being molded, we all use to touch it, not knowing that it was extremely toxic to touch without gloves! This hideous ailment killed numerous people in effects, and totally screwed his liver up. My liver equally got screwed up from the same. Others like Tom Savini can no longer be in the effects labs just for fear of him even inhaling this substance. Legendary Make Up artist DICK SMITH'S son died of this, as SMITH was also hideously effected. This, plus a mis-hap with one of Lance's personal lion's mating with another lion which ended in tragedy when the new lion attacked Lance, and severally mauled him..I spoke with him whilst in the hospital, and he knew he would not make it. All of the medicines he required he could not take as his liver could not handle it. Lance was so brave on the phone, as one of the most hardcore, brave men I have ever met. He had visions, and worked harder than most to obtain them, and it worked, and worked well for him! I am so sorry I never contacted his parents, nor anything as I was personally devastated by this whole ordeal, and his death. LANCE POPE was legendary, and by far a man whom literally invented the modern day haunted house!

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About the author

MelSkunk (Melissa Drake)read storiescontact (login required)

a student and Skunk from Toronto, ON, interested in writting, art, classic cars and animals