Article by Sara Hinds
At the Crete “T.J.” Sokol Auditorium, there's a secret passageway through a hinged bookcase. If you get past the banshee, that is.
Turn around and you’ll be wide-eyed, face-to-face with the librarian himself, Josh Reckling.
Sporting a “very fancy, ’70s, sky blue” suit jacket and a southern drawl, New Orleans perhaps, he asks if you’re here for a cult sacrifice.
You’re still in Crete, you’re just at Terror on 12th Street — one of two haunted houses that set up camp every fall in the historical building. And where Reckling moonlights as an actor.
In the daylight, you’ll find him vacuuming the Con’s lobby or hallways in Sheldon Hall. He started as a janitor at Doane earlier this year in February.
His side gig at Sokol takes up more real estate on his resume, though. The 2022 haunt season was his seventh.
Now your jaw drops while staring at Reckling. Because seven years is a long time to return year after year for a self-proclaimed shy, scaredy cat. The assumed profile of a haunted house worker is a Halloween fan or former theatre kid.
Reckling is neither.
“I used to be terrified of everything,” he said. “Especially at Roca [Berry Farm] their things scared me. I didn’t watch horror films until I started going to the annual haunted house at the Sokol Hall.”
His friends were actors at the haunted houses, had been for a couple years. Whether it was FOMO, curiosity or encouragement, Reckling conquered his fears and joined them in 2015.
He finds it comforting and thrilling to play characters.
“You get to come out of your shell,” Reckling said. “And most of the people don’t know who you are, so if you embarrass yourself then it’s OK.”
Through characters — a librarian, psychiatrist and “crazy guy” — Reckling finds a more confident version of himself.
“It makes you grow more as a person,” he said. “You’re more open to different things and more open to yourself. You gain more confidence in public speaking, cause you’re in front of a group of strangers and you have to stay in character and not just be yourself.”
While this year’s haunting season is over, Reckling will return next year. Speak to him if you dare.