|Facing your fears: Halloween tests the bravery in all of us|
|Written by Dan Plutchak|
|Wednesday, 12 October 2011 15:47|
The Fuzzy Pig in Whitewater features a haunted house that has become more elaborate each year. Terry Mayer/staff photo.
(Read the full story in the e-edition HERE.)
LAKE GENEVA — Most of the year, we try to avoid being scared out of our wits. So why is it that as Halloween approaches, the more frightful the better? In any case, Halloween seems to get bigger every year. From haunted barns and spooky hayrides, there are plenty of places to feed your scary side.
This month, over a space of 15 nights, more than 5,000 people will jump on a hay wagon and expect to be scared senseless as they take a ride through the woods of the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva. Jesse Raeborn will be one of them.
“We go a couple of times now that we live in Chicago,” Raeborn said. “Columbus Day weekend is always the start of the season for me. I just love it.”
Raeborn and family love Halloween. She likes to dress up — a different theme each year — and she likes to traipse through haunted houses, monster-filled cornfields and darkened woods where unknown creatures wait for their prey. Raeborn likes to joke that it took awhile to get married because she needed a husband that preferred a fright night to a date night.
Jamie Krueger, of Dan Patch Stables at the Grand Geneva, will help Raeborn fulfill her desire to be frightened. Krueger and her husband operate the haunted hayride. It’s the ninth season for the event, and each year it gets a bit bigger.
“It’s a 20-minute ride through the woods,” said Krueger. “Our monsters all set up their own scenes, so it’s always a little bit different.”
Krueger said they offer the 7 p.m. ride as a less scary and more family friendly ride because they do get so many youngsters for the first ride.
While the youngest Raeborn will get just a taste of the hauntings this year, given his age, his mother will investigate other haunts in the area while they’re here.
Those events include the haunted house at The Fuzzy Pig in Whitewater, the Spooky Walk at Kishwauketoe in Williams Bay on Oct. 28, and a train ride at the electric railroad in East Troy.
Dick Kraus, like Raeborn, always has loved Halloween. Sometimes, he can’t believe how much he enjoys the silliness of it all. Kraus owns The Fuzzy Pig, where he has built a haunted house. He adds to it each year.
“Me, at my age — it’s just a riot, it’s so much fun, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
Kraus spends all year building the props and staging for Blood Manor. Last year, he added a second haunting — Malignant Management takes place in a toxic waste factory. If blood isn’t scary enough for you, toxic waste should do it.
Kraus, like Krueger, sees the Halloween portion of his business grow each year. His brother-in-law, who owns Bartz’s Party Supplies in Milwaukee, has been telling him for 15 years that Halloween is the fastest growing holiday. Kraus believes it.
Janesville Fright Factory
“We don’t ever rerun a scene that isn’t revamped in some way,” says Fright Factory organizer Dave Williams. “We don’t want kids coming back from last year saying, ‘This is the same room.’ We can scare them in a different way.”
The Janesville Fright Factory, located at 1405 Riverside St., is hosted by the Rock Aqua Jays each year. The haunted house features scary scenes and situations, including a prison, crematorium, haunted library, vampire-themed area, moving hallways, dark mazes, haunted tunnel and haunted playground.
Williams says the Aqua Jays try to incorporate different scenes each year to encourage repeat visitors.
He said the haunted house features some humorous scenes and interactive areas as well. “It’s supposed to be gory and scary, but I like to throw in some humor here and there.”
This year’s Fright Factory includes a surprise ending as well as a “claustrophobia” area, in which visitors have to push their way through some inflatable objects.
“When you go through, the whole air kind of sucks around you. So it’s like you’re in pitch black, and you can’t move,” Williams said. “Kids love it.”
The Fright Factory includes about 25 actors who help supply the scares. Williams said the actors usually arrive a couple of hours ahead of time to get into their costumes and to become familiar with their scene. He said they usually try to put the actors in a different scene each night.
“There’s always that prep, getting them (to their scene), letting them know where the fire exits are. It’s a whole rigmarole of ‘Here’s your scene, here’s your costume, this is what you do, this is how you get people out in case of an emergency,’” Williams said. “We go scene by scene, so it takes quite awhile.”
The Aqua Jays have hosted a haunted house for about 14 years. Coreen Williams, Dave’s wife, said the haunted house usually receives a positive response from the visitors.
“A lot of times, we will ask people as they leave, what they thought, and sometimes we get some really good suggestions and good feedback,” Coreen Williams said.
Fear Fest in South Beloit
Verda and Rich Barclay offer up three times the scares at their farm, the site of Fear Fest, which includes a haunted barn and haunted hayride, both operated by the Barclays, and the “Screamatorium,” which is hosted by R.I.P Productions.
The farm, located at 6512 Manchester Road in South Beloit, includes a Bates Motel scene, black maze, torture chamber scene, insane asylum, graveyard area, Phantom of the Opera scene, fortune teller and a “character” with a chainsaw.
“We can’t have a real chainsaw in here, but we do have a CD with chainsaw music,” Verda Barclay said. “With strobe lights in the dark, it looks like he’s moving, and you will hear people scream.”
The haunted barn ends with a vortex tunnel, which was added this year.
“The walkway is steady, but then there’s a 9-foot rail with a fluorescent tarp on it that spins around with black light. It feels like you’re spinning,” Barclay said. “It’s a good ending scene for the barn. I did it at the end, because some people lose their cookies afterward.”
The haunted hayride includes a “Friday the 13th” scene, church scene, a haunted carnival and two cemeteries.
“You can never have too many cemeteries on Halloween,” Barclay said.
According to Barclay, the haunted hayride is a more suitable option for younger patrons.
“Some people like the hayride a little bit better, because they’re in a wagon, and they’re sitting together,” Barclay said. “We do have some actors who jump on the wagon and get right up on there with them.”
Barclay said several patrons and actors have seen some wildlife run through the area of the haunted hayride.
“We’ve had deer run through the scenes. One of the actors saw a fox last year,” Barclay said. “Then we see rabbits and chipmunks.”
The Barclays open the haunted barn and hayride to children with disabilities several times throughout the Halloween season.
They also offer free admission into the haunted barn or hayride for people who donate blood to the Rock Valley Blood Center during October. He said patrons present their receipt for when they donated blood, and they receive a free ticket.
“You don’t have to pay cash for your ticket. We’ll take blood...,” Rich Barclay said. “So you can buy your ticket with blood.”
The haunted barn and hayride feature about 35 actors. Verda Barclay said most of the actors return each year, and they include people of all ages.
“Our fortune teller is a registered nurse. There’s a guy with a master’s degree who works full time, and he works down on the hayride,” she said. “We have some high school kids, and some are in college. We also have some family members.”
Spirit Hill Farm Pumpkinland in Clinton
Spirit Hill Farm, located at 7325 S. Wisconsin Highway 140 in Clinton, offers Halloween-related activities for the entire family. The farm includes Pumpkinland, which features a haunted barn, children’s maze, haunted mini-golf course and children’s train rides. Aslynn Huisheere of Spirit Hill Farms said the haunted attractions are children-friendly.
Children can have unlimited access to the Pumpkinland attractions with a minimum $8 purchase of a pumpkin.
— Staff writer Dennis Hines contributed to this story.