Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House 2004: Old Time Haunt

Introduction: From 1989-2007, the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House was the largest not-for-profit Haunt in New England, our biggest fundraiser, an extremely popular event attended by thousands of people, and my favorite Jaycee project. This is the column I wrote for the 2004 Haunt. Of course, this is an archive, so things like show times, dates, price, and out-of-date historical context, are removed.  So why include this column here? I think it’s well worth a read because the Jaycees’ enthusiasm and dedication to our Haunted House — and helping the community — is readily apparent, as is my great love for the chapter and our Haunted House. I put a lot of passion into these columns, and the excitement of our annual boo-fest always shines through.   Those were good times.

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By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 10/2004

In 1989, the Mansfield and Foxboro Jaycees embarked on a new, untested fundraiser – a Haunted House. By 1992, the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House (then located at the old State Hospital) was an annual event for more than ten thousand visitors each year. That same year, Sue and I stood in line and twice took in an impressive and scary Haunted House, a visit that would lead to our joining the Jaycees the following summer.

The nineties were truly the glory days for the Jaycee Haunt; we had the underground tunnels of hospital buildings with a history far scarier than our show; lines literally around the block, nights when 1000 visitors was common, and nights we were still scaring folks past 1am.

Times change, and more and more Haunted Houses started opening, seemingly everywhere. Then, in 1999, the Jaycees were dealt a double blow: The state hospital property would require $100,000 in sprinkler and safety improvements (in a building that was effectively condemned anyway) and Spooky World moved to Foxboro.

Ever resourceful and innovative, the Jaycees switched to plan B and relocated our Haunted House to Camp Lincoln Hill on Oak Street – a massive endeavor. We were very grateful to the town for allowing us to use the property for this purpose. While we missed the tunnels and underground mazes, there was no arguing that the new location was better; the tour now took our guests through open air, into the woods, through Haunted cabins. The tour was certainly scarier in the crisp October air under the moonlight. Plus, for the Jaycee workers who started construction in August, it was great to be in the sunshine and open air, rather than the bowels of an old building during hot summer days.

Over the years the Jaycees competed with Spooky World and all the other Haunts out there. While we always competed with Spooky World, we take no joy in its closure; we extend our sincere condolences to David Bertolino on the loss of his business partner, and no one likes to see a business close for any reason. We sincerely wish the management and staff of Spooky World every success in their future endeavors.

But things are changing again. Spooky World’s closure may bring more people to our Haunt but it may be another signal that the glory days of Haunted Houses are truly over – all Haunted Houses have seen diminishing attendance over the last decade, and as a culture, people seem less interested in a scary Haunt than before. In a post 9/11 world, it seems like life is scary enough without Haunted Houses. Add to that the future of Camp Lincoln Hill is uncertain for the Jaycees, and this may very well be our final Haunt — at least – in its present form.

Thankfully, there are still thousands of people who cherish the annual event, and spend much of October checking out the various Haunted in the area, so the Jaycees have been hard at work for the last three months at Camp Lincoln Hill constructing our 16th – and we hope best – Haunted House.

The amount of manpower it takes to put together the Jaycee Haunt is staggering. To be honest, in all the years I guided folks through our Haunt, I never had a true appreciation for the sheer volume of effort that goes into construction. All that changed last year when Lauren Bitar, Dave Reid and I joined forces to create a room of our own – the jungle room, featuring a vibrating engine that literally shook the walls down. It took us nearly three months to create that room.

This year, Lauren and I are back, reconstructing the entire set for even more impressive scares. Also back this year are many of the veteran Jaycee Haunters and some folks chairing a room for the first time. The number of details for one small cabin — electrical, construction, decoration, planning, and far more – is staggering. Our construction guys have been at the camp daily since August performing a lot of miracles.

Our chairman this year is last year’s chairman — veteran Jaycee Dave Fisler is the only Jaycee in our history to chair this project twice – this is unheard of because chairmanship of the Haunted House is literally a six to nine month commitment of your life. But without Dave to chair and organize it, we would not have had a Haunt this year. To Dave, we are very grateful for this great sacrifice.

As the leaves begin to turn, work is beginning to accelerate over on Oak Street. The scripts are being written and revised, props are being created and refurbished, sheet rock is being ordered by the pallet, gallons of paint are flowing, the publicity committee is in overdrive, concessions are being ordered, and there is cleaning – and cleaning, and more cleaning. The twenty or so die-hards have been working their collective asses off for two months now and this event would not exist without their dedication.

Not to mention that once we open, it will take over 70 people to run our Haunted House each night.

So why do it? Well, as a community service and not-for-profit organization, the Jaycees need funds to host all those free events all year – concerts on the common, Santa and Easter bunny on the common, founders day activities, scholarships, thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars in donations to local charities and sports and kids, sand for seniors, family night out, and so much more. If you’re from around here, you know the Jaycee resume – we do a LOT. The Haunted House is our primary fund raiser. Unless we have a successful run each year, we are unable to do as much for the community during the other eleven months.

So here’s the bottom line, friends, please come to the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House during October. The new rooms are scarier than ever – we have scares this year that rival anything you’ve seen elsewhere. The script is one of our very best. Every Jaycee and friend of the Jaycees you will meet at the Haunt has the same goal – give you the best show possible.

If you’ve been to see us before (and thousands of you have) you know how scary – and how much fun – the Jaycee Haunt is, and all we give back to the community. If you’ve never been to see us, now is the time. You’ll see a very professional, all-volunteer show that will make you laugh and scare the hell out of you – and you’ll benefit an organization that helps make our town a better place.

Please come see us in October–You’ll help support a variety of community services, scholarships, and donations throughout Foxboro, you’ll have a great time doing so! We hope to see you at our Haunt!

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