Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House 1998: The Village

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.   Of course, this is an archive, so things like show times, dates, price, and out-of-date historical context, are removed.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, 10/1998

College orientations are always fun. But this one was different. Very different. Deadly different.Like most colleges, Foxworth University had changed a lot since the old days, but the arrival of the new dean had really shaken things up. The man was crazy, everyone said so.

So there I was, back at my alma mater, guiding prospective students through the hallowed halls. I had a group of about ten with me, and I wore my traditional guiding garb – black robes, fiendish make up and glow-in-the dark paint. (As professor of astronomy, I’m a bit of an eccentric. That’s why rather than books or college guides, I carried a petrified cattle head.) Our rear guide was Zowie, the extraterrestrial exchange student.

As we walked the dank and dark path, we heard screaming everywhere, which we assumed meant midterms grades had been posted, so we moved on. Rats ran past us – and some were so big that they ate the cleaning lady. There were stories of buried bodies and hushed-up murders. The treasurer and bursar were nasty, money-grabbing administrators, and killed students who couldn’t pay their tuition. On the plus side, student loan repayment problems are decidedly low at Foxworth.

We stopped at the cafeteria for lunch, but declined both the rat stew and insect cupcakes (yummy!), as well as the chef’s offer to cook a member of our group. The laundry room and art gallery held some terrifying secrets also.

I next introduced the students to old man Fixxum, the dean of discipline – lethal discipline. The science lab was still experimenting on those Roswell UFO aliens, but unfortunately one escaped during the tour and wreaked havoc. The Chemistry lab and locker room held their own scares (let’s just say that New England Patriots team members Bledsoe and Slade look a LOT different in person) and the campus doctor was removing a piece of glass from the arm of a poor student who fell through a glass roof. That got a tad messy when he took out the electric saw and the lights went out.

Ah, college life. Despite the terror and horror, the blood and gore, the murdered students and various monsters, I have great affection for old Foxworth University. Because you see, it’s not really a college – last year, it was the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House.

Now in its tenth year, the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House is the largest non-profit Haunted House in Massachusetts as well as the biggest fund-raiser of the year for an organization that is responsible for a multitude of Foxboro community service projects.

Many Jaycees will tell you they first learned of the group through the Haunted House (myself included) and besides Founders Day, this event attracts the most new members.

In years past the dark maze has been an old London town, a trip through Hollywood, a Haunted mansion and museum, and will be transformed this year into a Haunted village. Jaycee Pauline Brown is taking on the formidable task of chairing the project this year, with Lynda Walsh taking the role of co-chair.

Back in early September, I had the opportunity to speak with Lynda and Pauline at the Haunted House. The air was musty around us. There were wires everywhere, plywood scattered about, and empty soda bottles and pretzel bags littered the table. That night, work was progressing at a frenzied but orderly pace. As we spoke, familiar and new faces buzzed around, constructing, wiring, washing walls, painting, sorting props, cleaning, and moving things.

Lynda, past president of the chapter and this year’s chairman of the board, is very proud of this tenth anniversary, and also of the house itself. She also joined the Jaycees after visiting the Haunted House, and notes that people come from as far away as Maine to visit this Haunted House.

Pauline explains that this Haunted village will include gypsies, morticians, candle-makers, priests and holy people, and many other surprises. She adds with a smile that there will also be a “traveling salesman” but won’t elaborate on the details. Clearly this will be interesting.

Pauline’s touch has been seen at the Haunted House for many years; her work has included such sets as “Jack the Ripper” street, Dracula’s fireplace, the portraits in various rooms, the “university wall” (and graffiti) as well as numerous other things. She also sculpted and designed many props, such as the large foam gargoyles that smoke and greet visitors. Many of the wonderful designs you have seen at the house over the years are the results of Pauline’s artistic talent.

Make no mistake, the task of creating the illusions is fun – but it takes a lot of work and dozens of helping hands to construct the Haunted House. In addition to Pauline and Lynda, many others are working to make the magic happen, including Mike Savage (treasurer), Bob Hickey (publicity chairman). Nancy Williams (procurement coordinator), Peter Sorrow (construction overseer) Peter Jameson (maintenance), Mark Emery (head room chair), Helene Savage (concessions), Tom Whiffen (creative director), Lauren Bitar (mysterious make-up magic) and George Decicco (clean-up coordinator). By the time you read this, many others will have jumped on board to help in all sorts of capacities. This is a big project!

In addition to all the scary details, Pauline explains that there are safety considerations, budget issues, guide training, planning for emergencies, getting the rooms right, ensuring manpower, rehearsals, securing permits… The task is Herculean, yet every year as the light go out and the first group is led through, the Jaycees are ready.

Most of the Foxboro Jaycees chapter – well over one hundred – will be working on Payson Road this month to bring you the best show possible. Veteran guides will join with new Jaycees to guide victims—I mean people—through the maze.

Each guide goes through a training process, not only to learn the script, but crowd control, where the fire exits and fire extinguishers are, how to handle problems … We’re all ready to give you a great show.

Rita Gould, who did a great job rear-guiding last year and celebrates her one year anniversary with the Jaycees this month, is looking forward to trying front guiding, and we’ll probably guide together a few nights. I’m looking forward to it; with her enthusiasm she’s going to do a great job.

The people who work the rooms also deserve great credit. Not just for their hard work in construction and painting, but also for keeping things fresh. One Jaycee last year estimated that he’d done the same act more than 1300 times over 12 nights! It’s not easy bringing originality and enthusiasm to the same act night after night, but they do it!

But remember: This is NOT a kiddy Haunted House and is not recommended for children under the age of 8. Also please note that the house is not wheelchair accessible, and strobe light are used throughout the show.

For you folks who haven’t been here before, you may be thinking, why go to the Jaycee Haunted House when there’s so many other Haunted Houses out there? It’s simple, really. The Jaycee Haunted House is not a commercial endeavor. It’s not a business. It’s a community fund raiser – the biggest fund-raiser of the year for an organization that gives so much back to Foxboro. You know that nice bandstand on the common? Jaycees built that. The nativity set at Christmas? Jaycees store that and refurbish and repaint it every year. Concerts on the common? Jaycees again. Senior Appreciation Day? Jaycees. SHARE, pancake breakfast, sand for seniors, 5K fun run? Jaycees again. Mothers and fathers day activities, Christmas activities such as tree sales, Christmas caroling, Santa on the common? All Jaycee’s.

And that’s just a partial list of what the Jaycees are doing to benefit Foxboro.

When you attend the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House, not only will you be scared, terrified, horrified (and have a great time) but you will also give back to Foxboro. You see first hand the hard work of dozens of dedicated people—people who are not paid for their work, but come to an old building day after day, (many since August) because they believe in what their doing – and they know how much this project benefits Foxboro. These are people who have no voices left by Halloween – and many don’t get much sleep during October, either. It’s hard work, yes. But a LOT of fun.

Come celebrate the scariest time of the year by being one of the over 10,000 people who come to the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House every year. You’ll be glad you did!

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