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 2001 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 Of course, this is an archive, so things like show times, dates, price, and out-of-date historical context, are removed.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. Also, this particular year shows the challenges we faced in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, to “go on with the show” because it was financially necessary for chapter’s works. One of my most vivid memories of this Haunt: Each night at 7pm, as the house opened, we played the national anthem over the loud speakers…
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by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 10/2001
One of the first questions the Foxboro Jaycees were asked in the days following September 11 was, “Are you still having the Haunted House this year?”
The answer is yes — we have to. The Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House, besides being the largest charitable Haunted House in Massachusetts, is the largest fund-raiser of the year for the Jaycees. Without the funds the annual boo-fest brings in, we could not run such activities as the food co-op, Santa and concerts on the common, Senior Appreciation Day, DARE National Family Night Out, sand for seniors, basketball clinic, New Year’s First baby awards, Easter egg hunt, pancake breakfast to benefit Foxboro Youth Basketball, Founders Day activities, blood drives, teddy bear delivery to traumatized children, and dozens of other community projects.
Without the income from the Haunted House, we could not donate money to over 26 different charities, needy individuals, athletes and human service organizations, nor would we be able to donate thousands of dollars to the Foxboro Discretionary Fund, Fireworks committee, Foxboro High School college bound seniors, South Foxboro Community Club and various sports leagues in Foxboro.
Simply put, we could not do any of these things without the Haunted House.
The show must go on, but in these unimaginable times, some things had to change. After the attacks on America, we took a closer look at every aspect of the 13th annual Haunted House. Alterations were needed. Although our theme is still time-travel, the original name, terror through time, had to be scrapped. All the Jaycees felt the same way — there would be no terror in the name. Two skits involving war were changed, as were references to explosions, bombs and the like.
Many other Haunted Houses have made similar alterations.
Make no mistake — we’re still a Haunted House. We’ve still very scary. We’re still very funny. But the line between entertainment/fantasy and the real world could easily get a little blurry this time around and we could not allow that — the Jaycees are first and foremost a community service organization.
Our Haunted House this year is truly one of the best we’ve offered in some time. I really mean that. Yeah, I’m obviously partial to the Jaycees and our Haunted House, but I write about the group so enthusiastically because the Jaycees truly make Foxboro a better place to live and I am proud to be counted among their membership.
The Jaycees are pretty hard working, too. It all began back in August, with construction and planning. While others were at the beach and having fun, the Jaycees were volunteering their time building, painting, and assembling a new Haunted House on the grounds of Camp Lincoln Hill. For the past month or so, a handful have been pretty much working round the clock there.
This year’s Haunted House Chairman is Tom Whiffen. Tom has been a very active Jaycee for many years, and has served in most Jaycee board positions, projects, as well as every aspect of the previous Haunted Houses. You may remember Tom’s demonic “Legion” character a few years back — the guy with the bright white eyes. Tom, along with Paul Lanza, crafted the impressive “jail” scare last year and won “Best Scare” and “Best Room.” Tom knows his Haunted Houses!
This year, he assumes the job of chairing the Haunted House — he’ll be ultimately responsible for every aspect of our Haunted House, and get very little sleep for two months.
Tom has gone out of his way to set this Haunt apart from the others. There are new scares that better mimic the claustrophobic feeling we had when the Haunt was located at the State Hospital. There are many more scares per room this year, and two new cabins have been added along with new mazes. The time-travel aspect has allowed us to greatly expand what we can do, and the various themes and time periods of each room reflect that.
Another new aspect to this year’s Haunted House will be a quiz at the end. Our guests are encouraged to take a quiz, testing their memories of the Haunted tour. From all the correct entries, each night we will draw one winner for a $50 gift certificate donated by Lafayette House. So pay attention to the details of the skits. What was your guide’s name? What was the vampire’s name? And so on.
You’ll be especially impressed with the level of detail and complexity. Once again, veteran room people and former guides are chairing the rooms. In fact, three former Haunted House chairmen are constructing rooms this year — we couldn’t have better experts.
Tom is being aided and abetted this year by an experienced team of ghouls, including Assistant Chairman Derek House, who like Tom has put heart and soul into this year’s Haunt, and spent most of the last two months working at the camp. Treasurer Lynda Walsh makes sure the books stay balanced and the bills get paid. Artists Ken Wills and Pauline Brown are responsible for much of the impressive artwork throughout the show.
Head Room Chair Paul Lanza oversees the construction and themes of each room. Concessions chair Elise Behn keeps the food stand stocked with plenty of pretzels, candy, popcorn and other goodies for our guests.
Sandy Smith ensures we have enough people to fill the myriad of required jobs each night. The omnipresent Kathy Brady, whose enthusiasm and dedication to the Jaycees is already legendary, is supervising construction and maintenance. Laureen House is doing a wonderful job with the Herculean tasks of procurement. Tom Sawran, our publicity chair, is ensuring that EVERYONE will know about our Haunted House. Keeping us fed each night the house is open is Karen Apgar, and Linda McGovern will be again be hawking our Jaycee Haunted House t-shirts.
As for me, I design our Foxboro Jaycees web site, and this year I am trying my hand at the job of Head Guide — coordinating the guides and writing the script. Assisting me are the very capable Andrea Cummings, Tami Comeau and my wife, Susan Zakhary-Gillis.
It takes a lot of people to run a Haunted House like ours. The entrance will be manned by James and Joe Gardner, followed by the gothic-clad Niki Melish. Ken Wills and Gerry McNamara have constructed an amazing twisted set for their skit. Tom Sawran and Lynda Walsh’s Haunt will take their groups deep into the Earth. Bob Hickey and Mark Emery will offer a Haunt with a decidedly literary flair.
In Bob Webster and Sandy Smith’s room, the best hint might be, “Established before you were born.” Next comes a room with a nautical flair (one of the most impressive sets we’ve done in years; think “Titanic”) by George Gould and Joe Levasseur. Last but not least is a room by Paul Lanza and Steve Holtzman, which is truly out of this world.
Haunted House veterans will also lend their hands to our “Walk-Byes” that take place between the big cabins. Our Head Electrician Dave Fisler will also will lend his talents to walk bye scares, along with Jaycee Bill Wivell and former “King of Salem” (3 years in a row) Dave Connti. Makeup artist Lauren Bitar will once again transform the Jaycees into even weirder beings. Lauren is also creating a Haunted mausoleum.
Then there are the guides; those oddly dressed, oddly named folks who take each group of ten through the Haunted paths, telling the story along the way. We love making you laugh, and we love scaring the daylights out of you. Most of all, we want to give you a good show.
And of course, there are the myriad of ticket-takers, maze monsters, and other actors behind the scenes. There are at least 100 people each night involved with running our show. We are very grateful to all of them, and also to all the local businesses that so kindly donate time and supplies.
A new feature of this year’s Haunted House is ANOTHER Haunted House. The Walpole Mall has donated an entire store to the Jaycees this month, which we are using for the new Mini-Haunt.
The Mini-Haunt, conceived and supervised by our Ways and Means VP Yvonne McNamara, is geared toward the little kids who would be too traumatized by our regular Haunted House. Located at the Walpole Mall and open every Saturday and Sunday in October from 12-6pm, the Mini-Haunt is very kid-friendly, and great for the little ones to celebrate Halloween.
We use strobe lights throughout the show and are not recommended for little children.
Oh, and as an incentive to come see us, here’s an answer to one of the quiz questions:
Question: How many people visit the Foxboro Jaycees Haunted House each year and say, “You’re better than Spooky World?”
Answer: “All of them.”
Come see the Jaycees Haunted House in October. We’re better than ever.