OCONOMOWOC — Each year for 10 days in October, 60 to 80 people volunteer at Wisconsin’s largest haunted attraction, Haunted High.
Located in the old Oconomowoc Middle School building at 550 E. Forest St., Haunted High will celebrate its fourth and final year this year.
The Oconomowoc Public Education Foundation (OPEF) has hosted Haunted High since 2009 as a fundraiser. Proceeds from the haunt fund grants for materials, equipment and projects in the Oconomowoc Area School District not funded through the district budget. Nearly a quarter of a million dollars in profit have been earned during the first three years of Haunted High, with $150,000 put toward grants in the district.
Once Haunted High closes, OPEF will continue its mission in the district through tax-deductible donations and other fundraisers, OPEF volunteer Katie Miller said.
Even with the end of Haunted High looming, the ghoul’s spirits have not dampened. They’ve dubbed 2012 Haunted High’s Senior Year, and are just as excited about their last season of haunts as they’ve been for years previous.
To help celebrate the state’s largest haunt, the Daily Times got a look behind the scenes during Haunted High’s dress rehearsal Tuesday night.
The costumes and many of the animatronics used in the haunt are donated by buycostumes.com, a Halloween costume website, Miller said.
A room at the back of the building, known as the volunteer staging area, houses tables for volunteer check-in and a room where masks of all shapes, sizes and creatures hang on poles.
After checking in, volunteers suit up and head to the make-up area down the hall, which used to serve as the middle school office. Once inside, volunteers do each other’s make-up, or do their own. Alexis Traxler, a first-year volunteer, will perform the role of Bloody Mary in the greenhouse.
Dressed all in white, Traxler sat still while four-year volunteer Kim Foust ran a sponge with white face paint over her cheeks, forehead, nose and chin. Traxler decided to volunteer this yeair because a friend said she would be perfect for the part of Bloody Mary, and she thought it would be fun.
Becoming one of the 60-80 ghouls who volunteer each night is as easy as filling out an online application, choosing dates to volunteer and showing up, Miller said. Haunted High accommodates anyone who wants to be involved, whether people want to scare the pants off entrants, or do behind the scenes work like park cars and patrol the exterior of the building. The only caveat is age — volunteers must be at least 14 years old to participate.
Volunteers also decide what they want to dress up as, so people who volunteer multiple nights need not be the same character each night, which is one of the greatest things about Haunted High to Tamara Hauck, Haunted High project coordinator and a member of OPEF’s board of directors.
“Every single night is different, because it all depends on who the volunteers are, how creative they are, how many we have, so that’s why a lot of people come to Haunted High four or five times,” Hauck said. “It’s not a scripted play where the words are the same and the motion is the same.”
When Haunted High started in 2009, it took up 40,000 square feet of the abandoned middle school, Hauck said. Each year, more features have been added, culminating in 80,000 square feet of spooky high school scenes for 2012. New frights include triage in the hell-th room, the paranormal principal’s office, prom in the haunted auditorium and a grave yard graduation. These features will add to the existing scenes in the dot room, cannibals cafeteria, tunnel of terror, cellar of crazed lunacy and treacherous tech ed. room.
The rooms fall into various zones of the haunt, which are designed at the outset and staffed each night by a zone director. The zone directors run their designated areas, putting actors in place before the haunt and serving as the zone’s go-to authority.
During an actual haunt, the characters can roam with some limitations throughout their zones to frighten patrons and take short breaks if they have replacements for their posts.
While it may seem all spooks and games, Haunted High volunteers put safety above all else. Each night during the haunt, four vested fire watchers will patrol the zones keeping an eye out for sparks, smoke or small fires. The Waukesha Sheriff’s Department will also have officers on the grounds to protect the building and its ghouls.
Before the haunt starts each night, the volunteers meet as a large group to go over safety precautions. Tuesday the Oconomowoc Fire Department performed its annual fire inspection of the haunt, which included an evacuation of the building. Members of the fire department spoke with the spooks during their meeting, and described how the evacuation would take place and what people were supposed to do.
Oct. 27 will be the final night Haunted High terrifies and delights entrants. The former middle school building was purchased, and will soon be developed, Miller said, leaving Haunted High without the school setting that has made it so unique.
Until then, the characters of Haunted High have focused on their coming season of scares, ready to provide patrons with an experience they aren’t likely to forget.
Admission: $15, Fast Pass $23.
Dates: Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20 and 25-27.
Ages: 14 and over or 10-13 if accompanied by an adult.
Ticket desk opens at 6:30 p.m. Haunts run from 7 to 10:30 p.m.
“Lights On” Day Oct. 14: From noon to 3 p.m. for ages 6-12 if accompanied by an adult. Cost is $5.
Gosling Night Oct. 12-13: Students from the Watertown Unified School District will receive $3 off admission to Haunted High. Students will need to show their school identification card to receive the discount.