What do you mean you work at a Haunted House? Ok, Ok, I’ll use the term “work” in a different sense here. I started volunteering at Wells Township Haunted House in Brilliant, Ohio, back in the fall of 2011, making this, 2021, my 11th haunt season.
Originally, my younger brother volunteered there in 2010 while still in high school and while he tried to convince me to join, I thought it would have been a waste of time as a “cool” college freshman at that point. Fast forward to the fall of 2011. He kept asking me to come down one night to work there with him. I have always loved Halloween but was way too self-conscious to allow people I don’t know to put me in costuming and makeup and then have me act out a role I would have to learn on the same night. I had never been part of plays or theater, but knew I needed community service hours for my sorority, so I finally caved and went down for the night. It’s just one night, right? I could put my pride aside, keep to myself, and lay low. No problem here!
Fate had different plans. I showed up with my brother, who seemed to know everyone there and I was quickly introduced to more people than I could keep track of. It was a whirlwind of people running in every direction. Some people looked normal. Then, of course, I saw Michael Myers. Some of the staff was half in costumes, while others were in line to have their haunt makeup done. Speaking of makeup, this was also the first time I had been around that much “blood,” so, needless to say, that is when the realization hit that, “This is it; I can’t turn back now.”
I quickly went through makeup and costuming and headed to my room where I was taught my very easy part. I was so nervous! Let me tell you though that by the end of the night I was having an absolute blast and, basically, became good friends with all the other actors in my room. From that night on, I knew it was more than just volunteering at a haunted house – I was in love.
I really dove into the haunted house in 2012. In the summer I would spend all night there preparing, building and decorating rooms for the upcoming haunt season. See, Wells Township is very different from a lot of other haunted attractions. For one, the environment when you show up is like you’re attending the coolest concert/party of the season. You don’t have to wait in line to enter and instead get a group number. While waiting for your group to be called, there is plenty to do. We have a second attraction called “Z Tag” where you and your friends do everything you can to not get “infected” by zombies. We have a live band every night as well as burn barrels to keep you warm, a concession stand with a large selection and even a gift shop with all the haunted house apparel you could need. We are also the only guided haunted tour in the tri-state area. That means that we are not a “walk through” haunt where you go in as a group and find your way out alone.
At Wells Township, you have a tour guide who will take you room to room for a theatrical production which always ends in a frightening twist. It is definitely more a theatrical show than walk through scenes. The best part is, these rooms you watch unfold sprout from the minds of our volunteer staff. We have such a variety of workers from ages 13 all the way to 75! So, the ideas vary, and everyone pitches in to make that room idea come to life.
Wells is also one of a kind because each year you attend will be completely different from the previous. At the end of each season, we gut the old rooms and, come spring, begin working and building the new ones with the new ideas. Each year you can inadvertently visit a “different” haunt at the same location. This shows our drive and passion, which has won us many awards in the haunt industry! Just in the 2020 haunt season alone, the reputable “Scare Factor” haunt review team that travels all over the country awarded Wells Township with Most Unique Scare, Most Original Character, and Best Entertainment and Value.
The amount of passion that goes into this is unlike any I’d seen before. I guess I should retouch on the fact that we are all volunteers. Not a single worker or even the owner profits from the proceeds of the house. We are an entirely nonprofit organization. All the money that we do make goes back into the house for the following year. The haunted house also donates to various little leagues and clubs and, during the winter months, sponsors dances for grades four through six at the Buckeye Local Elementary schools as part of their D.A.R.E. program. That program is run by the same person who runs the haunted house, Capt. Sean Norman of the Wells Township Police Department.
We also have a program most used for high school/college sports, clubs and National Honor Society students. Even adult groups and charities can benefit from our program. If you can get 10 volunteers from your group, whether that be coworkers, fellow athletes or club participants, to volunteer for a night of working, then we will donate $250 to your organization for whatever needs you may have!
The money has also been used toward the house in ways that let our volunteers grow. In March of 2016, I was one of the lucky few selected to go to the TransWorld Haunt Convention for a long weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, and I have also attended the Midwest Haunters Convention, formerly in Columbus, Ohio, where I was able to take various makeup, acting and room designing classes.
While I have grown much as a person over the last decade between graduating college, getting married, buying a house, and having a child, my love and commitment to this organization is something that’s stayed consistent in my life. Having a family and a full-time job as well as various other commitments has made me take a step back from the all-nighters I used to commit to. I currently serve as a seventh-year makeup artist as well as the acting coach whose job is to watch the scenes throughout the night and direct actors on how to deliver that award-winning performance. I am only able to do this with the love and support of my family (who yes, are also volunteers – it’s a whole family affair).
The people I’ve met through this organization are incredible and some of the greatest and most accepting friends who I now consider family. We’ve all been in each other’s weddings, traveled together, and are always finding ways to be involved. I could never put into words how much volunteering at a haunted house has changed my life. As weird as it sounds and as strange of looks as I get when I say I volunteer at one, I would not change a single thing about it.
Happy spooky season everyone and please feel free to visit us! And who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love like I did and be our next volunteer.