Haunt season will soon be here, and organizers of the Night Watch Haunt in Hillsville will be giving a preview of their “sick and twisted” world with the Labor Day Blackout from Sept. 4-6.
Held at the Old Jail House on 117 Mill Street in Hillsville, the Labor Day Blackout will be held from 7-11 p.m. each night from Sept. 4-6 for $5 per person. For those who love Halloween as much as the Night Watch Haunt cast, that event will hopefully be enough to tie scare fans over until the official Haunt Season, which will be held Fridays and Saturdays from Sept. 25-Oct. 31 from 7:30-11 p.m. for $10 per person.
“This is such a blast. We just do this because we love it, and we’re sick – sick and twisted, in the best possible way,” said Lesley Catron, a member of the “Barn Crew” who puts on the events. “We all have daytime jobs. This is our hobby. This is our passion, so we really give it everything.”
Featuring scare talent from surrounding counties, the Night Watch Haunt is actually the original cast of the Haunted Major Graham Mansion. With a crew of 25-30 during the Night Watch Haunt season and about half that for the Labor Day Blackout, the Hillsville haunted jail house will include such terrifying characters as Ingaborg Twitch, Deetur Hawksworth, the Night Watchman, The Creeper, and Father Frances Giovanni.
“Everybody used to be at Graham’s Haunted Mansion. We are the original cast. And so it is really cool to take all those people that were out there that were making all that happen and putting them into one little, tiny space,” Catron said. “I like it because I like to see them busting at the seams. I like being able to make the most out of it and make it explode.”
Scaring is an art form for the Barn Crew, which consists of Catron, her husband Scott, Angela and Carter Pennington, Will Lawson, Scott Nichols, Jock Songer, and Chris DeHart. Almost all costumes, prosthetics and props are their own creations.
“This is our art. It’s not a business,” Catron said. “We do this because we love it.”
When asked how Night Watch Haunt rated from 1 to 10 on a scariness level, Catron replied, “Eleven.” The event’s flyers say the haunts are for ages 18 and up, but the group also doesn’t want to exclude anyone.
“We hope to welcome everybody. If parents want to come out and bring the kiddies, we warn them that it is not going to be your everyday haunt, but we also don’t want to terrify. We want to scare, but we don’t want to traumatize anybody,” she said. “We want everybody to come out and have a good time. I hear a lot of parents talking about ‘Well, we would love to come out, but we have the kids.’ Bring the kids. We will take care of them.”
The difference between the Labor Day Blackout and Haunt Season is that the Labor Day event will only utilize the lower floor. The upper floor is saved for the full haunt. But Labor Day Blackout is titled such because those brave enough to enter the old jail will go in to complete darkness.
“We give each group one glow-stick and hope that you will have it when you get out. We have monsters strategically placed all throughout the darkness to elevate your fears. They may be there, they may not. That is the fun of the darkness,” Catron said. “During the full haunt though you will go upstairs and down. We will have plenty of monsters all about.”
But be warned, Catron said the Labor Day Blackout will still have plenty of scares. It will also take nearly as long since you will be in the dark. And for those who have come in the past, everything inside has changed this year.
“We took down every wall that was in there so those hardcore people that came through last year that think they know the route, they are in for a rude awakening,” Catron said.
Additionally, a haunt will be held at the old jail for Safe Halloween. Cost will be $2 and Catron said it would be watered down and less scary for the younger kids.
The group also wants to give back to the community. During each of its haunt events, they will be collecting canned food items for the Food Pantry at the First United Methodist Church. Additionally, she said the group would like to open up vendor spaces for local organizations.
“We have enough room for concessions and things like that. And instead of hiring vendors to come out and sell hot dogs and things like that, I want the public, the boy scouts, the football team, the schools, the choirs, I want them to come out and maybe take that opportunity to raise money for their organization,” Catron said.
The owner of Hillsville’s Hair Shack, Catron is excited about the Night Watch Haunt, but also the direction Hillsville is going toward. The Inaugural Chili Shootout in October has the potential to be a great fall festival-type event, she said. There are new things in the works for Safe Halloween and she is also hoping to incorporate an event similar to the Zombie Run that will be held Oct. 24 in Wytheville.
“They start on one end of Main Street in Wytheville and they have zombies placed all down Main Street and have the runners go through it sort of like a flag football-type thing. It was really fun and I would really like to implement something like that in Hillsville,” she said. “I hope to bring all these things in to Hillsville and really blow up October to have something different in town and something for people to do, something to bring the kids out to, something for the teenagers to do.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN