Halls of Terror Opening October 14

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by Melissa R. Collum 

When walking through the “Halls” in the daylight it is evident there is a great deal that will terrify those who dare to progress through the maze of hideous clowns, body strewn coffins, and long dark hallways. Unanticipated twists and turns make moving through the “Halls” a petrifying experience.

Nate and Nick Gilbert have been hosting the Halls of Terror for 15 years. Originally founded by Shawn Redman, the brothers started as ‘scare volunteers’ and then helped to build sets in the off season. When Redman decided to retire from the ‘scare business’ the Gilbert brothers, along with Dan Morris, took over. Over the last 15 years the Gilberts estimate they have invested $10s of thousands of dollars in the “Halls” to make improvements and up the ‘scare factors’.

“We have changed it up quite a bit this year” state the Gilberts. “The new stuff is mixed in with some classic stuff we have done in the past. There are a lot of new experiences.” Drop down windows leading to phantoms, ghouls and terrifying images are placed around the venue to make even a ‘safe’ looking corner spine chilling. There are unexpected high platforms where “scarers” will jump up or reach out to passers-by – calling your name, if they know you. The funeral hall festooned with a real pump organ that leads to a new room. Not give the ‘terror’ away but be ready!

Volunteers from the police and fire departments, as well as friends, staff the Halls of Terror,both as ‘scarers’ and behind the scenes workers. All of the proceeds, after expenses, are donated to the police and fire department, and other community events; such as Concert on the River. During COVID years the Gilberts paid for the event out of their own pockets, because there was no revenue from the previous years.

The Halls of Terror are equipped with back doors and escape exits so patrons can be ushered out if they are too petrified to continue on through  theexperience. All the staff have radios to communicate if things go awry. There are multiple cameras monitoring peoples progress through the Halls, both for safety and scare opportunities. The Gilberts estimate that between three and five people a season need to be helped from the Halls.

In an average season over 1,000 people come through the Halls of Terror. People come from all around the upper mid-west. “Don’t let the line deceive you. It moves pretty fast. There is plenty to do while you are waiting,” state the Gilbert brothers. “We have bonfires, music, and sometimes we even show an old black and white movie. If it is cold out, we set up heaters and tents. There are even ‘scarers’ outside, so people don’t get bored while they are waiting. Waiting in line is half the fun.” Many people come through multiple times, especially the local teenagers. 

The off season is spent building new rooms, updating existing ones, all to improve the scare experience. There is a great deal of technical know-how implemented to make things scream, move, cackle, or even shoot blasts of air. The Gilberts follow online forums and talk to other people who run haunted houses to gather ideas for improving the scare game each year.

The Halls of Terror have been rated as one of the ‘Top Ten Discover Wisconsin Haunted Houses’ in the Mid-west and is highlighted destination by the Wisconsin Tourism Board. They are one of only three haunted houses in Wisconsin to be listed in a nationwide Haunted House book. “We are not just a mom and pop haunted house, we are considered a professional haunted house. There are a lot of ‘pop haunted houses’ around, that are not run right, so it gives the industry a bad name,” the Gilberts articulate. “We have been around long enough that we know what we are doing, it’s not like we are throwing together things are the last minute.”

The Halls of Terror opens October 14 from 7-10:30 p.m. and runs every Friday and Saturday through the end of October. They will also be open Halloween night. Special events include ‘Lights on Kid Friendly Day” Saturday October 29 from 1-3:00 p.m., there is a reduced entrance fee for children for this event. A Kid’s Costume event, hosted by Scream Xtreme, will also be held, more details can be found on the Halls of Terror website or on Facebook at ‘Halls of Terror in PDC’.

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