Ex-Yankee, Jr. Chamber Commerce VP – Haunted Houses were greatest fun, collaboration, and skill builder

There’s a house in Monroe that is the epitome of Halloween greatness. Our Junior Chamber edition grew to over 150 panels, and single greatest scarer was Jason with a Chainsaw – you could hear it the whole time, you just didn’t know when it would be your turn.

Having a successful Haunted House was great for group morale throughout the run. Documenting the process (Chairman’s Planning Guides) proved early on how necessary the paperwork is in successful companies – the ability to repeat Success is in the details.

I recently took advantage of a community group’s Oyster Roast (Two tickets – $75, beverages free) return to annual lineup of events on Saturday, and a small sigh still escapes when I see particularly well-done Halloween decorated porches in my #gshorkonsharonroadseam neighborhood.

During Junior Chamber of Commerce days of long ago, our chapter (Albany, NY) produced six memorable Houses, all at different malls, with unique setups.

Improving the skills of our members, making them better workers for their companies, capable of handling different situations, was always my organizational goal as Community Development VP. Doing -thons of various kinds are common for many groups, Haunted House was our biggest fundraiser, an All Hands on Deck! collaboration for most of six weeks, involving engineering-hard core construction, planning, food supply, characters, and community-scholastic support.

Many people don’t know that the PGA tour stop long known as The Greater Greensboro Open, was originally a Jaycee project.

This was one of 23 documented projects our chapter worked on, earning three State-level awards, in my Community Development VP year. Having a successful Haunted House was great for group morale throughout the annual run, and documenting the process (Chairman’s Planning Guides) proved early on how necessary the paperwork is in successful companies – the ability to repeat Success is in the details.

Greatest Scare #1- Jason with Chainsaw

The kid hit every wall on the way out.‘ Even wiseguys are willing to pay a couple bucks to see how great a Haunted House is, and sometimes they try messing up a good time along the way. The walkie-talkie message “Get this kid” was unnecessary – one-on-one, I never missed a Diss-er.

Looking through the blinds into a blood-splattered shower Psycho scene, the disser was right in guessing there was someone, me, in the area behind the shower, but I knew he wouldn’t DARE open the door to find out. We had a strobe light linked to that door opening, and after waiting an extra couple seconds, kicking it open and charging out with that chainsaw going, it really didn’t matter what I said behind the hockey mask (“Not so cool NOW, are you punk?!”). He was crabbing backward until I backed up a step, then he hit every wall in second half of the House running out.

It was the topic of much discussion at pizza break, who had gotten that kid, and its always been a point of pride, keeping my Never Missed rep.

Okay, Year Two, when a young black girl (factual) got similar treatment, she’d just had something to say to three witches, the end of House was in sight, then I boosted myself on a railing, and was about nine feet tall, waving that chainsaw. The girl did a full 3-second movie scream and was GONE.

Group Scare, Nine Pancaked People

7 Girls, 2 high school guys were on floor, 5 characters kept them screaming. Again, Jason with Chainsaw was big factor, plenty of fog machine, mirrored back wall, and strobe were great – I was actually running in place and yelling. While that was usually enough, a bunch of Key Club-ers were also there, and every one (person in grave, Dracula, Frankenstein lurching from a wall, a zombie popping up next to the group) were joyful about having a piece of getting their friends flat on the floor. The two guys who climbed over the girls to escape, LOL.

Best lessons learned, #1, 2

While a terrific success financially and creatively, the fact that everyone came down with wicked sore throats (and still showed up) was an obvious challenge, and wiping down-disinfecting each sweaty mask at every break was the solution forever after. That we’d had *loose leaves and electrical cord* throughout our first House was stunning in retrospect. The setup-walking space was tight, if there had been an emergency, it probably would have been a disaster.

Early in Year 2, the Town of Colonie showed us zoning laws-fire ordinances still needed to be obeyed, when they tore down a nights work of covering the windows in an old Burger King location with dark paper. We wound up having to paint a lot of glass black, but weekend days were still a lot lighter, though props held up well.

Amazing how younger kids wanted to come in, but were definitely scared of the monsters. We gave the little ones lollipops or small plastic spider rings to show to monsters “and they’ll be nice.” Parents loved the creativity and energy.

Great Engineering-Construction

FLYING WITCHES!! Having a couple engineers-architect types in the group is helpful in making things work. For the Witches, it was filling three-50 gal. drums with water (counter-balance) and having a supply of smaller HS girls willing to be hooked up and go about 30x a shift. The cable they were hitched to didn’t need to be a steep incline, just keep them moving, and a light flashed on them going past, with the accompanying cackle and witchlike behavior in a 10′ view.

One drawback: A couple times the required ‘catchers’ didn’t do their job, and the witches came through the black cloth at end and crashed into a barrier only 6 feet later. Trying to protect themselves, the girls came through with knees up, it was a little something extra to watch out for in the relative dark.

Safety is always paramount, touching isn’t allowed. While residents of Insane Asylum could reach from behind rebar to within inches of passing viewers, nobody grabbed even a school buddy, and no-touch works both ways. Workers ‘inside’ featured rooms have to know escape routes for any emergencies.

FOOD!

Considering the amount of time and personnel necessary for construction, free food is an economic necessity. Because most Jaycees were coming from work, being able to grab some chow on breaks was necessary. McDonalds was willing to have someone pick up a bunch of burgers at specific times, pizza-donuts-cookies-soda were always around. Thankfully, mall food court merchants were always generous, Haunted House was always a traffic builder – kids bring parents with $$$.

Having people on the phones willing to ask strangers for food was a big job, like a constant three person job determining the when and how much we were able to get ahold of for a month of thirty-plus people daily.

COLLABORATION TO THE MAX

Stating that the collaboration of efforts and leadership skills – sharpened in the reality of projects and available for years thereafter – is always going to be my #1 “You should try” advice about Junior Chamber activity, thats REAL effective networking. Having that link, being part of a specific cadre of talents that brought events together for a greater good, that counted in all my professional accounts going forwards.

Often quoted in complaint, ‘Getting volunteers to move the right way is like herding cats,’ isn’t wrong.

The Haunted House construction was always a terrific challenge, with a whole trailer-load of props to utilize, and the screaming and scaring was the payoff. Knowing how great the gig was (again) versus thinking it would be economically beneficial to our chapter was #1 Attitude.

The chapter had lots of bankers (Key Bank), and was a ‘rebuild’ of what had been a 300 member (Metro size) Albany Chapter that divided into three smaller groups. Albany had some history, being in that initial dozen or so, some previous ‘Roosters’ (past age 39) provided direction, and we carried forward. Continuing good handoffs help the community and the helpers.

Yay! for seasonal Halloween scaring, for the houses that decorate, and may there be a Haunted House for the kids and you to enjoy in 2022.

Haunted House tours often began with the Psychic, who told worried kids that she foresaw a time they might use a lollipop to make the monsters be nice.

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