Every October since 2005, Brussels has gotten a little scarier.
That’s thanks to a group of dedicated community members who have turned Quietwoods South Campground into the Southern Door Haunted Mansion, an event that raises money for Southern Door Schools.
Every year at the end of September they weave corn stalks into a snow fence, transform an outdoor pavilion into a spooky haunted mansion and design new thrills to scare the thousands of visitors who make their way through every year.
“Every year the house itself is different,” said Sue Marchant, one of the lead volunteers. “Different hallways, different rooms, different everything.”
The mansion gets a little less scary between 5:30 and 6:30 pm for “lights up” hours meant for children and those not ready for the real creepy ghosts and ghouls in the regular mansion.
“There are a lot of adults that go through with lights up,” Marchant said. “They pretend they have children in their arms like that’s the reason, but we know better.”
The mansion is haunted by volunteers, many of them students logging hours for groups that get a chunk of the proceeds. The more volunteer hours a group works, the more money they get.
Last year, the Southern Door Haunted Mansion raised $22,487, and donated it to local schools for art, athletics and music programs and to school clubs such as Future Farmers of America and the Math Team.
It takes 140 volunteers to haunt the mansion for the 1,000 visitors who go on an average night.
It doesn’t just take zombies and ghouls to make the Haunted Mansion so successful. Volunteers also run security, drive buses, serve food, help actors get into character and more.
“I think it’s held on for so long because of the community members that have been running it,” Marchant said. “We have become a very close-knit group. We work well together, and of course we’re always looking for others to join us.”
Four thousand people went through the Southern Door Haunted Mansion in 2012 – almost four times as many as the first year. The volunteers keep some of the money to invest in spooky props, like a dummy in an electric chair, that expand the mansion every year.
“We’re not afraid to go out on a limb purchasing things,” Marchant said. “We do keep money back for building the next year. But sometimes we have enough in the fund, like two years ago when we gave away all the money we earned.”
This weekend, Oct. 25 and 26, is the last opportunity to visit the Southern Door Haunted Mansion. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $20 for “RIP” admission (which allows you to bypass lines), and $6 for “lights up” admission. The simulated burial is $3 extra. For more information, pictures and a volunteer training video, log on to hauntedmansionsoutherndoor.com.