Foxboro's haunted house is full of tricks and treats

Allison Manning

Carving pumpkins, eating more than your share of candy corn and encountering ghouls, goblins and dismembered body parts at a haunted house all spell October on the South Shore.

It’s the month where front yards become ancient graveyards, kids turn into Ninjas, witches and Disney characters and high school gyms, homes and houses are remade as treacherous labyrinths, with horrors around every corner.

The Orpheum Theatre on School Street shuts down programming for September to prepare the graveyards, torture chambers and maze-like pathways that around 3,000 scared kids and adults will traverse through this month. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year, Orpheum executive director Bill Cunningham said, staffed almost entirely by volunteers.

"Some people just love it,'' he said, as a masked and bloodied butcher emerged from backstage, requesting cough drops. Incessant hollering isn’t easy on the throat.

Foxboro resident Lauren Bitar manned one of the last rooms in the theatre’s journey, standing armed with a knife over a skeleton.

"I love Halloween,'' said Bitar, who has been part of the haunting for 20 years. "Lots of screams … that’s what we do it for.''

This is the third year the house has been set up at the Orpheum, and the first year since 1988 the Foxboro Jaycees aren’t participating. For 20 years, the group held the horror at other facilities, including Foxboro State Hospital.

High school drama departments from Foxboro, Sharon and King Phillip will all spend a night as the characters lurking and limping behind those shuffling through, with the Orpheum making a donation to each group for their help.

A self-guided tour, those brave enough to enter the backstage are left on their own to feel their way around the eight-room maze. Foxboro 11-year-olds Merry Gilreath, Hayley Callahan and Kerri O’Halloran argued over who would lead the way into the darkness, eventually convincing this reporter to head the group.

White knuckled, the girls gripped one another as clowns chased them through a strobe-lit room and zombies screamed at them to leave.

The girls shrieked and shouted their way through the windy staircases guarded by ghouls and past the theatre ghost throwing popcorn before rushing out and meeting friend Liz Holmes, 11, who decided at the last minute to stay safe on the outside.

"I’m too scared,'' said Holmes, who went three years ago. "I’m scared out of my wits.''

All three girls said the element of surprise, like a bloodied zombie popping out of a coffin, was scarier than torture victims hanging on meat hooks or other ghastly sights. But for each of them, the most frightening was the clown.

"The evil, stupid clown,'' Gilreath said. "He kept hitting me with his plastic foot.''

If you go ...

What: Haunted Theatre

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1 School St., Foxboro

When:Through Oct. 26. Fridays and Saturdays, tours from 7-10:30 p.m.; Sundays tours 7-10 p.m.

How much: $10 (not recommended for children younger than 10). Call 508-543-2787, Ext. 4

The Patriot Ledger