We are nearly halfway to Halloween, and as we begin to see an end to the pandemic, haunts everywhere are testing the waters with off season events. In this podcast Flo and John from the Mohican Haunted Schoolhouse take us on a journey from their roots and home haunting to their upcoming April 24th event, Send In The Clowns.
A Brief History
John and Flo started as home haunters. As many of us did. Eventually, something pushed them over the edge.
Flow: “In 2012, Hurricane Sandy came along and suddenly it didn’t seem so much fun doing all that tear down and set up and dealing with weather and parking. So we decided we wanted to go indoors. We approached our city about doing a charity haunt, and we got the groan on the phone when we said what we wanted to do. So, we moved on to start looking at empty storefronts. We’d call on all of them, and when we told them what we wanted to do, we got more groans on the phone. So we opened up the perimeter of where we were going to look.”
They looked through a few places, but didn’t quite find the right fit until one fateful public auction.
Flow: “In 2014, this building went to public auction and we got it. After two years of permits, inspections, and contractors, we opened in 2016”
A few years in, a friend gave them a name suggestion that would stick.
Flow: “Kelly Collins said to us, Hey, you know what, why don’t you capitalize on the location, and that it is a school house? So with that, it became Mohican Haunted Schoolhouse, officially, in 2019. So this will be our sixth year of being open, and it’s been an interesting, journey.”
Reopening During the Pandemic
John: “2020 was very interesting. The big pressure for us was always, we don’t want to be the haunt that’s going to screw it up for the other haunts. We don’t want to do something that’s going to get a bad rap, that’s going to make something come on the news. We didn’t want to be that haunt that was going to be a hindrance to the other haunts that were working hard, as well, to be open.”
John and Flow took all the precautions we’re familiar with. Masks, spacing, one way paths, plexiglass… But then, the staff. They sat everyone down and asked…
John: “Are you guys on board with wanting to do it? Are we even crazy for asking? And most of them were very quick – ‘Oh yeah we’re on board with this thing. We get it. We’ll all have to wear a mask. Whatever we think personally, we just have to do it to get through it’, and they were all on board.
We really amazed ourselves with how smoothly we ran the people through and we didn’t have the bottlenecks that we normally had, even with lower numbers in the past. We learned a lot this year and we thought we did pretty good for what it was with the restrictions that we had in place.
It’s easy to say, let’s just shut down. But where are you going to get $36,000 to carry you through a year of sitting? And then you have to make it the next year. As a small business, we just had to try everything we could. And people were still having a fun time. The families came through, and you could hear them as they were getting in their cars going, ‘Oh my God, we haven’t been able to do anything all year long. This was so great to come out in the little family group and do something like this’. So, that made us feel pretty good for all the extra money and work that we had to do.”
Send in the Clowns – An Entire Haunt with Only Clowns
The Send in the Clowns event was originally planned for 2020, but it had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. The event is back for 2021 and scheduled for Saturday, April 24th from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
John: “Last year, we had so many people that wanted to come guest act. And then at the same time I had people messaging me saying, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got a fear of clowns and there’s no way you’re going to get me there’. And all these people are messaging me about how they could never survive coming to a haunt that was nothing but clowns. Seriously, who messages you, that you couldn’t make an event like that? And I’m thinking, probably they would be there or their friends would drag them there. So it was comical that like, a month ahead of time, we were getting all this feedback about this one event, just about the clowns.”
Plans for the 2021 Halloween Season
Flow: “We’re hoping to do our third Rat Rod Hearse show. And that’s a car show that’s usually on a Saturday afternoon in September. Then we will officially open for every Friday and Saturday night, probably seven to 11. And that will start September 24th and run through October 30th.
We are going to do something a little fun on Halloween night. All the ambience of Halloween, the lights, the sound, the fog, the props, but we won’t have the scare actors. So, the people who really want to see it, but don’t like being chased by chainsaws, can enjoy the haunt. We’re going to do that October 31st, probably a six to nine.”
John: “A lot of the actors will be placed around just to watch the people go through. So, a lot of them will not be in costume to scare them, but will be there to guide them because they’re still going to go through like a normal haunt.
We’re going to have timed ticketing, groups are going to go through, but we’re just going to have our people all over the place to make sure everyone’s going to walk through and not have an issue.
Sometimes it’s just really creepy going through a haunt with it running, but with no one jumping out at you. And we have people that back out of it normally when you’re thinking, ‘what the heck, that’s not that scary in that room’. But to them, they need a doorway out. So we’ll still have the actors, they’re just not dressed up. They’ll be scattered throughout to keep an eye on the guests to make sure they make it out okay.”
Black Friday & Christmas Plans
Flow: “We’d like to have the haunt open. So it would be low light, some glow sticks, and that might be fun. And then we’re also thinking of doing our holiday horror show again this year. We didn’t do it last year, but it’s a takeoff on some of the Christmas themes – like A Christmas Story, Ralphie really did shoot his eye out. We had a good time in the one year we did do it. So we think we’ll bring that back for a Saturday.”
John & Flow are Ready for 2021
John: “This season, I think we’re still going to be working, dealing with COVID. I know people’s mentality is going to be trying to get away from it. I think we’re still going to have to have safeguards in place for this Fall, maybe not quite as crazy as last year, but whatever it is, when Fall hits, we’ll be ready for it.”