Downtown DeLand is host to a haunted house this Halloween season for the first time in more than a decade, reviving a frightening annual tradition that for years was upheld by the DeLand Jaycees.
Two powerhouse community organizations — the Rotary Club of DeLand and the MainStreet DeLand Association — have come together to create Haunted Hollow in the 5,500-square-foot Artisan Alley Garage at 113 W. Georgia Ave.
It joins the Sorosis Club’s annual haunted house, a 41-year tradition in Orange City, in the lineup of major Halloween events in West Volusia. Anthony DeFeo’s roundup of those events is on Pages 6A and 7A.
Downtown DeLand’s Haunted Hollow opened Oct. 23 and will be open nightly, except Sunday, through Halloween on Thursday, Oct. 31. The $10 admission price will raise funds for charitable and community-building works by both sponsor organizations.
Dozens of volunteers worked long days to create the terrifying multi-room adventure inside Artisan Alley Garage, using more than 220 sheets of plywood to build a maze-like 452 feet of walls inside the historic 1925 brick building.
Features sure to scare include the DaVinci Devil, a torture room, a mad scientist’s laboratory, a butcher shop (for human cuts only, of course), a jack-in-the-box clown, and Persimmon Sanitarium, among others.
Along the western edge of the garage is the “mild side,” a smaller, briefer, less-frightening tour for children and the faint of heart, offering pumpkins, friendly ghosts, a pirate ship and well-mannered mummies, for example.
“It’s amazing what the community has done,” project co-chairwoman Brittany Gloersen said.
Taking a break from the frenetic building activity inside the garage to give a quick tour, Gloersen made her way around volunteers busily painting props, assembling graves, shaping skeletons and hanging spiders.
Gloersen, like the other volunteers, was also taking a break from her regular job as a partner in DeLand’s Landis Graham French law firm. An associate helped her keep up with clients, and Gloersen checked emails and answered questions from co-workers between bouts of creating horrors.
Similarly, dozens of other volunteers were juggling paid-work responsibilities and their desire to help create an “epic haunted-house experience” to raise money for a good cause.
“Whatever the need, I’m here for the duration,” said “Backyard” Billy Scheurich, who translated volunteers’ visions for the haunted house into a construction layout and building-materials list, then stayed on to help put it all together.
Waylan Niece was nearby, fashioning spiderwebs with a shop vac and a glue gun.
“I had to take a couple of days off work so I can make sure this happens,” said Niece, director of operations at The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, one of many nonprofit organizations that will benefit from the venture.
Ken Goldberg of Goldberg Construction joined Scheurich, Jay Linkogle, Billy Calkins and other West Volusia construction-industry notables to build Haunted Hollow. Goldberg estimated that at least $10,000 worth of skilled construction labor was donated.
“Most of these people are professionals at what they do,” Goldberg said, indicating the volunteers who included, for example, Rachel Hernandez and Kelly Canova, professional artists who wielded brushes to create Haunted Hollow’s creepy interiors.
Especially remarkable, Gloersen and co-chair Melisa Reed said, were connections with professional prop-builders and set-designers that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Gloersen was at a Rotary event when she started talking to a new Rotarian about the haunted house.
As it turns out, he was Mike Davy of DeBary, a professional makeup artist who has turned people into monsters for Universal Studios’ famous Halloween Horror Nights. He volunteered to help.
“It’s been one of those things where just synergy aligned,” Gloersen said.
That special spooky synergy also brought Haunted Hollow the set-design expertise of massage therapist and life coach Joe Drogo, a recent transplant to Lake Helen who ran haunted houses as a business in Pennsylvania.
Reed, a Downtown DeLand business owner and former MainStreet DeLand Association president, met a woman who mentioned that her husband is a professional Central Florida prop and set designer with Dynamic Design International. That chance connection blessed Haunted Hollow with the detailed, creepy creations of Darren Perks, including a zombie mermaid, the DaVinci Devil and others.
“The most special thing is how many people have come together for the greater good of the community,” Reed said.
The fun will be multiplied 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, when Georgia Avenue, on the south end of Haunted Hollow, doubles as the venue for the Rotary Club of DeLand’s reformed Glamour & Gore party.
The ticket price to this costume party for revelers age 21 and older has been reduced to $25, and admission to Haunted Hollow is included. Details and tickets are available at www.hauntedhollowdeland.com.