With the building now in the hands of a new corporation, Haunted Sawmill, LLC, Merrill Boy Scout Troop 599 is proud to continue the third annual Haunted Sawmill. The shows start this year on Friday, Oct. 18 and runs through the first weekend in November.
The Haunted Sawmill has quickly become one of the premier haunted houses in the Midwest and its Scare Crew prides itself on scaring you silly. You can find the Haunted Sawmill at 700 Hendricks St. in Merrill at the old Northern Specialty Company factory in Merrill. Come and be terrified out of your mind on the following dates: Friday, Oct. 18, Saturday, Oct. 19, Friday, Oct. 25, Saturday, Oct. 26, Halloween – Thursday, Oct. 31, Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 2. The doors of the Haunted Sawmill open at 6 p.m. for the evening shows.
The Haunted Sawmill will also continue the extremely popular family events on Sunday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 27. The Sunday matinees run from noon to 5 p.m. and feature a lights-on version of the haunted house with trick-or-treating and candy for the kids. The Sunday matinees will also have special games and events for children, including pumpkin painting, prizes and face-painting.
The cost of admission to the Haunted Sawmill is $8 at the door or $6 with the donation of a non-perishable food item for the local food pantries. The scouts of Troop 599 are continuing to serve the community by gathering donated food items.
The Haunted Sawmill came to life in 2010 as a plan to create a major fundraising event for the boy scouts of Troop 599. Starting with no budget and no place to hold a major haunted house event, the prospects looked bleak. After securing a location in the old Northern Specialities building at the corner of 7th and Hendricks streets in Merrill, planning began in earnest to hold the 1st Annual Haunted Sawmill in the fall of 2011.
The planners of the Haunted Sawmill had to beg and borrow to begin the project. There were no funds to purchase props and Halloween items, let alone the building materials necessary to put on such an event. Additionally, the building was a mess and needed major cleaning and repairs before it could be used to hold an event open to the public. Somehow, the Scare Crew found the way to gather items and slowly donations began coming in to help fund the project.
The 1st Annual Haunted Sawmill was a tremendous hit and proved that Troop 599 had found a fundraiser that it could rely on for years to come. With a successful first year, the organizers of the Haunted Sawmill looked forward to making the 2nd Annual Haunted Sawmill even more successful.
The main character for the Haunted Sawmill came alive in 2012. Vincent Mudgett, also known as Skullface, developed as a former employee of the Sawmill who had been murdered by the corrupt owner of the mill over a jealous love triangle. Vincent came back to life and took his revenge upon all of the employees of the Sawmill. Now Vincent’s restless spirit wanders the twisted halls and corridors of the Haunted Sawmill always seeking new victims to his ever-growing list of fatalities.
A video production setting up Vincent’s background and the origin of the Haunted Sawmill was developed in 2012. Over 6,000 guests came through the doors of the 2nd Annual Haunted Sawmill. They came from all over Wisconsin and from neighboring states as well. The Sawmill received praise and was recognized as one of the best haunted house attractions in the State of Wisconsin.
The dedicated committee members of the Haunted Sawmill looked to set up a corporation to purchase the property following the 2012 show, when the city of Merrill began looking into razing the building. Not wanting to see such a popular attraction – and an incredible fund raiser for the Troop 599 boy scouts – pass away, a corporation was created to purchase the property and continue to hold the Haunted Sawmill. Major renovations of the building began in the spring of 2013 in order to improve the building’s exterior to meet the city’s requirements.
The Haunted Sawmill is always growing and expanding. The planners and creators are never content to rest on their laurels and their goal is always to create a new and terrifying experience for the guests who come to visit.
“We want to make it a really good haunted house and one of the best in Wisconsin,” Hersil said.
Even while waiting in line, visitors get a show with live actors and a video that tells Vincent’s story. The front of the building has been completely remodeled, with a new concession area at the exit point.
Feedback for the Haunted Sawmill has, and continues to be extremely positive, with one of the often repeated sayings being: “I never imagined that boy scouts could be so terrifying!”
“A staggering amount of hours are logged by the boys,” said parent/leader David Stenberg.
The scouts, adult leaders and their families put in a lot of time working on the Haunted Sawmill.
Working at the sawmill offers numerous opportunities for the boys to learn new skills and exercise leadership and creativity. This year’s Haunted Sawmill features more than 20 theme rooms, most designed by the scouts themselves.
“We encourage the boys to take a room and make it their own,” Hersil said.
Scout Daleth Jacobsen, 15, has been working at the Haunted Sawmill for the past three years. This year he designed his own room and will be an actor in it during the shows. The greatest reward, he said, is seeing all the hard work come together.
“I learned a lot of building skills and basic mechanics,” Jacobsen said. “In the long run, building it is more fun because you get to realize all the work you put into it and see the changes.”
Adult leaders and parents with skills in carpentry, electrical and other trades have volunteered to help with the sawmill.
“Without those types of people, I don’t think we could have done it,” Hersil said.
Stenberg himself started working on the concession area back in February.
“If there’s a troop meeting, that’s about the only time we’re not here,” he said.
When the door creaks open, more than 40 people work the shows. Scouts serve as live actors, as well as in many behind-the-scenes roles.
“We have so many live actors, which is something that really sets us apart,” Hersil said. “Live actors are better at scares than animatronics.”
For the safety of actors and visitors, video cameras throughout the haunted house are linked to a command center.
The Haunted Sawmill currently occupies less than half of the facility. Now that Haunted Sawmill, LLC owns the building, the potential to expand is enticing, Hersil said.
“We have a lot of building to work with,” he said.
While the boy scouts of Troop 599 have a tremendous amount of fun putting on the Haunted Sawmill, they also look to have it be an opportunity for them to give back to the community. Each year the scouts hold a food drive offering guests a reduced admission price if they bring non-perishable food items to the Haunted Sawmill. Every year, Troop 599 has been able to donate over 2,000 food items to the food pantry in Merrill.
The Haunted Sawmill helps the scouts of Troop 599 pay for the costs associated with summer camp and High Adventure trips such as outings to the Boundary Waters. The Haunted Sawmill helps the parents of boys who are part of Troop 599 lessen the cost of scouting and affords all of the members of Troop 599 the opportunity to take part in activities, events and experiences that they might not have otherwise been able to afford.
“All the money goes right to the boys,” Hersil said.
You can friend Vincent Mudgett on Facebook for a chance to win free tickets to the Haunted Sawmill. Watch the video of Vincent’s story and the terror that waits for at the Haunted Sawmill on the web at www.thehauntedsawmill.com. You can also like the Troop 599 Haunted Sawmill on Facebook.