Haunted house fans will have will have a lot to scream about as Boy Scout Troop 599 creaks open the door of the Haunted Sawmill for a second season this Friday.
The Haunted Sawmill is located at 700 Hendricks St. in Merrill at the old Northern Specialty Company factory. The Haunted Sawmill will be open for its super-scary shows on the following dates: Friday, Oct. 12; Saturday, Oct. 13; Friday, Oct. 19; Saturday, Oct. 20; Thursday, Oct. 25; Friday, Oct. 26; Saturday, Oct. 27; and Halloween, Wednesday, Oct. 31. The mature shows will run from 6-11 p.m.
The Haunted Sawmill sold roughly 4,000 tickets last year.
“It was a huge success,” said Troop 599 leader David Stenberg, “way over our expectations.”
This year, anticipation is even higher as the Haunted Sawmill’s Facebook page has garnered 17,000 views.
“The buzz is incredible,” said Troop 599 leader Gerald Hersil.
The scouts, along with their leaders and families, put a tremendous amount of time into the Haunted Sawmill.
“We really started going at it toward the end of May,” Hersil said. “A group of people have been working consistently 3-4 nights a week since then.”
As the bewitching hour draws nigh, work has ramped up to include full days on the weekends.
“Some boys would stay here all night if they could,” Stenberg said.
Even those who experienced the inaugural year of the Haunted Sawmill will see very little familiar this year. There are four additional rooms for a total of 18 on the tour this year. And every existing room got a new look. The time to tour the Haunted Sawmill has been extended to an estimated 30 minutes.
The Scouts and adults will continue to work tirelessly to make sure their customers get their money’s worth when the door creaks open.
A cemetery, a new outdoor feature, will provide some thrills before you even get inside.
“They’ll get a show while they’re standing in line,” Hersil said.
The Boy Scouts are involved in many aspects of the project, which provides a fun way to practice what they’ve learned in Scouting and pick up new skills.
“The Boy Scouts really get hands on experience,” Hersil said. “A lot of the stuff they learn in scouting comes into play here, one of the big ones is leadership.”
For example, Nathan Stenberg was one of the younger Scouts on the project last year. This year, he was asked to work with a new Scout and taught him what he knew about working on the haunted house.
Stenberg, Chris Krzanowski and Ben Johnson are part of a core of Boy Scouts who have spent a great deal of time working at the Haunted Sawmill. They worked on their carpentry skills, learned to use power tools and Johnson even got to try his hand at welding. He said building things for the Haunted Sawmill was his favorite part of the project. On show nights, Stenberg and Krzanowski will work as actors while Johnson will be a runner behind the scenes.
Krzanowski confirms that the Haunted Sawmill will be better this year, but the boys aren’t giving away too many of the details.
Laura Grefe and Mikala Hall have been hard at work alongside the boys. The girls are friends with some of the Boy Scouts and were asked to help due to their involvement in drama and their enthusiasm for Halloween. Hall said she was very impressed with the Haunted Sawmill last year and just wanted to be a part of it. They have been helping with painting and preparations and both will serve as actors in the live shows.
“We would sit in school just waiting to come to work here,” Grefe added.
The Haunted Sawmill requires a staff of at least 35 people for each performance. On most nights a crew of more than 50 will be working in the haunted house or behind the scenes. Both Scouts and adults will be dressing up as actors to bring the Haunted Sawmill to life.
“Everywhere you go there’s going to be a live actor,” Hersil said.
There will be milder shows for younger children, ages 4-12, on Sunday afternoons.
“We wanted to turn the matinees into family events,” Hersil said.
On Sundays, Oct. 14, 21 and 28 there will be special games and events for children, including pumpkin painting, prizes, and face-painting. Children can win prizes and the event will be geared towards families with younger children who want to have a fun Halloween event. The Haunted Sawmill will also be open and feature a much less scary version of the evening shows, also toned down for families with young children.
All stops will be pulled for the evening performances, however, testing the bravado of teens and adults.
In building the Haunted Sawmill, the Boy Scouts were fortunate to have a wealth of raw materials donated. The Louisiana Pacific plant in Tomahawk provided a large amount of sheeting, and wood from the demolition of the grandstand at the fairgrounds has found a new purpose in the Haunted Sawmill.
The Haunted Sawmill has become the biggest fundraiser of the year for Troop 599. Money raised goes to service projects in the community and helps the boys with the expenses of going to summer camp and on high adventure trips.
The cost of admission to the Haunted Sawmill will be $7 at the door or $6 with the donation of a non-perishable food-item for the local food pantries or the donation of items for the Lincoln County Humane Society. The scouts of Troop 599 will gather the food items and donations for the Humane Society. Last year Troop 599 was able to present over 2,000 non-perishable items to the food pantry in Merrill.
The Haunted Sawmill is an utterly terrifying experience through an abandoned and long-forsaken factory. The building is now haunted by the ghost of Vincent Mudgett and employees of the Merrill Sawmill. Vincent comes back to life every Halloween and haunts the property as Skullface, a demented ghoul who has sworn to seek revenge on all of those who caused him to suffer when he was alive. Dare to enter Skullface’s dark domain, and you will be scared out of your mind by the terror that assaults as you wind you way through eerie labyrinths, twisted theme rooms and demented scenes of ghastly horror.
Find the Haunted Sawmill on the web at www.thehauntedsawmill.com. Like the Haunted Sawmill on Facebook at Troop 599 Haunted Sawmill and friend Skullface at Vincent Mudgett (Skullface) on Facebook as well. People who friend Vincent can win free tickets via his daily trivia contest and games.