Boo-tiful charity: Haunted venues scare the $$$ out of you
October 28, 2016 12:00 AM
An actor poses in the Hundred Acres Manor haunted mansion in Bethel Park.
Haunted house patrons walk through the Hundred Acres Manor haunted mansion in Bethel Park.
Patrons of the Hundred Acres Manor haunted mansion are spooked by an actor in a gargoyle costume in Bethel Park.
Denver Black sits in the makeup trailer at the Hundred Acres Manor before taking his place in the haunted house in Bethel Park.
By Linda Wilson Fuoco / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Haunted houses are a scary pleasure at Halloween, but the fright can rise to a whole new level when the goblins are encountered in the woods at night.
A walk along a wooded trail in the dark can be frightening in its own right, with real bugs and other scary creatures out there. But add costumed actors, special effects and displays of skeletons, coffins, spiders and more, and you’ve got the Beastly Haunted Trail — a unique fundraiser for the Beaver County Humane Society in Center.
The trail brought in $15,000 last year. That’s a nice chunk of change for a nonprofit with a yearly operating budget of $1.2 million, said Susan Salyards, executive director of the shelter.
The venue is located next to the shelter on the society’s 7.5-acre property. It opened in 2014 and was designed and built by volunteers, with new features are added each season. It’s open every Friday and Saturday night in October, staffed by volunteers, many of whom also regularly walk the shelter dogs and play with the cats and rabbits there.
One of the most successful is the Hundred Acres Manor. During its 13 Halloween seasons, the attraction in Allegheny County’s South Park has raised about $1.5 million, including $800,000 for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, based in the Strip District, and $600,000 for Animal Friends in Ohio Township. Added to the mix two years ago, the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has received $8,000.
When Hundred Acres Manor first opened in 2004, the “take” was $5,000, said William Wolfe, who started the project with his brother-in-law, Ted Sobek, when they were both on the board of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.
Mr. Wolfe later served as executive director for the fund and recently retired from that post. He’s still chief financial officer for Hundred Acres Manor Inc., the nonprofit that operates the attraction to raise money for charities.
Dozens of volunteers, including carpenters and electricians, start work on Hundred Acres Manor in July. Each year about 40 percent of the sights and frights are new. This year visitors take a one-mile walk through six themed attractions, including “The Breach,” a futuristic research facility where genetic mutants have escaped, and “Hallows Eve,” which features encounters with more classic monsters.
Some 65 amateur actors are on site each night, jumping out at visitors and frightening them in creative ways.
“We work with 10 or 12 school districts that send us students from the drama club,” Mr. Wolfe said. “At the end of the season, we make small donations to their schools.”
The Travel Channel recently named Hundred Acres one of the top Halloween attractions in the country, Mr. Wolfe said.
Fans of fright are also spreading the word about Beastly Haunted Trail, with visitors coming from Allegheny County, Ohio and West Virginia, said Debbie Klesser of Economy, president of the Beaver County Humane Society board of directors.
“I worked there on a recent night. More than 240 came through and many came out screaming,” she said.
Chris Kappeler of Hopewell is one of the volunteers who helped design the course. In October, he spends about 20 hours per week there.
“Everything was built from scratch. A lot of materials were donated or discarded. We make the trail both fun and scary,” he said.
The Beastly Haunted Trail is open for two more nights this season — from 7 to 10 tonight and Saturday. Admission is $10. The 30-minute trail is at 3394 Brodhead Road in Center; its GPS address is Aliquippa 15001.
Hundred Acres Manor, at 1 Hundred Acres Drive, Bethel Park 15102, is open from 7 to 11:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday and 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday. It’s also open 7 to 11:30 p.m. Nov. 4 and 5 and 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 6. On the nights in November, the manor goes “Lights Out” and visitors get a glow stick to navigate their way.
General admission is $20, with VIP packages for $30 or $40. Information and tickets: hundredacresmanor.com.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1953.
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