Lincoln’s Haunted Hill offers Halloween fright

Posted Oct. 09, 2011, at 6:35 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Logan and Dakota Jipson aren’t very touchy-feely, but they hung onto each other for dear life when they went through Haunted Hill on Saturday.

“We were like this,” 8-year-old Logan said as he abruptly shoved his chest against his 10-year-old brother’s side and the two shuffled awkwardly with 13-year-old Trey Antoine, their cousin, also nestled up against them.

They wanted to be brave, but the three Lincoln youths and another cousin, 23-year-old Victoria Gagnon of Lincoln, argued over who would go first into the haunted house at Ballard Hill Community Center.

They held up the line at the front door as Logan and Dakota decided that their mother, Joanne Jipson, would lead the way, and she told her husband, Jason Jipson, that he would go in first or nobody was going in.

“I was scared myself,” 33-year-old Joanne said. “I had to put him up to it.”

About 125 people took the long, snaking trail of terror through two stories of the building on Saturday, the most yet since the town-sponsored event launched on Sept. 30 to help increase the building’s use and make money for future haunted houses.

As conceived by former Town Councilor Steve Clay and executed by town events coordinator Amanda Woodard and several volunteers, Haunted Hill follows an axiom long held in horror movies: What is suggested is far more frightening than what is seen.

The designers use fog machines, music and loud noises, strobe lights, large swathes of black cloth hung over scaffolding and on some walls and as many as 30 actor-volunteers to alter the contours of the rooms, disorient and frighten the bejesus out of the customers.

Several children cried, some adults were so frightened that they had to be escorted from the building, but nobody complained. Most people really seemed to enjoy it, including the Jipsons.

“You couldn’t see anything,” Dakota Jipson said.

“It was very, very creepy,” Logan Jipson said. “It was awesome.”

“A lot of the talk around town,” said Don Woodard, Amanda’s husband and a Haunted Hill actor-volunteer, “is people saying that they want to come back to it again.”

With its creaking wooden floors and narrow staircases, large steam pipes and some scarred basement walls — all the things that make some town leaders want to sell or demolish it — the building is a natural horror, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said.

“I don’t think it would be as scary without those things,” Goodwin said of the center. “It’s old and it’s creepy.”

A mix of town workers and leaders and high schoolers, the volunteers throw themselves into the production with gusto and imagination, Clay said.

“You can hear it when you hear the screams,” Clay said. “People wouldn’t be responding like that if the kids weren’t so into it.”

Eighteen-year-old Merissa Jordan said she found in the volunteering a great lesson that can be applied to a lot of things in town: that town youth can use their imaginations and not a great deal of money — the haunted house is funded with about $2,500 that organizers expect to more than pay back — to make something that entertains them and adds variety to a place notorious for its lack of youth activities.

“It’s great because you get to be another person for three hours,” said 18-year-old John Dickey of Lincoln.

“I take everything that scares me and I do it myself,” said 17-year-old Nikki Smith of Lincoln.

“You see something in a movie that scares you and you remember it and do it here,” said 15-year-old Logan Booker of Lincoln. “It’s like being on a low-budget movie.”

Clay and Woodard expect that next year’s Haunted Hill will dwarf their inaugural effort. In assembling the haunted house, they lacked time and could have used more money but learned a great deal about horror and terror that they can apply next Halloween, they said.

Many lessons are also being applied as they are learned, Clay said.

“Every night we change it up a bit,” he said. “It’s never exactly the same.”

Haunted Hill runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, until Oct. 29, with final showings at those times on Oct. 30-31. Children 12 and under pay $4; those 13 and over pay $5.

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