People were running out of the local library, screaming and crying; they were also smiling, laughing, and happy they came. They were exiting a hometown haunted house that was nine months in the making. The event was produced in Oneonta, a city in central Alabama about 40 miles northeast of Birmingham, with a population of about 7,200.
It all started incidentally, when downtown businesses could not coordinate their 2011 Halloween activities to include the ‘Haunted Alley’. The city building inspector had been a key participant in the event the previous year and was innocently bemoaning this state of affairs. His hobby involves just about anything Halloween, including working at serious haunted houses and attending horror conventions. Conversations meandered through discussions of community events and library programs and, the next thing we knew, he had a library layout in hand and we were planning ‘Terror in the Stacks’, the first annual haunting of Oneonta Public Library.
Over the next nine months, the theme, scenes, layout, pathways, cast, and funding were planned for this event. This was a SERIOUS haunted library. On October 26th the library closed and the work began. Tables, chairs, book bins, kid’s computers, and all other things that could be moved, easily, were.Five volunteers – great guys who all really love this stuff – built false walls to create a maze by covering bookshelves with black plastic sheeting.
They put up black lights and unpacked the creepiest props.
The next day on the 27th, the library remained closed while the interior decorators of this house of horror brought about their vision, indoors and out. Hanging ghosts glowed in dark spider webs, a zombie baby sat eerily on a tricycle, creepy headless dolls were alone in rocking chairs.
For a while, we were not sure if the indoor space could be finished on time. But these men and women were amazing – all because they love the concept and scaring the heebie-jeebies out of people. Music and sound effects were staged and live characters were positioned.
While the indoor event was staged for adults, the outdoor space was set up for younger trick-or-treaters. There were games and story times. Even those who did not win at games received treats and prizes. A ‘trunk-or-treat’ was positioned in the parking lot, with lines of car trunks loaded with the traditional Halloween goodies. So many people volunteered that all could not be utilized indoors. Many worked outside, staffing games and trunks.
We had no idea what turnout would be. By 5:45 p.m., the line for the ‘Terror in the Stacks’ was almost to the road… and we have a large parking lot! Approximately 180 people screamed, cried, and laughed their way through the haunted library. Another 150 or so participated in the outdoor children’s events. Many adults who staffed the trunks said this event was the most fun they had ever had for Halloween and have already asked to return.
Will we do it again next year? Was it worth the effort? You bet! Bigger and better and scarier than ever! Their excitement makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes you have to think outside the box and try something new.