For the second consecutive year, the Ringling Bed & Breakfast carriage house has been transformed into a meandering tour of terror in preparation for the Halloween season.
But it will likely also be its last.
Co-owners Julie Hearley and Stuart Koehler have been working on the space since August, along with the help of designer Jacob Carignan, a local high school student. They have been busy constructing themed rooms, from the zombie attack zone outside to the doll room inside the carriage house. All of the proceeds from the Carnival of Horrors Haunted House set to take place each weekend until the end of October will go toward the nonprofit that maintains the historical house.
“It’s there to help keep up the buildings and to make sure they are here even after we’re not here anymore,” Hearley said.
On an overcast Friday with crows cawing overhead to set the tone, Koehler and Hearley were putting finishing touches on the exhibit. Everything will be new from last year, which was their first foray into hosting a haunted house.
Hearley said Carignan has friends who help out as volunteers and that actors from the Creative Alliance of Baraboo Theatre lend their time for the project.
Though it is only the second year for the duo to host the event, it will likely be their last for a while, Hearley said. If they raise enough money this year, which Hearley said is anticipated, it won’t be needed again.
“We just wanted to raise funding for renovation work,” Hearley said.
A majority of the proceeds covered the cost of materials that were collected to host the first haunted house.
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“Basically, what we put into it we got back,” Hearley said, adding that they included a maze this year and increased the number of rooms for visitors, “just to make it different and give people something new.”
In 2018, the haunted house drew roughly 700 people. This year, they hope to see 1,000 pass through the dark rooms with creepy creatures and hidden volunteers lurking nearby.
Another haunted event in Baraboo for the milder at heart is the downtown walking tour hosted by Baraboo Tours owner Shelley Mordini. Though Mordini said participation definitely increases as the days grow closer to All Hallows’ Eve, haunted tours begin Memorial Day and continue each weekend into Labor Day. The Haunted Tour will be held as an hour-long walk each weekend in October until just before Halloween.
Though based in Baraboo, Mordini said for the seven years she has been running the company, the popular haunted walk has mostly drawn visitors from out of town.
“Everybody really loves it,” Mordini said. “It’s one of their favorite parts of their vacation.”
It has grown in popularity enough that it was recently featured in an episode of the state’s travel TV show, “Discover Wisconsin.” It also was filmed for a national travel show.
Baraboo Tours sponsors the Carnival of Horrors, along with the bed and breakfast and nonprofit estate group. Hearley and Koehler said it takes a concerted effort to host their haunted house, but the more people who visit for the scares, the more enjoyable it becomes.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Koehler said.