By Leigh Armstrong
Normally people don’t want to see the world on fire, but this year’s haunted house in Skagway is looking to change that for a night.
The Elks will be putting on its fifth-annual haunted house on Halloween starting at 7 p.m. with a theme based around the post-apocalyptic world of the 1979 movie “Mad Max.”
While this is the fifth haunted house at the Elks, it’s actually the seventh time the haunted house has happened in Skagway.
Originally the idea of Nat and Dylan Healy, they put on the original event inside their home. They had both noticed a lack of Halloween haunted houses in Skagway and took it on themselves to bring a little more scare to the season.
The first time running it, they had around 40 people come through, with the next year bringing around 100. For the third year, they brought the Elks in on the project to get more support, among other perks.
“I didn’t have to live in a haunted house for two weeks,” Nat Healy said.
As the couple were already members of the Elks, they pitched the haunted house as a way to help raise more money toward the charity fund, which helps people in need in Skagway. Typically, the haunted house raises around $1,000 each year, with a budget under $500, Nat said. “We don’t normally use our whole budget,” she said.
With the low costs, she said the haunt is a little rough around the edges, but that adds to part of the charm.
Over the years, Nat has been able to add more and more ideas, including a “squeeze room.” A squeeze room is a common feature in larger haunted houses consisting of fabric walls blown together to create a tight space that someone has to squeeze through. Rather than buy one for thousands of dollars, she took time and researched the plans and got help from the other Elks to build one.
Along with the equipment, the concepts have grown bigger, too, needing more staff. While there’s a core group of people, like Dustin Stone and Mike Curtin who help with putting it together, the entire haunt has around 25 people working together to make the house happen
To keep it fresh, the theme changes each year. Every year, the haunted house has had a unique theme that helps focus the design. The ideas range from places like hospitals and circuses, to literary concepts like “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
While Nat normally takes a lead role in mapping out rooms, this year’s apocalyptic concept based on “Mad Max” is one that Dylan Healy and fellow collaborator Dustin Stone have been wanting to do for a long time and she handed the lead to them.
While the “Mad Max” films are mostly rated R, Nat said the house is more like a PG-13 and would recommend children under 13 go through with a parent and under the warning that it can be scary.
“We don’t want any 5-year-olds coming through getting traumatized,” she said.
While there will be graphic imagery and scary stuff, Nat said there’s a good amount of comedy that goes with it as well.
“I always think it’s more funny than scary. That might be because I’m it, but there’s definitely a humor aspect to it,” she said.
The house will be open on Halloween this year and is open by donation, but $10 is recommended. The house will start letting people in at 7 p.m. with guests asked to get to the Elks by 10 p.m. in order to see the show.