Scarecrow Hollow: 10 years of frights
“Decades of Darkness” will be a celebration of the 10 years that area residents and some that come from far away have been spooked at Mobridge’s Scarecrow Hollow.
The annual haunt that is now held over two weekends during Halloween has from the very beginning helped to feed the hungry in the area, helped to fund the new addition to the A. H. Brown Library, and helped families in times of need.
In 10 years, more than thousands of people (an average of about 1,400 per year according to news stories during that time) have stood in line to risk being scared enough to faint or become a blubbering, sobbing baby calling for your mom.
Some of those who scream the loudest, cry the hardest and dig their fingernails into other members of the tour group are back in line the minute they clear the back door.
The house has a draw that to some is unexplainable.
The building itself has a story. It is the former Kesling Funeral Home and volunteers who work on the house say the spirits of those who passed through still remain today.
According to Dawn Konold, one four original founders (along with Mike Haas, Michael Oatman and Brian Sippert), the success of the haunt the very first year came as a surprise. The big crowds lined up down the block to participate in the first fright.
“We gave away tickets to the students councils of area schools,” she said. “We never expected to be that busy. We ran tours until 2 a.m. It was crazy!”
Konold said the house has evolved through the years with the help of the many volunteers who have spent thousands of hours creating the annual event.
The initial investment to purchase the home for the event was made with the help of local businesses.
“If it weren’t for the support from the very beginning of the business community we would not have been able to buy that house,” she said.
Konold has watched the house evolve through the years. She has stepped back as one of the lead organizers but has returned each year to be a tour guide.
“There are a lot more props then there used to be. We didn’t have the money to do that,” she said. “And they have opened up the basement, (she swore she would never go down there) which is a perfect place for scaring people.”
Konold said there are a lot more volunteers now and they spend many more hours creating the spooky scenarios for the haunt. Shawn Stickney, who started as a volunteer and is now president of the group.
“Shawn is awesome,” said Konold. “And having Stacey Chandler and her family bring in their acting skills and creative ideas have really been a great addition.”
Konold said she would continue as a guide until she turns 50. Leading so many tours up and down four flights of stairs can get tiring.
“It is in my blood so when I am done being a guide I will probably do a scare in one of the rooms,” she said. “I can’t imagine a Halloween without Scarecrow Hollow.”
Konold said the house needs to change every year to keep people coming here and the younger group of volunteers keep up with trends when it comes to scaring.
Stickney and Leslie Fischer, who have worked as volunteers on the house for years, know that adding new features keeps people returning again and again.
We know what works,” said Stickney. “It gets better and better because people (the volunteers) get better at what they do here.”
Stickney said the event is the culmination of hours of work. From planning to building to working on the night of the haunts, and attending events in surrounding communities, the volunteers work year round to make it the best it can be.
“It is amazing the number of volunteers who work on it,” he said. “There are 50 or 60 people, from young to older, who work on it.”
He said there are families including dads, moms and kids, who help in the construction and during the scares. They volunteer because they believe the haunt gives a safe and fun environment for Halloween. Stickney said the tradition of the event is very important to him and the volunteers. He said many of the people involved are bringing their children to help, and having his daughter, as part of the crew is special to him.
“It has become a part of their growing up here. It is a meeting place for them on Halloween,” he said. “They love the thrill of it and go over and over again.”
The haunt has become a destination event for many outside of Mobridge.
There are people who come every year from surrounding communities and states. There have been visitors from other countries who stop here when they find out about the haunts.
Stickney, like Konold, said once you become a part of Scarecrow Hallow, it is hard to give it up.
He said from his first year in 2006, when one of the volunteers handed him a chainsaw and showed him how to start it, he was hooked.
“We like providing a safe place for the kids to be on Halloween,” he said. “Being a part of the scare is kind of a rush. Hearing the kids screaming gets you pumped up.” Fischer, whose first year was 2008, said being part of the annual fundraiser more than just fun.
“It makes you feel good to do something for the community,” she said. “But it is like a big kids’ playground. It is a big adrenalin rush to watch their faces when you scare them.”
She became involved the year after Stickney scared the snot out of her with a chainsaw.
“I wanted to see what it was like on the other side,” she said. “What I found was like one big family. We grow closer every year.”
Stickney and Fischer wouldn’t give many hints of what the anniversary haunt will include, but did say there will be “the pairing of two of your worst nightmares.”
Fischer said scary movie buffs would really like this year’s haunt.
There will be two separate weekends filled with fright with the opening weekend on Friday, Oct. 27 and Saturday, Oct. 28 and the following weekend, Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2.
The kiddie haunts are held on Saturday afternoons from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.
The Mobridge Outdoor Pool Committee and Library Foundation will help sell tickets and concessions to raise money for their causes.
Stickney said he wants to be a part of this until his body won’t let him any more. He said the crew takes great pride in making each year better than the year before.
“I for one did not want to let the people who started this down,” he said. “I think we have taken some big steps and will continue to do so.”
There is a website, www.scarecrowhollow.com, with more information on the organization and they also host a Facebook page.
– Katie Zerr –