First Parish on the Common was transformed into the First Parish Haunted House last weekend. The two-day annual event of Halloween fun attracted 1,800 people.
This marks the return of the haunted house after being closed down during the pandemic.
The haunted house tradition started in 2006 and has grown into a major production with original props and skits snaking through the church.
The custom started as a small cardboard maze created for the religious education program at the church. Karl Winkler saw the potential for making a bigger Haunted House that would be open to people beyond the church.
In 2007, Winkler and First Parish helpers created the Bedford School of Wizardry, loosely based on the Harry Potter books and movies. That first event had more than 700 people come through the church.
Each year, guides have escorted people through the various themed rooms to enjoy short topical skits. Some of the themes have included: The Adventures Club, Bride of Frankenstein, The Deadford Dungeon of Doom, The Monster Mash, and even a skit based on The Twilight Zone.
In 2010, Peter Woskov of Bedford Haunted Driveway fame, helped out with animatronics and lighting. That year, more than 1,000 people ventured through the Haunted House.
The Haunted House took a break for a few years and came back in 2015 with new sets and a Steampunk theme.
Winkler said, “One thing people should know is that our sets are all handmade. These are props you can’t just buy.” He went on, “Often when you go to several Haunted Houses you start to see the same props at each of them. That doesn’t happen at the First Parish Haunted House.”
One hallmark of this Bedford tradition is the lack of gore and blood. “It’s easy to be gross,” said Winkler. “It’s hard to be scary and not gory.”
The Haunted House is also scaled to the demographics. Early in the day when the younger kids are likely to come, it’s toned down a bit, but as the night moves on the fright ramps up.
People from all over the region come to the Haunted House with people from other Haunted Houses coming to check it out, too.