Just a little teaser. This year’s “Bedford Guide” is in the works. This will be our fifth edition and we’re very excited about it. Look for the “Bedford Guide” in your mailbox in early November!
One thing we really missed during the pandemic was all the traditions we hold so dear. How did those traditions start? How did they change? What are some of the ones we no longer celebrate? What’s the back story?
This year’s “Bedford Guide” will be looking at all those traditions, the current ones and the ones we no longer celebrate. They are broken down by different categories and the main parts are organized by the seasons.
Since this year’s Guide will come out after most of the fall traditions have passed, we provide you with a teaser.
We will look into some of those traditions in depth, including Bedford Day origins and traditions, the Danny Oates Road Race, the Art Show at Bedford Day, the 1912 Grange Show, the Halloween Parade at Davis School, the Haunted Driveway, Flavors of Bedford, Trunk or Treat, Quart Day at Bedford Farms, and more.
Here’s a taste: One of the traditions making its return from the pandemic is the Haunted House at First Parish.
A Halloween tradition lives on at the First Parish Haunted House
One of the most impressive Halloween traditions is the First Parish Haunted House in Bedford. The tradition started in 2006 and has grown into a major production with original props and skits snaking through the church. This year’s Haunted House is making its return after being shut down for the pandemic, it will take place on Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14.
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.
That first year also set the tone for making the Haunted House a real community and multi-generational event. The First Parish choir participated by creating part of the soundtrack with a recording of “Double, Double Toil and trouble.”
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, the driver behind the Haunted House, 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.”
Finding these prop materials is a year-round pursuit. One of the chief acquirers is Cynthia Mork. When asked where she finds her “treasures,” she answered, “Lots of trips to Goodwill, The Dollar Store, and garage sales.” Mork says,” I’m also not beneath doing garbage picking from the curb on trash day.”
She went on to tell how she once stumbled onto an estate sale where the father was an engineer who had saved a lot of outmoded electronics. “I spent more money there than any other place I’ve been to,” she said. “They had all sorts of vintage electronic gauges, complete with probes, leather straps, and even an old-time oscilloscope.” That was also the year they offered an afternoon trick-or-treating event for kids who might be too young to enjoy the scarier parts of the event.
“It’s great for those younger kids; they get to see sets, too, without the fright,” says Winkler.
In 2017, the Haunted House storyline was based on the 200th anniversary of the First Parish Building with a time travel theme.
In 2018, they paid tribute to the original Monster Story with a Mary Shelly-themed Haunted House on the 200th anniversary of “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.” There was also a room somewhat prophetically-themed loosely on the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
The last event before Covid-19, which sent the Haunted House on its second hiatus, featured dementors and a visit from Delores Umbridge (think Harry Potter).
Winkler says planning for the Haunted House is usually a two-year time frame. As mentioned earlier, it’s really a multi-generational event for the parishioners. Everyone gets involved, Winkler says. “The ages range from six to 80 with about 88 people helping out.” They often repurpose parts of past Haunted Houses to create new sets.
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. Winkler says sometimes he sees things First Parish has done in other Haunted Houses the next year. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?”
The Bedford Haunted House has had several write-ups in The Boston Globe and has even made a brief appearance on the WBZ news.
JUST THE FACTS ON THE 2023 HAUNTED HOUSE
Friday, Oct. 13 – 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 14 – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – NOT SCARY
Saturday night, Oct. 14 – 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 – $8 for seniors
Where: First Parish Bedford on the Common, 75 The Great Road