Arts and Entertainment

Frightville organizers have urge to scare in their blood

Brian Boyle, manager of Frightville 13, has spent evening hours and weekends getting ready for the haunted house at the Roller Barn in Oak Harbor that will begin Oct. 11. He is a part of a committee and work party that began preparing for this year
Brian Boyle, manager of Frightville 13, has spent evening hours and weekends getting ready for the haunted house at the Roller Barn in Oak Harbor that will begin Oct. 11. He is a part of a committee and work party that began preparing for this year's event in March.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

With a rumble of busy feet overhead and a tub full of decapitated and limbless dolls beside him, Brian Boyle stands in a dank, chilly basement and marvels at his surroundings.

The organizer of Whidbey Island’s scariest haunted house, Boyle couldn’t ask for a better setting to scare people than the ground floor of the 100-year-old Neil barn.

“Those cobwebs are real,” Boyle said proudly.

Since August, Boyle has made the basement of Neil barn, better known as the Roller Barn, his second home.

He and a crew have been busy rigging the place to get ready for “Frightville 13,” which opens Oct. 11.

The event is a major fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Oak Harbor, based upstairs at the Roller Barn.

Boyle is currently searching for an army of volunteer actors to help startle guests. Those interested in joining the “Frightville 13” cast are asked to attend one of two sessions that will be held from 5-8 p.m. Sept. 25 and 26 at the Roller Barn. Paperwork needs to be filled out and background checks performed.

“We give them a tour, have them fill out volunteer paperwork and they can pick a room,” Boyle said.

“No experience is needed. We have designed the rooms to help people give a good scare. It’s more of a startle haunting house. Not a lot of interaction.”

Boyle and board member Duncan Chalfant are the orchestrators of the annual spooky event. Chalfant got “Frightville 1” off the ground in 2000 and passed the torch seven years ago to Boyle though Chalfant still provides a helping hand.

Both have construction backgrounds, which they’ve utilized to create tight hallways and rooms, sliding doors that slam shut and a sliding device that hangs from the ceiling and allows an actor to lunge at guests from above.

Since March, a “Frightville” committee has been brainstorming new ways to scare people.

“The ideas come from horror movies and people’s fears,” Boyle said. “People don’t like tight spaces and low ceilings. They don’t like dolls, spiders and clowns.”

Ah, clowns.

Boyle dresses up as the clown “Mr. Giggles” during Frightville. He and his wife, Johanna Boyle, the Frightville receptionist, take this fright business seriously. They attended the West Coast Haunters Convention in Portland in May.

Chalfant’s brainstorm resulted in this year’s “Hotel Hellena” theme. It’s important to note that the “ena” gets crossed out, creating “Hotel Hell.”

This year, no tour guides will be used to direct guest through the 20 rooms that cover roughly two-thirds of the barn’s 4,000-square foot basement. Guests will enter in small groups and be on their own.

Organizers experimented with a lights-out “Witching Hour” last year in the final hour of the show. With stage lights turned off and guests armed with only a small flashlight, it was wildly popular and will be brought back.

Chalfant compared Frightville to a “PG-13” rated  event.

“This is not for little kids,” Boyle said.

For those not wanting to be startled as much, there is a “Pumpkin Hour” tour of the haunted house with no actors. For younger kids, there is a lights-on “Kids Matinee.”

“Frightville 13” will run Oct. 11, 12, 18 and 19 from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. On Oct. 25, 26 and 31, it will go until midnight.

The cost is $10 for the regular tour and “Pumpkin Hour,” $15 for the “Witching Hour” and $3 for the “Kids Matinee.”

Last year, Frightville raised more than $14,000 with all proceeds going to the Boys & Girls Club.

Boyle, who retired from the Navy last year after 20 years of service, doesn’t mind coming to the barn after his construction job to let his imagination run wild. He said his wife calls herself a “Frightville widow,” even though she’s a horror movie buff and shares his passion.

“It’s a good cause,” Boyle said. “What you hear upstairs is why I do this. The kids having somewhere to go after school.

“Plus, it’s fun as hell.”



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