University students got treated, not tricked, to Brown College’s Hauntings on the Hill this weekend, an annual Halloween fundraiser that had a “Frights, Camera, Action!” theme to celebrate American cinema. The $5,500 raised from the event will go to supporting The Haven, a day shelter and housing resource based in Charlottesville that helps individuals find affordable housing in Charlottesville.
Each room inside the haunted house was themed around different movies, including American Psycho, Hocus Pocus, Elvira and Scream. It’s an annual tradition for Brown College to produce a haunted house that raises money for charity. All actors involved were Brown residents.
In the past, Hauntings’ proceeds traditionally went to The Haven, though this was mixed up in recent years where residents were allowed to vote. This year, Kendal Williams, Hauntings Co-Chair and fourth year College student, said that she compiled a list of charities that Brown residents actively volunteered at as the possible charities, and the Brown residents chose The Haven.
“We can volunteer at the same places we raise money for and really see our impact and also continue to support them,” Williams said.
Charlottesville has long-faced an affordable housing crisis, most recently brought into public conversation over a tent encampment in Market Street Park earlier this October. Many of the unhoused individuals have called on the community for help finding places to sleep.
The haunted house was laid out in three separate tents set up on Monroe Hill by Brown College, with many twisting hallways with blind corners. Williams said the tent was designed to be disorienting and also allow for actors to hide in the corners for extra thrill factor.
“I really like the creative aspects so designing the layout was super fun for me this year,” Williams said. “I'd never done that before.”
Williams became involved with Hauntings during her second year as a make-up artist. She found that the creative aspects of Hauntings were her favorite part of participating.
“After [second year], I was totally hooked and I was like, ‘how do I get more involved in this?’” Williams said. “And we had elections for new co chairs and so I was like, ‘sign me up.’”
Hauntings allows Brown residents to tap into their creative side. Each of the rooms has a loose script to follow, but most of what transpires on the night of Hauntings is improvised. This allows guests to have a near unique experience as they go through the tent. Guides and “pushers” also have the liberty to improvise a story while guiding the guests through the tents.
According to Link Fu, Hauntings co-chair and first-year College student, logistical planning for Hauntings occurred over the summer. Then, during the school year, residents of Brown submit theme ideas for Hauntings and the residential college votes for their favorite. The assembly of the tent itself occurs the week that Hauntings takes place.
When it comes to finding volunteers, Stephen Branch, Hauntings co-chair and fourth year College student, said the task is not difficult. According to Branch, the huge tradition of Hauntings and the associated volunteer hours individuals earn make it an appealing commitment. But to Branch, the real reason people participate is the community building and the excitement about bringing new ideas to the table.
“People just get really excited about it and everything,” Branch said. “And so we don't really usually have a hard time getting people involved because people want to be involved.”
Each group of guests was led through the house by two other Brown students who acted as a guide and as a pusher. The guides lead each group of guests through the house, while the pushers ensure that the guests keep moving. Additionally, if a guest feels like exiting before the end of the program, there are several emergency exits throughout the tents.
Every year, the Hauntings co-chairs must consider what weekend to host Hauntings. Branch said that ideally Hauntings would be held on Halloweekend, as it was this year, but it depends on what other events on Grounds Hauntings would have to compete with.
Last year, Halloweekend fell on the same weekend as Family Weekend and a home football game, so Hauntings was moved to the weekend before and experienced its most successful turnout in recent years. This year, Hauntings had less events to compete with, but experienced a smaller turn out the previous year.
The annual tradition of Hauntings will occur again next October.