The first hints of autumn are in the air, and whatever the weather holds, chills are coming soon to Cayce.
The Cayce-West Columbia Jaycees Hall of Horrors, the longest-running non-profit haunted attraction in the South Carolina, is back for a 35th year starting Sept. 30, and organizers gave media and volunteers a special preview Sunday.
“This is a good wet run,” said organizer Mary Anne Deal. “It lets us have a moment to see how it all flows.” The haunt is planned and built entirely by volunteers each year, and proceeds from the attraction go to support Camp Hope, a July residential camp for developmentally disabled adults sponsored by the Jaycees since 1969.
Jaycees volunteers work year round to plan and build the Hall, which offers a different terrifying experience for visitors each year. “We’re constantly improving on it and changing things up,” said organizer Bryan Moore. The work has paid off: the attraction drew record crowds last year, with so many people coming on Halloween night that the wait to get in reached 3 1/2 hours.
Even the Jaycees lose track of how many people contribute through the year to the hall, which requires 50-60 volunteers to keep it running each night when open. Getting ready for opening, and even for the preview, takes a lot of work. “I left here last night at 2 a.m., and some of the others stayed all night long,” Deal said Sunday.
The volunteers come from local high schools, from the University of South Carolina, from Beta Clubs: others are just individuals who love haunts. A group of cadets from the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School in West Columbia worked hard all day through Saturday’s heat, and were rewarded with a chance to be among the guinea pigs for Sunday’s preview.
“The cadets have done a tremendous amount of work,” Deal said. Fellow organizer Katie Moore agreed, and was excited to offer them the chance to be part of the preview. “It’s neat for them to see how their hard work has paid off,” Katie Moore said.
The Hall of Horrors opens Sept. 30 and will be open each Thursday-Saturday, along with Halloween, which falls on a Monday this year. More work remains to be done, but Deal said the cause makes it worth every drop of sweat and lost hour of sleep. “We get to visit Camp Hope every July, and see the faces of the people we are impacting.
More information on the Hall of Horrors, including more on operating hours and tickets, is available here.
Pictured: One of the denizens awaiting you in the Hall (photo by Allen Wallace)