andrew kruse-ross | green bay fear | oct. 2019
Night falls early in autumn and it's easy to get lost in the forest. A harvest moon hangs overhead obscured by the shedding forest canopy above. You quicken your step. Is your mind playing tricks on you or is someone following you? Wait a second, could those be lights up ahead? Civilization? No, some sort of twisted carnival? The Haunted Midway. From here, there's no escape. Nightmares await in every direction. Choose wisely. Care to face the primordial terrors that lurk in the shadows of the Twisted Trail? Or perhaps you'd rather pay a visit to Mr. Jingles' Funhouse or explore the ruins of Jaden West's Shawano Manor?
These immersive attractions and more await the intrepid thrill-seekers this year at Green Bay Fear located at 1950 Bond Street in Green Bay.
“We've got an exciting year,” says haunt co-owner Dave Oshefsky. “There have been a lot of additions internally and there's been a lot of additions to our act.”
Some of those additions include a revamping of the Twisted Trail and Mr. Jingles' Funhouse as well as new additions to the haunt's Odditorium museum. But that's not all.
In a somewhat bittersweet development, the closing of another area haunt, the Morgue, presented further opportunities for Green Bay Fear's additions.
That haunt, which operated from the mid-'90s until 2017, served as an impetus not only on the haunted attraction scene of northeastern Wisconsin but the northeastern US as well.
“The impact of that haunt was huge and far-reaching,” says Oshefsky, who himself started at the Morgue — then called the House — years ago.
Indeed the influence of the Morgue cannot be overstated.
“From that haunt, Terror on the Fox came up and from there we started Shawano Manor which became Green Bay Fear and a couple of the guys went out and started working with Nightmare New England and actually ended up running Spooky World.
“Now, the largest company in the nation is Thirteenth Floor … and there are guys from that very haunted house running haunts for Thirteenth Floor.”
After so many years, the haunt business rests close to Oshefsky's heart and he admits that seeing the Morgue close its doors left an impression.
“It's really sad going there and seeing it all come down … It really had an emotional impact on me because it's been such a long time since I've been in that building. There are such good memories there.”
Luckily, The Morgue will continue to have an impact on the local haunt scene as both some of its horrific scenes and its veteran staff find themselves now with Green Bay Fear.
“We did purchase a number of things from the Morgue and were able to incorporate that into the haunt,” says Oshefsky. “There'll actually be some of the scenes from the Morgue that we're going to recreate. We wanted to do kind of a throwback and recognize that haunt for all the years that it operated.”
Oshefsky says he expects more of the Morgue's scenes to appear at Green Bay Fear in future seasons.
Among the personnel making the move to GB Fear is Marla Van Lanen, who used to operate the Morgue.
“Marla came over last year and I think she worked every single position; she did makeup, she took tickets, she visited with ticket booth, she worked in costume and actor registration and helped out everywhere.”
In 2019, she'll serve as Fear's operations manager.
“She's running the show. Our haunt is getting better and Marla's been instrumental in making that happen,” says Oshefsky.
Van Lanen won't be alone this haunt season. She'll have dozens of tireless volunteers at the ready to serve up scares this year. In stark contrast to the haunt's first year of operation in which only 12 volunteers were required to open doors to visitors, today, a minimum of 80 volunteers are required nightly to operate the attraction — a testament to its growth over 16 seasons.
Physically, the haunt, which also features live music, the touring Apocalyptic Sideshow and northeastern Wisconsin's original escape room, is at capacity. Now Oshefsky says, honing the haunts overall theme and “making our story more cohesive” for visitors is paramount.
“So, it's not just people coming through the line growling and snarling; there's a theme, a storyline and it's a bit more scripted so you can hear and see the story as you go through.”
To that end, Green Bay Fear has hired acting coaches to work with its performers in the months leading into haunt season.
It may come as a surprise to some, but bringing the haunt to life every October is a venture six months in the making. Preparations begin in April of each year and safety and educational training in carpentry, scene painting and acting are ongoing. Such training, combined with a returning crew of loyal volunteers has made the haunt “self-sustaining,” and Oshefsky enjoys being able to step back and witness a new generation of haunters coming into their own.
“The most rewarding part of the haunt is taking these kids with idle hands, putting them into a role of responsibility and holding them accountable for how it operates,” says Oshefsky.
“Seeing the attraction grow, seeing the people grow and become responsible adults that contribute, I take a lot of pride and glean a lot of happiness from seeing that.”
Make no mistake, for all its ghosts, ghouls and goblins, at the heart of Green Bay Fear is a sense of civic duty. The haunt is, after all, a fundraiser for the Beja Shrine of which Oshefsky has proudly been a member since 2004.
He recalls a piece of sound advice:
“I remember my mom looking me in the eyes and saying before you ever give money to any cause, make sure that you can see that you're doing good in your community and that you can meet the people that they're helping.”
Ensuring that not only the haunt but also its purpose lives on has been a family affair.
“Both of my kids pretty much grew up at the haunt,” says Oshefsky. “When we started my son was one and my daughter was five.”
Today, both of his children continue to volunteer at the haunt as an actor and makeup artist respectively.
Oshefsky encourages parents looking for a unique way to bond with their children to consider volunteering.
“It's a great bonding experience. I mean you get together with your parent and scare the pants off people!”
Green Bay Fear is open at 7 p.m. every Thursday through Saturday beginning with Friday, Oct. 4 and running through November 2. General admission is $20 and includes access to Shawano Manor, the Twisted Trail, Mr. Jingles Funhouse and the Odditorium. To avoid the lines, a Fast Pass ticket is available for $10 more. Escape room admission is separate and can be booked online at greenbayfear.com.
Catch the touring Apocalyptic Sideshow at Green Bay Fear on Oct. 18 & 19.
For those too young to enjoy the entire haunt experience, Kids Day is Oct. 19 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Volunteers are welcome. Those ages 13 and 14 require parental supervision, those age 15 require parental permission. To inquire about volunteering, use the Contact feature at greenbayfear.com.
Visitors are advised to park along Bond Street for easy access to the admission gate.