NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 30, 2013

A 'boo-tiful' Halloween

As I See It
Sara-Anne Eames

---- — This column is one of the most enjoyable I believe I’ve ever done in over 12 years. This idea was all started by a West Newbury friend, Leif Young. We were talking about Halloween and he told me that he had been in a project with some friends by the name of Nicholas in Groveland for many past years.

Bruce and Karen Nicholas of 11 Birchwood Terrace started a haunted house about 10 years ago on their property. Throughout the years neighborhood children, their parents and their own child as well as many volunteers get together every Halloween night from 5 to 7 and “spook” this address. What a fun-loving group of dedicated ghosts! Every year Bruce makes new projects and on Sept. 1, Karen starts buying the candy that’s offered to each child who comes through the haunted house. I must add parents can also get candy! This is a free, wonderful, well-thought bustle of activity that has faithfully been put on by this couple for approximately 10 years.

It all started with just the garage being decorated first. A young boy stood outside with his toy saber and said, “Open Sesame!” and that begins the adventure. Next they added the house and now it spreads to the backyard.

They have black decorative lighting and psychedelic lava lamps, red bulbs, strobe lights, Bruce’s homemade coffins, tombstones, owls, skeletons, jail cell, as well as store-bought gimmicks. So enjoy the spooks: orange eyes and projection lights, Dracula in the coffin and more new features being added this year.

Candy is given out to all who enter and I heard some people return the same night to see it all once more. They get candy again — not bad.

I asked her why they had started this project; she said she knew a woman who had a haunted house and she had never forgotten it. Both she and her husband want to give back to their community. Needless to say, the neighbors seemed to love it. So all of this comes into the reason why.

The Nicholas couple has a son, Michael, who has participated each year in the festivities. He is a freshman at a New Hampshire college and they are hoping he can get home for the weekend. The whole family gets involved, including their Shetland sheepdog, “Nickey,” who on Halloween stands beside Bruce and calls for people to “enter” the haunted property.

Leif aided in this project for many years. One year he worked in Florida and could not make it home. Karen said it was a year that she really panicked, as Leif gets the equipment for them, helps build a spider web arch for the spooking and comes every year in a different costume, which he never tells them what he’s going to be. But Karen says it’s always a splendid costume. Each year he adds new ideas and, as he says, wants it even scarier.

As stated, there are many volunteers. Her parents, Sandy and Kean Keyes, an aunt, Lynn Page, a cousin, Tom Page, their son, Michael; Jane Harris, executive director of Opportunity Workshop; Suzanne Roberts, Opportunity Workshop employee; Lilly Keegan, niece; and Julian Wild, who did a YouTube video from 2009 about the haunted house. He graduated from Pentucket High in June 2013; also Marsha and Andrea Sanborn-King.

So it takes a lot of “ghosts” to create this wonderful, free entertainment for children of all ages. Karen says everyone is welcome, the more the merrier. This family loves what they do. I talked to a neighbor, the Davises, Glenn and Joanna. Mr. Davis said all of his children have gone every year. Also that it adds another “layer” of Halloween and they are very enthusiastic. Their names and ages are John, 12; James, 10; and Zoe, 8 years. Pretty much all their lives, they’ve loved their Halloween adventure across the way.

Cindy and Lenny come in after the door is shut at 7 p.m. and feed everyone who has volunteered. A lot of people give their all in this project to give everyone a splendid Halloween and I hope the readers will take an interest. Take 113 to Groveland, turn left onto 97, follow that route and look on the left for the street after you go over a slight hill.

I think everyone at Opportunity Workshop for my visit Sept. 25, particularly Karen, Jane and Suzanne. It was my pleasure to meet such wonderful, personable people.

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Sara-Anne Ames lives in Newburyport.