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School of hard haunts offered at Dorchester civic center
web 1021 HauntedDorchester
Be prepared for a spooktacular good time at the first haunted schoolhouse and hayride this weekend and next weekend at the Dorchester Civic Center in Midway. - photo by Patty Leon

Haunted schoolhouse and hayride

When: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 28-29

Where: Dorchester Village Civic Center, 1804 Islands Highway, Midway

Admission: $5 for haunted schoolhouse, $5 for haunted hayride, $8 to enjoy both

Ages: Recommended for adults and children 7 and older

Contact number: 884-3342

It once was a happy place filled with children’s laughter — a place where youngsters went to learn their ABCs, practice math, recite rhymes and play at recess. But something changed — something sinister occurred — and it no longer was a typical schoolhouse. The children who passed through these hallways met untimely demises and now, years later, they are back seeking vengeance.

Using that storyline, organizers have set the stage for the first haunted schoolhouse and hayride this weekend and next weekend at the Dorchester Village Civic Center in Midway.

Dorchester Village Civic Center President Barbara Martin said they hosted a Halloween dance last year but were persuaded to try something different this year.

“We had so many people tell us we should do a haunted house so we decided we would give it a try,” she said.

She started making phone calls to drum up volunteers and eventually found Tina McGrath. Martin said McGrath has been a godsend and one of the primary architects of the haunted schoolhouse.

“It’s been quite a production,” McGrath said.

McGrath, a former event planner, said she has spent a little more than two months on the project.

“This is really a six-month job, but we only had about two and a half months. … We received a lot of donations of Halloween items — anything you can dream of — and we have gathered the items. … We also had a slew of great community people who come when you call them,” she said.

The end result is a haunted journey through a maze of mystery and suspense. Folks first will be treated to a history of the original structure of the Dorchester Consolidated School, currently the civic center, which was completely restored recently.

The building itself is said to be the home of lingering spirits where the whispering sounds of children still can be heard.

Visitors then will be told tales about tragic events as they are led to an outdoor walkway and into the school’s “chop shop.” From there, the trail takes visitors into the former classroom of Ms. Hatchet, a classroom and teacher attendees won’t soon forget.

The mystery continues, winding through the haunted forest, where every corner offers a surprise. Guests should walk swiftly to avoid being caught on the tracks of an oncoming train.

Guests who aren’t able to trek through the woods still can enjoy the haunted ground by climbing aboard a haunted hayride.

Patrons will settle into thick haystacks as the ride ventures deep into the dark woods, past scarecrows and through forgotten cemeteries. Organizers promise guests will encounter a very special surprise during the hayride.

Martin and McGrath said they have been blessed to have the support and generosity of many volunteers. Martin said each time they had a meeting, more people would show up to help.

She said the Youth ChalleNGe Academy cleared the trail for the haunted forest, and McGrath and her team of volunteers made many of the props by hand.

“The volunteers and the donations we received are actually the success of this project,” Martin said.

Admission to the haunted schoolhouse is $5, the haunted hayride is $5 or enjoy both for a discount price of $8. The event is open to people of all ages, although it is recommended that haunted schoolhouse visitors be 7 or older.

Martin said proceeds will go toward the civic center’s next restoration project — the kitchen.

“We have never been able to do anything with our kitchen,” she said. “We have events here and we rent the facility out, but they always have to be catered and it would be wonderful if we could have a working kitchen. That would be great.”

McGrath said the event is something the community asked for, and she hopes it will attract the locals as well as some folks from neighboring counties.

“I’m excited about it because we’ve always had to go to different places (out of town), but this will be something, locally, that will get bigger and better every year,” said Pam Heath, who designed the hayride. “The initial stuff is the hardest to get together. … It all works out, and each year that you did it gets bigger and better.

“We are hoping folks will come out to this end of the county instead of traveling. … We want them to come here.”

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