From a haunted toy factory to a pitch black maze, philanthropic fraternity members at Ohio Wesleyan University are raising a scare this weekend.
For 27 years, the Alpha Chi Chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity at Ohio Wesleyan has transformed its Victorian-era living quarters at 216 N. Franklin St. into a ghoulish haunted house with a twist.
The frat donates its door proceeds to Big Brothers Big Sisters and collects canned food articles for a discounted admission to benefit People In Need’s food pantry.
“The haunted house changes every year,” said Ohio Wesleyan junior Macauley O’Connor, a member of Chi Phi. “It has a new perspective with new people designing floors. It’s those different ideas and perceptions that make it what it is every year.”
The fraternity raised $5,000 last year with about 1,000 people coming through the house with hopes of raising $6,000 over this year’s three-day haunt fest.
“It’s going to be a hard goal,” O’Connor said. “But we’re trying to get the word out. This is not just Ohio Wesleyan entertainment. It’s really something for everyone in Delaware County.”
Members have advertised as far away as Marysville, as well as in Delaware city and the surrounding townships, through fliers, the social media site Facebook and word of mouth, O’Connor said.
A special part of the house dubbed “The Oaks” is rumored to be haunted by the matriarch of the family formerly inhabiting the three-story mansion: Martha Sanborn, who met her death attempting to descend a flight of stairs from the third floor. She lost her balance and plummeted to the marble floor of the first floor foyer, dying instantly.
While O’Connor said he has not personally had any run-ins with Sanborn, other brothers have, including one who saw her ghost, as well as another who heard her moving articles in his locked room.
The house’s three floors undergo about a month of planning and construction. The fraternity’s members are assigned to each of the floors, then a theme is chosen.
As spook lovers travel through the old house this year, they will pass through a zombie-infested swamp on the first floor, a haunted toy factory on the second floor and the third floor’s theme asks the question, “Are you Afraid of the Dark?”
O’Connor helped design the third floor, which uses things people can’t see to build their expectations, he said.
“They build up the expectation in their heads, making the effect twice as powerful,” O’Connor said.
It takes about 20 minutes to travel through the house, which includes a trip to the basement set up as a nearly pitch-black maze, built with planks of wood, plywood and black tarp.
Junior Paul Kline, who serves as the Chi Phi president, wrote the plans for the maze in his head. Kline also designed the maze last year, but made several changes, making it the most complex one to date, he said. It takes about 10 fraternity brothers and two weeks of work to completely set up the maze.
About 50 people, including the fraternity members and helpers from campus, volunteer to make the haunted house happen, O’Connor said. The upperclassmen in the house serve as tour guides and campus volunteers serve as actors. The fraternity’s annual haunt kicks off Thursday with slightly adjusted hours this year in consideration of the residential neighbors, O’Connor said. It is open from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday and 7 to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Typically, Thursday, as well as earlier hours, are the best times to attend the house with minimal wait, O’Connor said.
Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children ages 12 and under and $5 (or 7 food points) for OWU students with a valid Ohio Wesleyan University ID card. The public receives $1 off admission for bringing a canned food donation. There is no age restriction, but with the screams and dark hallways, it may be best for very young children to pass, organizers said.
The Chi Phi fraternity was founded in 1824 at Princeton University. The Alpha Chi Chapter of Chi Phi at Ohio Wesleyan chapter was founded in 1873 offering other community service events, including a free meal called Chi Phi Soup Kitchen on Wednesdays.