I was just 7 years old. We lived in an old colonial farmhouse in Hollis, New Hampshire. Attached to the home's South side was a large post and beam barn that had been used for cattle and horses back in the late 1700’s. It was the perfect place for what would eventually be famed as “The Haunted Barn”.
My brother Todd and his high school buddies spent weeks decorating the barn from floor to ceiling. My engineer father helped manifest some of the more elaborate scares and creative gags, which at the time (early 1980’s), were very effective and quite innovative.
Phil B’s character swung an ax (which we later learned was real). Phil L. was the mad scientist. John L. had a mask with a dangling eye (creepy as hell). Mike J. was a magnificent mortician. Jamie C. was a massive beast in the cage room, and my brother was a spectacular tour guide.
I remember as a young boy how much I loved being around it all. I would poke around the barn where all those cool teenage boys were constructing, being careful not to go too far into the “depths” of the haunt (because I was too scared). I would only observe from afar and never, EVER during the evening showtime hours.
Word of The Haunted Barn spread quickly throughout Southern NH and Northern MA, and by its fourth season, bus loads of people were coming to experience the event for themselves. People loved the intensity and originality. People pee’d their pants. A few visitors fainted. On one occasion, the ultimate testimony to the attraction’s fear factor: a expecting mother's water broke in the middle of the funeral parlor scene after being startled by the living corpse in the coffin. Bonus!
Through it all, I watched in amazement, soaking up the screams and laughter coming from our family’s antique barn; all of it peppering the October air. It was magical, and I absolutely loved it.
I owe my love for Halloween and haunting to my brother, his buddies, and my parents. My parents gave Todd creative reign in that old barn; a place that became a warehouse oozing with imagination and entertainment. I will forever be grateful to my family for introducing me to Halloween haunting at such an early age. It is a passion that has stuck with me my entire life.
Written by Chad Zingales on 4/6/23 while taking the SAT's for the fifth time.