HANCOCK, MASS. — An evening walk in the Berkshires may sound peaceful, but for 13 nights in October, a moonlit walk on the haunted summit of Jiminy Peak is anything but tranquil.
Grab your flashlights and the hand of a brave thrill-seeker as you enter the haunted holdout of 13 Nights at Jiminy Peak. This year, the prisoners have escaped their jail cells and are wreaking havoc as they and their wicked team of eerie clowns and chainsaw-wielding barbarians execute their one mission: genuinely terrify anyone who enters.
Groups will have the chance to meander through haunted houses and a ride up the chair lift in complete darkness. Once at the summit, groups will be given a flashlight to make their way through the woods to the finale at the base of the mountain.
"Getting a scare is something special" said Jason Griffin, base area operations manager of Jiminy Peak. He says one reason visitors love feeling scared is perhaps the adrenaline rush. "It's something you don't get by doing anything else."
Griffin, now in his fifth year as haunt director of 13 Nights, says this year's haunt is already one of his favorites.
"Over the last four years we have improved. It's looking to be our biggest and best year yet," he said.
Creating the madness is no easy task, however.
"We start production early in summer with a skeleton crew, no pun intended," he said. "During the current 13 Nights we're operating, we are already thinking about next year." The theme is usually finalized during the winter, and come summer "we put screws to the wood and we make it happen."
There are about 25 people total on the 13 Nights crew. They work on the set and many of them become actors for the haunt.
"Some of them have been to the 13 Night's event before and decide they want to work here too. We have a core group each year as well as a seasonal staff," Griffin said.
Some actors use gadgets and props to enhance their scare, but for one nameless clown hiding in the haunted house, his appearance is all that he needs to give children nightmares.
"I enjoy being a clown," he said with unblinking eyes. "You don't expect a nice clown. You'll know what you get when you see me."
This is his second year of his clown career. He enjoys having an outlet to scare people.
"Normally, when you scare, you get in trouble, but here they encourage it," he said "My best feature is my clown shoes," he says pointing to them. "I had to clean the blood off them "
Despite the extensive planning, Griffin says there's always a last-minute rush. "Halloween has become a billion dollar industry," he said, noting the short window of opportunity to create something. He and the crew put in quite a bit of detail to the final product to ensure there's something terrifying for everyone to enjoy. Many of the scares appeal to several senses, using liquids, scents, strobe lights, and spider webs, among many other mysteries found in the haunted houses.
Bri Lynne Cassavaugh, a ski instructor and ride operator at Jiminy Peak, headed the artistic front of the project through painting, drawing and creation of realistic carcasses made from old props, fake blood, and melted plastic wrap.
She finds inspiration through listening to Slayer and re-watching a lot of the horror movies that scared her when she was younger. Some of her favorites?
"All of the 'Halloween' movies, and the original 'Night of the Living Dead,'" she said "Specifically, movies that poured all of their resources into making the gore awesome. Movies like that scared me when I was little I was petrified."
Both she and Griffin agree their favorite part about 13 Nights is seeing it all come together.
"I enjoy working each night, where all the hard work culminates," Griffin said. "People like to get scared for the adrenaline."
The history of Jiminy Peak residing in the Jericho Valley is what sets the stage for this location to be a perfect haunt destination. According to the legend told by Griffin, when the Jericho Valley was first inhabited in the 1700s, the farmers moved to the hills because people were dying and they thought the fog was the plague. Really, it was more likely they died from the lack of medicine. The sheep came down from the hills into valley to eat green grass. The farmers realized the sheep were fine and fog was not harmful and they returned to the valley.
"13 Nights speaks to the sheep's retreat back to the hills," Griffin said. "Were they running from something at the bottom or to something at the top of the hill? That leaves us to create our chaos here."
As an avid skier, Cassavaugh has spent a lot of time at the top of the summit at Jiminy, but being at the top in the dark with moonlight and a lone flashlight is a different story.
"I went up in a group last year and that was awesome," she said. "It's not like a fabricated haunted house, it plays off the 'what was that!' 'Oh, maybe it's just a squirrel ... Nope, that's a chainsaw.'"
IF YOU DARE ...
What: 13 Nights at Jiminy
Where: 37 Corey Road, Hancock, Mass.
When: 6:30- 10:30 p.m. rain or shine; Oct. 1, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Tickets: Admission $25, Scare Package $37
Contact: 413-738-5500 or online at www.13nightsatjiminy.com