By Kendall Tamer
BU News Service
For 20 years, Witch’s Woods has been scaring and delighting New Englanders at Nashoba Valley Ski Area. This year, they have four walk-through haunts, as well as their thrilling Haunted Hayride.
With all the frightful fun to be had, it can be easy to forget how much work goes into making all of these attractions. Preparation and planning begin as early as March, when the creative team, also known as the “skeleton crew,” first meet to start discussing themes for the year.
From there, multiple teams take action to bring Witch’s Woods to life, starting with the production, or “build,” team. Production begins building by late August and moves into setting up within the ski area seven days a week for almost the entire month of September.
“A vast majority of sets and costumes are all done from scratch,” said Brian Brandt, a member of the production team. “We do some props and other decor but the larger sets we have are made from the beginning, straight down to the paint.”
Elizabeth Finch, head of wardrobe for the event, said most of her work is also done during the preseason. She said she and her partner brainstorm concepts in the spring, then search online and at the Salvation Army for anything they can use. They start to size the actors in late summer.
“Sizes could range anywhere from extra small to 6X,” Finch said. “There are 150 actors and only two of us, and I’m the only one who can sew.”
For Finch though, it’s all worth it.
“When the actors look good and feel good and like what they’re wearing, they do a much better job of performing for the customers,” Finch said.
The wardrobe team works very closely with the makeup team to determine whether or not the looks they’re devising will work cohesively as a final product. Ani Schiller, head of the makeup department, is in constant communication with Finch and does the majority of the designing in the three months leading up to the event.
But it’s not until opening weekend when the real work begins for the makeup team.
This year, there are 13 makeup artists, and every single actor has some degree of makeup. The team works like an assembly line, starting with prosthetics, moving to airbrush and then topping everything off with blood splatter to tie it all together.
Once the sets, costumes and makeup are done, it’s the actors who pull the spooky spectacular together.
“Most of the actors are all returning people who travel from all over New England and keep coming back because they’re so dedicated,” Schiller said.
One of the actors, Bob Amici, has worked at Witch’s Woods since its inception. He is a narrator for the haunted hayride and helps write the script for it.
“I’ve said this for years–this character is more me than I am,” Amici said. “If you want to know what I’m truly like, come see me
Paul Warner, another hayride narrator, has been scaring as “The Baron” for 18 years. When asked if it was difficult for him to stay in character, Warner said as soon as he arrives at work, it’s easy. He just becomes the character.
“We’ve developed and grown the show so much and put so much time and effort into each haunt and each story that we believe it as actors. So we let the guests believe it too and that’s the whole point,” Warner said.
Actor Mike Goodreau is so dedicated he comes all the way from Rhode Island. Goodreau is a middle school Spanish teacher by day but every year for the last 18 years, he’s made the journey to Westford to become a scarecrow by night. When he arrives, fellow cast members put him up in their homes.
Even after 20 years, the devoted troupe said the attraction is always growing and changing to bring guests the most memorable experiences possible.
For more information on Witch’s Woods, visit https://witchswoods.com.