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Women Build Haunted House to Amuse and Terrify

Every year, an Indianapolis museum is home to a spooktacular haunted house – one that routinely delights young children and frightens the adventurous at the same time. And it’s built by women.

Neon green sign that reads "Enter if you dare" and is surrounded by fake snakes

Indianapolis has a lot of treasures, and one of the them is the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The largest museum of its kind, it’s been a resource for children and families since 1925.The Children’s Museum Guild has supported the museum since 1946 in many ways, and for the past 49 years, they have presented a Haunted House. This year, I was invited to attend the media preview day, hosted by the Guild, to learn about the making of the house and see what sort of surprises were in store.

Bookcase with cobwebs, skulls, and other assorted Halloween paraphernalia
Details. Details. Details.

Every year in January, the head of the haunted house committee announces the theme for the October event. The committee then goes into planning mode, making the theme come to life. In September they begin actual construction, in one of the temporary exhibit rooms at the museum. A team of ten women, two carpenters and a local artist spend the next six to eight weeks raiding their Halloween props room, and creating their masterpiece.

paper mache cat with glowing eyes
Papier-mâché creations are made every year by a local artist.

This year’s theme is Wicked Workshop, and for the younger attendees, Winny the Witch and her Witchkins are happy to show them around. The kids trick or treat through the whole thing, and come out with some nice loot. With the lights on, you can see the cobwebs, the skulls and the ghosts, but even I wasn’t scared. You get to appreciate the details, like the witty book titles on the shelves, the monster-themed candy in the haunted vending machine, and the annual game of I-Spy where children are encouraged to find an item in every room.

wall of skulls with glowing teeth
These are creepy in daylight. Imagine them black-lit.

During the lights-off hours, however, the point of the exercise is to scare the pants off jaded teens. The trick or treat helpers are replaced with a scare crew, whose job it is to jump out, spook, haunt and generally terrify. From what I hear, they succeed every year. You’ve got through Halloween night to find out for yourself.

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