The Dark Carnival haunt at 212
Wisconsin Ave. in Oconomowoc preys upon people's innate fear
of clowns, dolls, darkness and disorientation. Doors to the
attraction open Oct. 4, and it will continue to be open from
7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday until Oct.
OCONOMOWOC - A
dark carnival that has been picking up drifters, sinister clowns,
zombies and other characters that go bump in the night will take up
a month-long residence in the old Enterprise newspaper building at
212 Wisconsin Ave.
Beginning Oct. 4,
the public can navigate the nightmare they call home.
actors take pride in how many customers exit early or
cry.” - Brady Dorn
terror-inducing opportunity, offered on the Fridays and
Saturdays leading up to Halloween, is the sixth iteration of the
annual haunted house fundraiser put on by the Oconomowoc Public
Education Foundation. For four years, the event was Haunted
High, staged at the old middle school building at 623 Summit
Ave. Last year was the first year the event moved to the 212
address, where it became “Terror @ 212.”
The success of the
big top portion of last year’s haunt spawned this year’s “Dark
Carnival” theme, which taps into a growing fear of clowns and darker
side of traveling carnivals said haunt volunteer Brad Worth.
“Generation X has
finally grown up,” he said. “In the process, they decided that
clowns are scary, not amusing. And that they need to be stopped.”
In the hall of masks, project
manager Brady Dorn dons an expression quite different from
the one he hopes customers will sport as they navigate the
same area during showtimes.
The Dark Carnival doesn't
rely on gore for its scares, says volunteer Brad Worth,
but doesn't shy away from it either.
The cast of other
characters dreamed up by the likes of fellow volunteers Rick Leane,
Russ Yost and Kim Foust is just as terrifying, he said.
“This is one one
of those itty-bitty carnivals that travels from town to town,
picking up drifters and other ne’er-do-wells,” Worth explained.
In addition to
providing support for the actors in the haunt - whether it’s
coaching them in their lines, doing makeup or applying prosthetics -
Worth will be one among many sinister clowns dressed exactly the
same, with the same makeup and the same moniker.
“It will be creepy
to see all of us ‘Bartleby’s’ being exactly the same,” he said. “The
goal of clowns is usually to be unique and stand out. There’s
something not quite right about a group of clowns who are exactly
Scares in the
haunt, which takes half an hour to navigate, will come from
disorientation, darkness, sights and sounds, said project manager
“The actors take
pride in how many customers exit early or cry,” he said.
“We have to scare
the entire group,” Worth added by way of explanation. “We can’t
leave anybody unscared.”
There is also a
pride in haunt design and the sense of volunteerism that comes from
putting on an award-winning experience each year, he said.
High school literature
classes have an opportunity to write backstories for the
cast of characters at the Dark Carnival, in addition to
volunteering to create their own scary personas.
Haunted High was
voted the best haunt in the Midwest multiple times, and OPEF’s
effort remains one of the top-rated haunts in southeastern
Wisconsin - which Dorn said serves as a testament to the hard
work and imaginations of more than 70 volunteers.
There are several
instances where entire families are volunteering, Worth said,
creating a one-of-a-kind bonding experience.
Customers should keep their eyes
on the walls when navigating the Dark Carnival, say event
organizers. It is full of creepy and vivid surprises.
The Dark Carnival
will be open from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday
from Oct. 4 to Oct. 31. Ticketing opens at 6:30 p.m. The haunt is
for those 14 years old and older, and 10-to-13 year-olds may be
accompanied by an adult.
Tickets are $15
and fast passes may be purchased for $23. The carnival will also be
open during downtown Oconomowoc’s trick-or-treat time, from 2 p.m.
to 4 p.m. on Oct. 25. This version of the haunt will be geared to
children 5 to 12 years old. The lights will be on and candy will be
given out. Tickets to this version are $5.
Strange things will be afoot
at the Dark Carnival all month-long.
proceeds from the Dark Carnival will go to OPEF, to be dispersed
in grants for materials, equipment and projects within the