By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
SHREWSBURY – When Derek Shimer was a kid, he would spend hours rearranging the Halloween decorations in front of the house.
Now, Derek, 14, spends hours annually constructing a haunted house in his family’s garage.
“You would think when he was little, he would be scared of stuff,” said his mother, Jennifer. “But he loved it.”
Haunt starts a Halloween party skit
The Shimer family holds a Halloween Haunt for their neighborhood every year. This year’s haunt officially opened on Oct. 11 and will remain open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at 3 Meadow Hill Rd. in Shrewsbury.
The Halloween Haunt began several years ago when the Shimers held a Halloween party at their home. Derek, his dad Cory and his brother did a mad scientist-themed skit.
“The reaction was really good, so we decided to keep doing it year after year and it kept getting better every year,” Derek said.
Family works to improve haunt after COVID-19 hiatus
The Shimers had to cancel last year’s haunt due to the pandemic. But, this year, Derek said they hoped to come back with the best showing they’ve ever had.
The Shimers bought more decorations and animatronics. Over half of the decorations now in the haunt are new, Derek estimated.
The haunt takes place in the Shimer’s garage.
It has several different themes. For example, there’s a pirate-themed display and a pumpkin patch outside at the entrance.
One of Derek’s favorite decorations is an animatronic skeleton dressed as a pirate that they recently acquired.
“When Derek was little, he loved pirates,” Jennifer said. “He used to dress up as a pirate.”
He loved Davy Jones from the “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
“It was never not the scary one,” Jennifer said. “It was always the scary one.”
Preparation spans months
Derek spends about two months planning and setting up the haunt each year.
First, the family decides where to place the display’s walls, which are made out of plastic tarps from Home Depot.
Then, they start hanging up the decorations and animatronics based on how they think the flow of the haunt will best work.
“There shouldn’t be anything interrupting each other, and also, it’s not too clustered, but also not too spaced out,” Derek said.
Even once it’s set up, Derek spends time making adjustments before Halloween.
“I love how he’s like, ‘What can we use that we have in a different way.’ It’s a fun family thing to do together, but it’s nice to give back to our neighborhood and everyone who wants to come,” Jennifer said.
Halloween Haunt raises funds for charity
In past years, the family has only held the haunt on Halloween. But they decided to open it early this year to raise money for Spirit Halloween’s fundraiser, Spirit of Children.
Derek said the fundraiser collects money to pay for therapy and entertainment, like Halloween parties, for children in hospitals.
Individuals will be able to donate when they visit the haunt.
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