A haunting for the hungry

Two student groups turned a church into a haunted house to raise money for charity.

by Sarah Connor

Two University of Minnesota student groups have been toiling away in the basement of an old church near campus for the past two months, building a haunted house for charity.

Students Against Hunger and a faith-based student group, the Wesley Foundation, have joined forces for the past three years to create a decked-out haunted house with proceeds going to charity. And this year, they believe the event’s new location in the basement of a church that’s more than a century old will bring in more funds and frights.

The haunted house hosted in the University Baptist Church on University Avenue Southeast kicked off last weekend and will open again on Halloween for $5 a pop.

Students Against Hunger Vice President Maria Frank said all proceeds from the two-weekend-long attraction will go toward the group’s meal-packing event next month.

“[With the proceeds], we’ll be buying supplies to then package up meals and give them to an organization that sends them overseas to disaster areas or impoverished areas in the world and distributes them through schools and orphanages,” she said.

The two organizations, which regularly hold community events, first teamed up in 2012 when Frank and a friend from the Wesley Foundation decided to pool their groups’ resources and host a haunted house for charity. The past two years’ houses have brought in about 200 visitors and $400 in total, Frank said.

To ramp up those numbers, the groups decided to move the haunted house’s venue from a small space in Middlebrook Hall to the Wesley Foundation’s group space in the University Baptist Church’s basement.

Frank said she hopes the larger space will attract more thrill-seeking students than in past years.

And because the church was constructed nearly 100 years ago, “it’s already pretty scary even without anything in there,” said Wesley Foundation President Eric Madsen.

Rachael Acevedo, vice president of the Wesley Foundation, said one of last weekend’s visitors said that the haunted house was better than the infamous Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood near campus.

“All those nooks and crannies in the bottom of the church were completely transformed to become this really successful haunted house,” she said.

Madsen said to bump up the scare factor this year, the groups worked with an adviser who is familiar with putting them together. The result, he said, is a space comparable to professionally designed haunted houses in the area.

Madsen said based on the adviser’s experience with haunted houses of its size, the groups are anticipating a surge of visitors.

Acevedo said last weekend the haunted house raised more money and attracted a larger pool of students than in past years.

With the flood of new customers, Acevedo said she hopes the groups can put together thousands of meals for charity in the coming weeks.

“Each person pays $5 to get into the haunted house, and we can get one meal out of just a quarter,” she said, “so it’ll be a huge impact.”

Frank said the groups are also encouraging people who visit the haunted house to help with next month’s meal-packing event.

“People who come can not only donate money but also can be involved in putting the money to use and really see where it’s going,” she said.