A friendly mansion? Don’t be fooled ... be scared, very scared
Messina House may look like a friendly, welcoming place by day, but this Halloween it will be transformed into a haunted mansion for only the bravest of youngsters.
Hazel Symonds Jr has been working over the past few months to plan the spooky layout and design for this year's event — complete with darkened rooms and spider cobwebs.
She has rated it ‘PG-13' after finding last year's haunted house was too scary for the primary schoolers — and is welcoming adults and children age ten and up.
“The haunted house was really elaborately set up last year,” she said. “There was a girl rocking in the corner, there were spider webs all over the place and even what looked like brains in a jar.
“The children had no idea of the level of hauntedness they were going to get themselves into. All the older ones that came the first day came back with their friends from school.
“They started coming up to me in the street around August asking if I was doing it again. And just knowing they were anticipating it made it worthwhile for me.
“I'm really hoping I can get a majority of the middle and high school students out there this time around.”
The younger children weren't quite as thrilled with the ghouls and goblins — which is why Ms Symonds has decided to host a nearby ‘Halloween Fun Zone' complete with friendly games, activities and trick-or-treat booths.
“The haunted house isn't for very small children, but seeing that Halloween is for everyone I figured it would be nice if I had time to decorate the hall next to Messina House and create a safe and friendly zone that's not so scary.”
Ms Symonds has invited local vendors selling food items, as well as people doing face painting and other child-friendly activities, to take part.
The vendors will have the opportunity to decorate their tables in a Halloween theme and are set to offer candy to youngsters as they walk around.
“It's sort of like trick or treating on a safe street, which is very popular in the US, Canada and Europe,” Ms Symonds said. “We don't do anything like that in Bermuda, but if it goes well my intention is to build on this.”
The event will also serve as an important fundraiser for Ms Symond's daughter Delijah, who is currently travelling the world with music and community service programme, Up With People.
Monies raised from both Halloween events will help pay for the remainder of the costs for Delijah's trip. While any additional funds will go towards setting up a scholarship programme to help other young Bermudians interested in taking part in Up With People in the future.
“It's quite an ordeal raising money,” she said. “You don't realise how much it takes to raise $32,000 and we are 30 percent away from our goal and have another $10,000 to raise. We need to have a majority of that by December.”
Ms Symonds grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and said Halloween was always a special time for children in her neighbourhood.
“We all went around to trick or treat door-to-door. We came home with a bag full of candy and our parents would sift through them to make sure everything looked safe.
“We also picked pumpkins and I find it's a little harder to do that here because not that many stores sell Halloween themed items. Pumpkins are particularly expensive here as well, so you likely wouldn't get more than one to carve.”
She considers decorating to be one of her passions and favourite past-times. In the past, while working at the Fairmont Southampton as the director of activities, Ms Symonds took great pride in decorating the hotel's space and created a haunted house and costume party.
She said: “It was so much fun and seeing that I had a lot of the supplies needed and the creativity to pull it off, I though I would make a haunted house at Messina House.
“I haven't really seen one at this level in Bermuda and I wanted to make it as much of a theme park attraction as I could on a budget.
“It's also a fundraiser so I came up with the idea of opening the doors and having people give a minimum donation of $5.”
Her plan is to continue to make the event bigger and better each year. She also wants to cater to children and people of all ages, which is why there will be a variety of food and activity options available.
The Halloween Fun Zone, a safe space for young children to enjoy fun games, candies and costumes, will be open this Thursday from 6.30pm until 8.30pm. The Haunting of Messina Manor will be kicking off on Thursday and Friday, from 7pm until 9pm, and Saturday from 7pm until 10pm.
Messina House is located at 13 Kitchener Close, Boaz Island, Sandys.
For more information of the fundraiser, to benefit Delijah's journey with Up With People, visit www.lijahuwp.com.