Imagine yourself walking through a dark graveyard with unholy apparitions lurking just beyond sight making slight rustling sounds. A chill breeze brings goose bumps to your skin, and then you hear maniacal laughter and the horrific sound of a chain saw starting up right behind you, and you run screaming into the night!
At least that would be my reaction to such a scenario. While some people find Halloween frights exhilarating and fun, others like me are not quite so brave. For the very bold of spirit or the reckless adventurer, there is one more chance to dare the terrors of the haunt on Kelly Lane, before it is gone forever back into the twisted mind of its creator, Susan Longo (aka The Queen of Halloween, as her husband crowned her).
For Longo, Halloween is a passion, perhaps even an obsession. And her greatest delight is in the screams and laughter of the victims who visit her annual haunted event. She has created a massive fright-fest in her house and yard for the past 30-plus years, but this year the haunt will end.
It all began one dark and stormy night, on a perfectly normal Halloween night, the Longo family’s first one in Granby. The doorbell rang only seven times that night. Disappointed by the poor turnout for her most beloved holiday, Longo vowed that the next Halloween would be better. She worked to create a truly frightening, thrilling Halloween destination spot for the next year and the haunt was born.
She planned for months, dreaming up scary scenarios and the most horrific images her imagination could manifest. Then she gathered the props to turn her home into a mansion of the macabre. The first year was small, but young and old alike enjoyed the experience so much that it continued and grew from year to year.
One of Longo’s most treasured memories is the “Bobbing for Bob” cauldron, where she combined peeled grape “eyeballs,” spaghetti for intestines, chicken bones and Bob the skeleton, and told children they would have to bob for Bob to get their bag of candy. An intrepid young man prepared to strip off his costume to do just that, before her hasty “No! No! It’s just a joke!”
In fact, it grew into a production that required outdoor space as well as indoor, included strobe lights, music, sound effects and fog machines, and drew as many as 200 visitors in peak years. It also required some assistance, which Longo received from her husband, her children and their friends. From dressing up in costume, to playing the part of dead bodies, ghosts, or chain-saw-wielding maniacs, her family and friends went along with her nightmarish visions, even though they occasionally were the recipients of an over reactive punch or kick from genuinely frightened visitors. And dressed in her own grotesque costume, she reveled in greeting guests and welcoming (or leading) them to their doom. But of course, she sent them away afterwards with an ominous “Be sure to have sweet dreams…”
Her dedication for the season is unparalleled. Over the decades she invested in props, tools, one self-storage unit, then a larger self-storage unit, and ultimately a shed to store her 18 Rubbermaid totes containing her stuff of nightmares. Actually, she calls them her “Children,” the affectionate tone of her voice just a wee bit unsettling. Each year she creates a new theme, and sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night with new ideas she must jot down. Themes have included Carn-Evil, Harvester of Souls, Little Shops of Horror, Date Night, and even an educational exhibit of the Salem Witch Trials. Brave souls who survive the trek through the gruesome scenes are rewarded with bags of candy. (Sometimes those who were truly scared but faced their fears, got two.)
The haunt is sometimes a little too real. Longo uses sight, sound, smell and touch in her creations. She has dangled fishing line from trees so that people walking through would feel a tiny brush along an arm or cheek, and used bursts of air, sprays of water, or a tap on the shoulder from an unseen hand. These subtle touches are meant to make it feel that much more real, and creepy. It’s all in good fun, but scary-good fun. Anyone who loves the adrenaline rush from a sudden fright will understand, especially those chased by “Chainsaw Man.”
This year’s theme, The End, includes all of Longo’s props. Part will be set up in a tent, and it will go on (as every year) rain or shine or even snow, starting at dusk and lasting until the spirits sleep. Longo is asking all the goblins who dare to come to Kelly Lane to bring a donation for the Granby Food Bank. The goal is to Fill a Coffin…or two. Come if you dare, and please in the interest of safety do not park on both sides of the street.
Although she truly loves her annual event, and especially making people scream, the Queen of Halloween feels it is time to hang up her broomstick. She does most of the work single-handedly and does not set it all up until the actual day. And she takes it all down the next day. It is a true labor of love. She has watched kids grow up coming to her haunted yard year after year and says it has been a passion and a joy for over three decades. She delights in scaring people and wants to thank everyone for the years of support, the screams and the laughter. And to quote a poem she wrote awhile back, “Sweet dreams from Kelly Lane, if dare you sleep.”