On any given night, a person can hear their footsteps echo off the buildings of Fort William Historical Park’s main square.
“Even though you know you’re the only one around or another person from maintenance might be on duty, you still have that eerie, paranoid feeling that someone else is around, that you’re being watched,” said Fort William Historical Park spokesman Marty Mascarin.
That spooky atmosphere is what makes the park’s Haunted Fort Night such a hit each year.
Always a fast sellout, the event runs the two weekends leading up to Halloween.
The Fort is away from city lights and with its historical atmosphere of old-style buildings and costumes, it’s not much of a stretch to transform the place into a living, breathing ghost story.
“That’s what really gets people,” said Mascarin. “Some people are apprehensive the moment they arrive at the site and see how dark it is and how eerie it can be.”
This is the 17th year the park has hosted Haunted Fort Night and Mascarin said they sold out quickly this year. By the end of Thanksgiving weekend, they had already sold out so they decided to add two more shows this year.
“It’s great to have the public’s response to this,” he said. “It has them enjoying the Fort in a whole new way.”
This year the event is called The Madness of Doctor Mycroft and tells the tale of a mad scientist and his creations that come to take over the inhabitants of Fort William.
Interpretative specialist Jason Boesche is the author of this year’s script and didn’t want to give too many details away but said Fort William easily lends itself to a spooky story like Doctor Mycroft.
He started working on the script as soon as last year’s Haunted Fort Night wrapped up and planning for the setup begins six months in advance of the event.
“As far as setting up the actual buildings and getting ready for folks to come through, we have to wait until our season’s finished and tours are done after Thanksgiving before we can actually set up buildings. It’s a lengthy process,” Boesche said.
“We start well in advance. Then there’s a mad rush to get everything put together and looking good for people to come through.”
But amidst all the work, creating Haunted Fort Night is also fun for the staff.
“It’s really one of the events we do that everybody who is involved can really get involved in it and sort of release their creativity into either setting up or developing the storyline or creating some of the visuals for the event,” Boesche said.
“It’s really pretty neat and I think a lot of us get excited every time Halloween rolls around,” he added.
The amount of work put into setting up the Fort and bringing Haunted Fort Night to life each year also requires more manpower than the Fort staff has, so Mascarin said they are reliant on volunteers.
It’s a good opportunity for any high school students looking to meet their community volunteer requirements for graduation and Mascarin said many teens who volunteer for Haunted Fort Night eventually find employment at the park.
“In an unofficial way, it kind of works as a recruiting program for us,” he said.
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