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'Keeping the illusion': Haunted Hospital thrills as much as it scares

The second showing of Dickinson's Haunted Hospital proved to startle even the most thrill seeking individuals this past weekend. We go inside the halls of the former St. Joseph's Hospital to hear from the creators who bring this daunting event to life as well as the attendees that support the return of the annual Halloween-festive event.

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The Haunted Hospital at St. Joseph's Plaza is open from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights from Sept. 24 - Oct. 30. (contributed / Nate Richter)

Riding up the elevator to the third floor of the old St. Joseph's Hospital, the feeling of uncertainty sinks below your feet. Not knowing what's waiting on the other side, seven others gather next to you. As the elevator door opens, characters dispersed throughout the entire building await to scare those that dare to enter. Without giving away the whole enchilada, the Haunted Hospital has something for every type of fear.

For its second weekend in a row, the Haunted Hospital returned for a two-day performance at St. Joseph’s Plaza in Dickinson. Dressed as clowns or hospital patients, actors immersed into their roles as groups of attendees ventured into the building in hopes for a thrilling performance.

Creative Director Nate Richter said he enjoys watching the actors develop into their roles.

“The fun part is when you have an actor that’s never really done it before. They get their first couple scares,” he said. “They start to have so much fun. Then you start to find your character.”

Evan Lubken, who attended the event Saturday, Oct. 2, said there are many improvements to this year's Haunted Hospital compared to last year. Lubken noted that he definitely got his money’s worth.

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“Last year was more like a slower pace, and shorter,” Lubken said.

Despite some attendees' comments on the authenticity of certain elements, such as the chainsaw depiction, most of the props appear real, but there are safety measures to keep in mind. For instance, during a haunted house in Berea, Ohio, actor Christopher Pogozelski decided to bring his own bowie knife to make things more realistic. But Pogozelski ended up accidentally stabbing an 11-year-old boy in the foot and was charged with negligent assault.

“It was scary, but it was really fun,” Cloe Hecker said. “I feel like maybe (they) could have done some things better, like the chainsaw sounds super fake but it was pretty scary.”

During a previous interview with Richter, he said there are always skeptics who think they’re too old or too mature to get thoroughly frightened but they do. Richter said he's put in many hours to create an immersive, haunting experience.

"If it doesn't look right, a customer might see it and it might break the illusion. It's all about keeping the illusion, you know. Customer feedback is big for us," he said.

During a Haunted Hospital tour by The Press on Saturday, Oct. 2, actors played into their roles, at times frightening attendees to jump out of their skin — proving why the creator has a less spooky performance for those 12 and under from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Haunted Hospital will continue from 7 to 11 p.m. each Friday and Saturday through Oct. 30. Admission for the Haunted Hospital is $20 per person. On kid’s nights, admission is $5 for children 12 and under. For more information, visit the Haunted Hospital Facebook page @StJoesHaunt.

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Haunted Hospital Creative Director Nate Richter said he's put in many hours to create an immersive, haunting experience. "If it doesn't look right, a customer might see it and it might break the illusion. It's all about keeping the illusion, you know. Customer feedback is big for us," he said. (contributed / Nate Richter)

Related Topics: EVENTSDICKINSON
Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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