Since 2002, Farmington-area haunted house has raised money to support deployedGermaine Beyl has a complicated relationship with haunted houses. As the driving force behind Farmington’s Support Our Troops Haunted House, she has spent the past decade putting together a good holiday scare for anyone who cares to show up. The thing is, though, Beyl doesn’t really like haunted houses.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Germaine Beyl has a complicated relationship with haunted houses.
As the driving force behind Farmington’s Support Our Troops Haunted House, she has spent the past decade putting together a good holiday scare for anyone who cares to show up. She and the volunteers who make up the group have used the money raised by the event to send care packages to, by her estimate, more than 800 soldiers serving overseas.
The thing is, though, Beyl doesn’t really like haunted houses.
“I still get scared when I go through,” she said. “I’ve gone through a few other ones. I won’t go through this one myself, because they make a point of seeing how many times they can scare me, and I scare very easily.”
The Support Our Troops Haunted House wasn’t really even a haunted house when it started. Back at the beginning, the event was a chili supper for about 95 people. Eight people set the event up at Beyl’s home, and one of her sons set up some scary things in the barn.
Things took off quickly from there. The last year the Beyls held the event at their home they had 350 people and served 300 bowls of chili.
“Every year it kept getting bigger and bigger,” Beyl said.
The haunted house moved to the Dakota County Fairgrounds in 2008 and it’s been there ever since. A group of 93 volunteers, many of whom have been part of the event since the early years, puts everything together and provides the scares when October rolls around.
The haunted house is more than just a one-month operation, though. When they’re not dishing out scares, the volunteers spend time on the other part of the Support Our Troops group’s mission. Beyl has three sons who have all served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and Beyl has made it her mission to provide care packages for them and for anybody else who serves.
“We just decided we would keep doing this until everybody came home,” Beyl said. “There are still guys that are deployed, still guys that are going and still guys that this is their first time over there. Guys and girls. We just want them to know we’re thinking of them.”
The group sends care packages and has provided postage for other groups that send items to soldiers. They send Hickory Farms gift boxes at Christmas and put together holiday-themed care packages that are handed out to anyone deployed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
The group sends everything from puzzles and books to personal hygiene items. If they get a special request, they try to meet it.
“One soldier sent me a note. He wanted a Mountain Dew so bad,” Beyl said. “I know that doesn’t travel well, but my son said, wrap it up good and put it in a Ziploc bag in case it explodes.”
The group has learned a few lessons about what works for care packages. Bags of Cheetos tend to explode at high altitudes, for example, and chocolate works well at Christmas, but not during warmer months.
It’s a lot of work. Beyl said her family has started prohibiting haunted house talk during November and December, but she already has people who want to talk to her about next year’s event. Beyl said it’s rewarding to see how many people have stuck with it over the years.
“I didn’t think that we’d get this much interest for it,” she said. “My fear was maybe people would get tired of doing it after a while.”
While Beyl isn’t much of a fan of haunted houses, she likes the group she has to work with.
“I like the camaraderie of the group,” she said. “It’s a volunteer group. They get along really well. They help each other out. They are very, very unselfish about giving up their time. They participate in parades. They do the steak fry. I can always get volunteers no matter what we’re doing.”
In recent years, the haunted house has drawn about 1,000 people over two days, and the event has been well received. People have good comments about the quality of the haunted house.
The group held the first of two weekend events last weekend. Beyl said cold weather kept attendance down some, but people who showed up said they have a good time.
The haunted house will also be open from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 12 and 13.