Merrill’s Haunted Sawmill opens for the season

Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 9:49 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The spirit of Halloween is alive and well at the Haunted Sawmill or more accurately, undead and well.

While this may be the 13th year for the sawmill, they find new ways to keep things fresh every year.

“My board of directors always gets really angry at me because I always say we’re not changing anything this year. And then of course, we go and we change everything,” says Jerry Hersil who is president of the Friends of Vincent foundation.

There’s the same underlying story every year. The main character is Vincent and everything builds off him.

Each sawmill worker comes up with a subtheme and figures out how to work in the new elements with that subtheme.

Hersil encourages actors to build out their characters. “You need a background, and I always tell our kids, why are you at this building? What is your character doing here? If you’re going to be a clown? Why are you at a haunted sawmill? What is your purpose there? So we try to tie it all in together.”

Every year between 60 to 120 volunteers work the event.

For the actors, that includes getting into full makeup, hair and costume every night of the show which can take hours. But they say it’s all worth it for the scary good cause.

“All of the funds that come into the haunted sawmill, and we do make money, I’ll go back into the community, and we help the youth in the area. There are so many underprivileged youth and underserved youth in the area,” says Tricia Nest who is an actress at the sawmill.

The money goes to Boy Scout trips, scholarships and more. But that’s not the only benefit. The actors also get to build the rooms and act in the show.

“Got a little kid, like 9-years-old, and he took and he built his whole room. He’s screwing things into walls and really learning those skills that they can use later on in life, as well as having a sense of accomplishment from when they’ve got their room ready, and that they get to scare the guests,” says Nest.

If you missed opening night, there will be dates available throughout October.