Haunted Houses Scare up Donations


The entrance to the Orinda haunted house. Inside, organizer Michael Karp prepares for the next visitors.

Kelly Pien, Staff Writer

Both the Moraga and Orinda communities held haunted houses for charity during the Halloween season. While the “Dark Dreams” haunted house has been held in Moraga 3 times, this was the first year a haunted house was featured in Orinda.

The Dark Dreams Haunted House charged $9 per person. The proceeds from the haunted house went to the California Independent Film Festival (CAIFF), according to the owner, Joanne Foy. Dark Dreams is the not-for-profit group that designed the haunted house. The CAIFF needs the money to pay for the filmmakers and celebrities coming to the festival.

Dark Dreams is willing to set up a haunted house for any charitable cause as long as they provide the space, according Foy.

Admission to the Orinda haunted house was free, but the organizers encouraged people to bring canned food, according to one of the organizers, Michael Karp. “We’re donating cans to the Contra Costa Food Bank,” Karp said.  On the last day of the haunted house, they had “about 400 pounds of canned food.”

The Moraga haunted house was an 8 room maze, and the goal for thrill seekers was to find a way out, according to Foy. The Dark Dreams Haunted House was hosted at the Rheem Theater. Previously, the organization hosted their haunted house in Livermore for 2 years. It was “really scary, dark, and there’s a chainsaw guy,” Foy said.

“I expect it to be scary and fun,” said freshman Adia Tajima.

Freshman Julia Winter disagreed. “It’d be scary if you went by yourself, but not with your friends.”

“When you go in with someone else, you’ll not realize that you’re holding them because it’s so scary,” said freshman Michelle Kwak, who has been to the haunted house twice. Still, on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being incredibly scary), she only gave it a 3.5 or 4. It doesn’t give nightmares, but “there’s a lot of surprise elements.”

The haunted house had both life-size mannequins and live actors. “Every actor is a volunteer,” said Foy. Anyone interested in helping out next year could sign up in the lobby. There were not many requirements in becoming a haunted house actor. “You have to be 16 or older, not afraid of the dark, and be into scaring little kids and big kids,” said Foy.

Some of these actors were Campo and Miramonte students, but Foy did not want to disclose their names. “They’re not supposed to tell people who they are,” she said, because it’ll ruin the surprise of “who is a live actor, and who is a mannequin”.

No Campo students helped out at the Orinda haunted house, according to Karp, it was staffed by “mostly OIS [Orinda Intermediate School] and Miramonte” students. There were also other “kids from the community” and parents who were in and helped build the haunted house. According to Karp, all were volunteers.

The props in the Dark Dreams haunted house were professional props. “It’s not the stuff you find at Spirit,” Foy said, referencing the Halloween costume and decoration store.

The Orinda haunted house was aimed at a younger crowd, ages 5-14, though there were “a lot of younger and some older” people. Karp said the haunted house was “for the community” and “for the kids.” He and the other organizers are planning to do the haunted house again next year.

Once you enter the Dark Dreams haunted house, there is no getting out until you find the exit. “You can’t get out of the door [that you came in]. You’ll want to, but you can’t,” said Kwak.