Idyllwild’s ghost town grows into a village

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Arn Hancock, vice president of Young Idyllwild Inc., who led the build of an expanded Idyllwild Ghost Town, now the Haunted Village at Lake Hemet, talks about details to the facade on the Haunted Hotel. Photo by Halie Wilson

The Idyllwild Haunted Hotel moved to Lake Hemet and has expanded this year to a Haunted Village, complete with the Haunted Hotel, Boneyard Maze, Abandoned Mine and music stage featuring live bands every night.

A preview tour led by Young Idyllwild’s Vice President Arn Hancock revealed an expanded Hotel, with additional themed rooms cast with actors, special effects and new animatronic characters.

Hundreds of shipping pallets came from all over the region and were stacked to build the new Boneyard Maze, which has its own cast of characters, those who couldn’t find their way out.

And an Abandoned Mine will feature some subterranean thrills inside its cavernous walls.

After an adventure through the spooky features, visitors are invited to join the nightly Thriller Dance and “shake your bones” to live music.

“We were looking for a larger venue so we could expand and Town Hall couldn’t give us enough time. It takes about a month to built it and it has to be open for at least a month,” Kathy Wilson, president of Young Idyllwild, said.

Wilson approached Trish Purcell, regional marketing manager for CalParks Southern California region, which runs Lake Hemet Campground, Water Park and concessions, who welcomed Young Idyllwild’s Halloween events.

“We know from experience with a Halloween event at Vail Lake that people love it,” Purcell said. “We wanted to support Young Idyllwild’s mission, providing opportunities for youth in the community,” she said, adding that this kind of event provides a unique experience for Lake Hemet visitors. “It just made sense. It’s just a win-win.”

“We lost a week on the decision because it had to be brought to Lake Hemet Municipal Water District board. We had three weeks to build it and we were three times larger,” Wilson explained.

How did they pull it off? They partnered with Kids of Anza, another nonprofit, headed by Russell Kitchen, with a similar mission. Kids of Anza had the same idea for a Halloween ghost town, but didn’t have time to pull it off. So Kitchen brought all of their manpower. “There’s been about 30 [volunteers], at least, and a lot of them have Idyllwild connections,” Wilson said. “The two nonprofits coming together was really awesome. It gives me chills thinking about it.”

Wilson said there will be a Christmas Toy Drive on Oct. 20 and 21. Bring an unwrapped new gift and you can get one free admission. Those gifts will go to Kids of Anza to benefit low-income families in the Anza Valley.

Wilson said Young Idyllwild has hired security and parking attendants to keep everyone safe and make everything run smoothly.

There also will be vendors on site selling burritos, bruschetta and more, Molly’s Ice Cream (snacks and ice cream), and Kids of Anza (hot dogs, nachos, etc.)

The Haunted Village is open Friday and Saturday nights starting Oct. 6 through Oct. 28 and on Halloween night Tuesday, Oct. 31. Gates open at 7 p.m. and the party ends at 10 p.m. each night.

General entry is $20 for adults and $15 for kids under age 12. Season passes are available. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online at idyllwildghosttown.org.

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