Halloween is her time to howl
This time next week, Jean Hulbert will be in another world – the world of Halloween and frightening creatures that go “Boo!” in the night.
As the coordinator of the 4th annual Hulbert’s Haunted House, she can utilize all her horrifyingly creative energies into entertaining eager-to-be-scared children as well as earning money for Dance Workshop, where more than 50 dance students, including her daughter Amber, learn how to dance, how to perform, and now, how to really, really scare people.
“I don’t know what it is about Halloween that gets me going, but I just love it,” Hulbert said. “It’s a time when you can pretend to be what you’re not and just have fun with it.”
Hulbert, 42, has been putting together some sort of haunted house since 1984, when she first transformed the family garage into a fright site while her children, Trish, now 22, and Amber, a senior at Douglas High School, were still small.
“For 10 years I put on a haunted house in our garage, first on Hornet, then on North Hampton Circle next to Lampe Park,” she said. “Our house was ‘one of those houses’ in the neighborhood where people would flock to at Halloween. Kids would be lined up to get in, and after it was all over, I would be exhausted. My husband, Tom, finally suggested that I do the haunted house for someone besides us. Being able to eventually move it into a fund-raiser made it feel more worthwhile.”
So for the last four years, Hulbert has produced a haunted house for the Dance Workshop, with proceeds going to help pay for the dancers’ costumes and competition costs, which are above and beyond their monthly tuitions.
n Horror fan. Hulbert said she is a fan of horror films and is ultimately fascinated with what makes a scary movie scary. She applies these observations to the haunted house.
“I noticed that so much of what is scary in a movie is in the music and the lighting,” she said. “Other things are important, but I like to watch and see how they do things and what makes it scary or not.
With the haunted house, I like to try and scare people even while they’re waiting in line. I’m like a movie director, I guess.”
Hulbert says the warnings, “Be prepared to be scared. Not for the weak at heart,” posted before entering the 11-room haunted house are meant to be seriously heeded.
“I’m not kidding about this – it is scary,” she said. “If people have a child who scares easily, they shouldn’t bring them in.
“The possibility of putting together a fund-raising haunted house for a minimum amount of money also seems to stimulate Hulbert’s creative energy.
n Imagination, not money. “My philosophy is, don’t spend money, use your imagination instead,” she said.
Using that same line of thought, Hulbert has won more than $10,000 in costume contest prizes in the last nine years. She was even on the Gong Show, where she wore her “bag costume” and was paid to get gonged.
“That is a good costume, and it was so good they wanted me to just come on and get the gong from Chuck Barris,” she said. “I don’t do my costumes halfway.”
While employed at Scolari’s grocery store in Gardnerville, Hulbert won a trip to Hawaii with an impromptu homemade scarecrow costume, with real stalks of corn as part of the ensemble.
“I wasn’t even going to enter, but then someone told me the big prize was a trip to Hawaii for two, so I made up the scarecrow costume in two days and when I walked in the store with it on, people said to me ‘You’re going to Hawaii.'” she said. “And I did. I won first prize for the all the Scolaris’ stores in Nevada.”
Another Scolaris contest, where she dressed up like a giant pot of flowers, replete with a butterfly flying over her head (her face was the center of a flower), won Hulbert $750. She and two friends won the Carson Valley Inn contest two years in a row, dressing up as the Supremes.
“It was fun and maybe I’ll do that again, but now I’m concentrating on the haunted house for the dance studio,” she said. Costume ideas can come from anywhere, Hulbert said, but one of her favorite places to start is at the neighborhood thrift shop.
“You can get inspirations there, and not spend an arm and a leg,” she said. “So much of a costume is to feel the part, to act the part, to do the make-up and have the accessories, anyway.”
As friends have learned of Hulbert’s talents, they have called on her from time to time, she said. One person needed some birthday party entertainment for a young son and asked Hulbert to assist.
“I went out and bought a $3 mask, and put some putty on it to make a scary Freddy Kruger,” she said. “I really got into it and even brought an ice chest full of body parts to the party at the swim center. The kids loved it.”
Ann Peters said that prior to the Hulbert’s Halloween House, fund-raising at the studio was done through bake sales, garage sales, a celebrity chefs dinner and other projects. Because this is Amber’s last year in high school, the likelihood exists that Jean may not be involved as a parent volunteer next year, and that the haunted house may go the way of other groups in town who have abandoned theirs.
“I’m not sure what we’ll end up doing next year, but I’m sure that if Jean still wants to do it, we’ll do it.” Peters said. “When it comes to Halloween, she just blossoms, and the kids have a lot of fun, too. It is nice, because the fund-raiser benefits the kids, so to have them do most of the work on the haunted house makes sense.”
n Movie themes. Last year’s haunted house theme of a scary clown maze is being replaced by this year’s theme, which Hulbert said is shaping up to be a movie theme, with a “Titanic” room, a “Scream” room, a “Nightmare on Elm Street” room and a “Halloween H20” room.
“I can’t do it by myself,” she said. “We all work together. The girls act in the rooms and help bring cupcakes and cookies, which we sell during the evening, along with cocoa.”
Hulbert’s Haunted House will be open Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30 and 31, from 6-9 p.m. each night at Dance Workshop, 1458 Highway 395,
Gardnerville. Admission is $3 per person.Peters said that the haunted houses seem to have gotten scarier every year.
“Jean does an amazing job,” she said. “Sometimes, when I’m inside, even when no one is there, I get scared all by myself.”
Lest you think Hulbert’s fascination with Halloween portends a strange dark undercurrent in her personality, her spirituality is frequently evident in casual conversation.
“I am very definitely a Christian,” she said. “I have strong beliefs. I don’t see Halloween as anything but fun.”
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