Hill High School Class of 2010
Seton Hall alum and former Arts and Entertainment Editor of The Setonian Jeff Fucci will host a charity event called Haunted Hill House”on Oct. 23-25 at his home in Carlstadt, New Jersey.
In its third year, Haunted Hill House has become the largest backyard Halloween walk-through and performance in northern New Jersey, admitting over 1,500 visitors.
The theme of this year’s event centers around the fictitious Hill High School’s homecoming dance. The dance is still on despite the recent disappearances of some students and a few break-ins within the school. Two characters from last year’s event, Dr. Jack McKnight and Mr. Vincent Darcone, are back and posing as science teachers at Hill High. Unbeknownst to the school, these two are actually evil scientists determined to turn the dance into a sacrifice and open a portal to hell that will unleash evil into the world.
Not one to miss out on the fun, Fucci is an actor in the show as well as its producer, playing the part of Vincent Darcone. His best friend and Haunted Hill House collaborator, Joe Cutalo, plays Jack McKnight. The rest of the cast and crew include volunteers, family members and theater students.
Fucci began the project with Cutalo in 2007 after discovering that the haunted houses he loved to visit no longer existed.
“When I was a kid, there were lots of these backyard haunted houses,” he said. “Now there’s no more.”
While Fucci had the ambition, he had no house. Everything fell into place once Fucci moved into his current residence in Carlstadt two years ago, which had been in his family for years. Upon discovering 100-year-old furniture in the attic and the basement, he knew he had found the perfect location for a haunted house.
“I said to Joe, ‘Why not bring this crazy furniture outside and build a haunted house in the backyard and do something for the community,'” Fucci said.
The event has come a long way in its three years. The first one, back in 2007, consisted of only a backyard walk-through with no show or plot. While it was a successful first outing, Fucci and Cutalo saw the need for improvement. According to Fucci, there was not enough light, no sense of crowd control and confusion about where to exit.
“People kept tripping over tree roots because it was so dark,” he said. “We were literally banging on things with sticks and whispering to people where to go.”
To improve the next year’s event, Fucci and Cutalo got creative. They invented the characters Dr. Jack McKnight and Mr. Vincent Darcone and a storyline (he said fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will recognize that their story isn’t completely original). They also decided to add a small show in addition to the backyard walk-through.
But Fucci didn’t want his haunted house to be all scares and no heart.
“The kind of spectacle we were doing was fun, but it wouldn’t be right without some kind of cause,” he said.
In its first year, Haunted Hill House partnered with Angel’s Attic, which takes the profits from clothes donations and distributes them among other charities. The following year, they partnered with the Gift of Life International, which provides funding for heart surgeries to children in need all over the world. With generous donations from its visitors, the event raised over $2,000 for both charities.
This year, all proceeds will go to the New Jersey Center for Food Action. Fucci, Cutalo, and their loyal band of volunteers plan to donate the money toward Thanksgiving dinner for needy families.
This year, Haunted Hill House is located at 539 Hackensack Street in Carlstadt, NJ. The event will last from 7-9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 7-9 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free and visitors are encouraged to donate.
Dana Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com.