Croydon Haunted Hallows is getting ready for annual scares
For the first year, the free attraction will be open for two nights and offer a sensory-friendly experience
By Samantha Bambino
For the Prendergast family, being called the Addams Family of Croydon is one of the highest compliments they can receive.
At Colleen and Steve’s 507 Girard Ave. residence, every day revolves around Halloween, their most anticipated night of the year. On Christmas morning, boxes are set aside for later use as props, while dinner table conversations almost always include brainstorming ideas for costumes. But when hundreds of people are slated to visit for an evening of frights, they have to prepare accordingly.
Later this month, the husband-wife duo, along with their two children and team of friends and neighbors, will once again open their home to the public for Croydon Haunted Hallows, a free haunted house experience to help locals get into the spooky spirit.
What has now become a popular area tradition, which welcomed an unprecedented 1,061 attendees in 2017, all started 22 years ago when the newly married Prendergasts noticed an extreme lack of trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood.
“I said to Steve, remember when we were kids and there were those houses that scared the hell out of you? We should be one of those houses,” reflected Colleen.
With the help of their friends, the two began dressing up and building horror-inspired props on a small scale, all in an attempt to bring back some Halloween excitement to Croydon. The Prendergasts continued this for a number of years, eventually getting their kids Shannon and Ryan involved as well. But five years ago, they stumbled across an opportunity to take the project to the next level.
Colleen’s father informed her of Adriane Swenson, who was running a similar experience in Feasterville. At the time, Swenson had lost her home and could no longer keep up with her haunted show. Colleen reached out to her, pitching the idea of combining forces. The Prendergasts had the space and Swenson had the props, which included coffins, tombstones and an electric chair. Swenson was immediately on board. That first year, the newly unified haunted house boasted 20 cast members and saw 400 guests walk through the attraction.
Little did anyone realize how big Croydon Haunted Hallows would quickly become. Though it was only open for three hours on Halloween last year, more than a thousand people turned up. Cast members begged for Colleen and Steve to add a second night, and this year, they happily obliged.
On Oct. 27 and 31, scare-seekers can trek through the yards of the Prendergasts and their neighbors, Mike and Sue Kuznick, to be immersed in the 2018 theme “Twilight Zone Timeline of Terror.” Separated by black fabric, which will have holographic ghosts and dancing skeletons, each room will be dedicated to a famous horror movie, including The Conjuring, Child’s Play, Beetlejuice, Psycho and Frankenstein.
Though none of the actors are professionals, their lack of experience is practically impossible to detect. Every cast member writes their own lines, decorates their designated space, builds props and crafts their own costumes. And they never fail to disappoint. Last year, one cast member who starts planning the day after Halloween, played a mad scientist and created an in-depth scene where select guests were “executed.”
Certain aspects of Croydon Haunted Hallows can be scary for the little ones, but Colleen promised a welcoming atmosphere for anyone who wishes to attend. Through a walkie talkie system, she’s able to let cast members know if a child is about to come through, and they’re happy to remove their mask and tone down their skit.
For the first time this year, Croydon Haunted Hollows, in partnership with Jacqueline Breault-Straffe of TB Children’s Services, LLC, will host a sensory-friendly event on Oct. 27 before its usual nighttime haunt. Colleen met Breault-Straffe at a networking event, where she was informed about the severe lack of haunted houses willing to accommodate autistic guests. Only a few minutes into the conversation, Colleen knew she wanted to help.
The sensory-friendly experience will be an easy walkthrough with no strobes or lights. So far, the event has been viewed on Facebook more than 12,000 times, which Colleen is both excited and nervous about.
“I really don’t hope that we get 12,000 people coming through Croydon. I don’t even think there’s 12,000 people in Croydon,” she laughed. “What it just means is there’s a need in our area for something like this.”
Also new this year, Bensalem’s Bucks County Dance Center will open the nighttime haunt with a performance of “Thriller.”
In August, Croydon Haunted Hallows was approved by the government to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Now, students who volunteer for the Prendergasts will receive community service credits, and a portion of donations will be put toward autism services.
According to Colleen, Swenson encouraged them to become a nonprofit. She currently holds a spot on the board of directors.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is her passion and she’s never had children and for her, this is the way that she gets to be like a parent every Halloween,” Colleen said. “This is something out of her own heart.” ••
If you go…
Croydon Haunted Hallows, 507 Girard Ave., will host a sensory-friendly event on Saturday, Oct. 27, from 5 to 6 p.m. Its nighttime haunts will take place Saturday, Oct. 27, from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The experience is free, donations are accepted. Visit facebook.com/croydonhauntedhollows for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com