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October 22, 2013

Local family gears up for another year of creeping out neighbors for a cause

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
While the themes change each year, the two-story Grim Reaper at the Morency home in Southfield’s Cranbrook Village neighborhood is an annual staple.

SOUTHFIELD — Sometimes, it takes a pretty nutty person to really capture the dark side of Halloween, and in the Morency home — where the motto is “Halloween isn’t just another day in this house” — that’s just fine.

“This year was a big year, with many new exciting ideas … and our Halloween juices were on overload for some reason. We were all excited about it,” said Keith Morency, dad and resident frightener at 30233 Rock Creek Drive in Southfield.

If the Cranbrook Village address doesn’t sound familiar, it’s home to the annual Haunt for Hunger, an idea sparked when his 12-year-old son, Cameron, declared in second grade that he wanted to find a way to help eradicate hunger. That’s how the fundraiser, where locals trade in nonperishable food items for what the Morencys hope is the scare of a lifetime, came to be.

“Sometimes, you feel like a nut; sometimes, you don’t,” he said. “This year, I really did.”

For the fourth go at Haunt for Hunger, the family has played upon some people’s biggest weakness: coulrophobia. That is, the fear of clowns.

“The clowns haven’t been done by us before, so we wanted to freshen things up, and so many people I talk to are typically afraid of clowns,” Morency added.

He said he was inspired to imagine up new creatures by M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 horror flick “The Village” in mind. The haunt this year is larger than ever before and features more special effects, like the green laser vortex, which starts Friday.

Getting into the minds of everyday people’s fears is his style of planning spine-chilling attractions, he explained, and when it comes to capitalizing on the things that will make people shiver, he has no mercy, even on himself.

He’s talking about spiders — larger than life, hairy, spiders.

“I can’t stand them,” he said. “So I’ve purchased a few bird-eating tarantulas that are taxidermy (to put) on display. They are really something to look at.”

There’s also daytime fun that takes the spooky edge off for families with younger ones and even a less-freaky-yet-still-frightening version during the weekdays. Morency said they do appreciate both the screams and the laughs coming from within.

The family warns, though: weekends at Haunt for Hunger are not for the faint of heart.

While he may have a strong vision for all things eerie, Morency couldn’t do this without the partnerships that make the setup as impactful as it is. Working with Lighthouse of Oakland County, a crisis center for women and children, the family hopes to collect 2,000 items to donate this year. In 2012, they collected 1,347 items, which equates to about one month of the nonprofit’s required food supply to assist people, according to Lighthouse administrators.

Chief Development Officer Priscilla Perkins said community members like the Morency family help make their work possible. 

“This is one of the most creative examples of how one person — one family — can come up with an idea that translates to thousands of food items for people in need. We provide food to over 19,000 people every year, and there is nothing worse than having to turn people away who are looking for emergency help,” she said in a statement.  “We are especially in need of proteins, like peanut butter, tuna fish and nonperishable boxed milk, as well as canned fruit and vegetables, and boxed macaroni and cheese.” 

Food is collected at the front of the house, and this year, attendees can even go mobile to make a donation directly to Lighthouse.

For the first time ever, the family also gained the support of local sponsors, including Sierra Chevrolet, Premier Pet Supply, Nude Salon of Birmingham and Bank of America. These collaborations helped out with materials, as well as financial donations for the cause, according to Morency.

Last, but certainly not least, is the team of living creatures and monsters that work behind the scenes to make Haunt for Hunger as interactive and intense as possible.

“My two sons, Cameron and Luke, are helpful at being kind to the young kids that come through in the daytime,” Morency explained. “My veteran helpers and scarepleasers are Evan Cole, 16, Adam Cole, 19, Brendan French, 15, and the new guy: Nick Shanburn, 14 — all local neighborhood kids too old to trick or treat, but love scaring more anyway.”

As for the Morency family, who has also traded in their own thrills of being haunted for the tough task of haunting, well — they say the awesome reputation around town is totally worth it, according to Morency.

“The new spook story I heard from Jerry and his daughter Kaylan in kindergarten was that she heard the kids screaming from a whole street over on Halloween night.”

Haunt for Hunger is open nightly through Nov. 3.  The home is located in the Cranbrook Village subdivision, at 30233 Rock Creek Drive, in Southfield. 

For more information, visit www.therockcreekdrivehaunthouse. com. For more information on Lighthouse of Oakland County, visit www.lighthouseoakland.org.

 



City frights

 

Boo at the Burgh

The city of Southfield will host two evenings of Halloween fun with “Boo at the Burgh” 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 25-26.

The annual event, which takes place on the grounds of the Burgh Historical Park, located on the corner of Civic Center Drive and Berg Road, features family-friendly activities like trick-or-treating, haunted house walking paths, storytelling, a bat exhibit and hayrides through a haunted forest.

New this year will be a “frightless” afternoon program, geared towards ages 8 and younger. This will run 2-4:30 p.m. Oct. 26.

The cost for Boo at the Burgh is $5 per person for Southfield residents or $7 for nonresidents. Tickets are available at the Southfield Parks and Recreation Information Desk, 26000 Evergreen Road, or can be purchased with cash the day of the event. The cost goes up $2 per person for tickets sold at the door.

Parking will not be available at the Burg, but free parking and shuttle buses will be available at the First Center parking lot, located at 26911 Northwestern Service Drive.

All children must be accompanied by an adult and are encouraged to come in costume.  

Brew at the Burgh

New this year will be a seasonal celebration for the adult crowd: Brew at the Burgh.

The “spooktacular” craft beer tasting event will feature 10 varieties to sample, live entertainment from The George Brothers Band, food sampling — including wings from Wing*Stop of Southfield, hot dogs, brats and nachos — and a costume contest.

The event is set for 6-8:30 p.m. Oct. 24 and is for adults ages 21 and older. Tickets are $30 per person, which includes six drink tickets for four-ounce tastings. They may be purchased in advance at the Southfield Parks and Recreation Building or at the door for $40.

Additional drink tickets can also be purchased.

For more information about these events, call the Southfield Parks and Recreation Department at (248) 796-4620.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.