Haunted Hills coming to Shakori for Halloween

Posted 10/2/20

SILK HOPE — Want to experience a spooky tale from the comfort of your own car?

That’s what Christie Cook and her husband, Dennis DeFrancesco, are hoping to do as Halloween approaches with the …

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Haunted Hills coming to Shakori for Halloween

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SILK HOPE — Want to experience a spooky tale from the comfort of your own car?

That’s what Christie Cook and her husband, Dennis DeFrancesco, are hoping to do as Halloween approaches with the Haunted Hills Terror Drive at Shakori Hills.

Each weekend in October, visitors will have the chance to drive through more than 16 live, staged scenes along a gravel road on the grounds of the Shakori Hills Community Arts Center in Silk Hope. Guests will receive a downloadable audio file to begin playing 10 minutes before arriving which will tell a tale of a mystery that will play out at Haunted Hills, complete with local actors, lighting, special effects and props. Though meant to be a scary treat for the Halloween season, Cook reassures visitors that at no time will any of the performers run toward any vehicle and there is nothing that will “startle” anyone.

“The experience is designed to be spooky, creepy and eerie — but not to cause anyone to panic,” she said.

Cook has been in the event business all her life. Before the coronavirus pandemic, she and her husband planned social and corporate events all over the world for their business, Art of Motion Events, based in Silk Hope. Once COVID-19 hit in March, the couple’s income dwindled. But they crafted an idea that would both help them financially while also helping others in the community who have been affected by job losses related to the pandemic.

“Shakori was the perfect place,” Cook said. “It’s a non-profit that was hit hard by COVID-19. They had to cancel all its festivals, which will really hurt its revenue. You cannot find a more perfect place to do a spooky drive than Shakori. Plus it was somebody local that we could support and help out. It was an organic partnership.”

The couple also reached out to local artists, musicians and others who were out of work to design props and scenes and participate in the construction, production and performance of Haunted Hills. Cook said the couple wanted to help as many people as they could who were affected by the pandemic. That’s why the event will also serve as a canned food drive to support CORA’s efforts — the Chatham Outreach Alliance’s food pantry — to feed those with food insecurity in Chatham County.

“It’s a great thing and it should be a lot of fun,” Cook said.

How it works

Guests buy a ticket in advance online for a specific date and time — entries are spaced in 15 increments to allow plenty of space. Tickets are for a single vehicle, no matter the number of riders, but each rider must be in a seat with a seatbelt. Ticket holders will receive an email in advance with a downloadable audio file narrated by local musician John Wilson outlining the tale of the mystery that the visitors will experience in Haunted Hills.

Upon arrival, each vehicle will be directed onto the drive with another audio guiding them through each scene. Rather than separate scenes independent of each other, they each build on the previous one to tell a spooky story perfect for the Halloween season. The drive, which has a maximum of 3 miles per hour, is expected to take about 15 minutes.

“Halloween is a huge thing for a lot of people,” Cook said. “With COVID, so many indoor events are being canceled. This gives them something to do when so many traditional events are canceled and it helps so many in the local community. It’s also a way to support a local company, Shakori and others who have been hard hit by COVID and have something fun to do for Halloween.”

Haunted Hills Terror Drive will occur each weekend in October beginning on Oct. 2 with discounted ticket prices for the first two weekends. Tickets are on sale now.


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