201 8th Street Baraboo, Wisconsin
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The “Carnival of Horrors” Haunted House Fundraiser

Halloween spirit alive at Ringling House Bed &Breakfast’s “Carnival of Horrors” haunted house.

What better way to scare up money for a great cause than to host a haunted house?
Stuart Koehler and Julie Hearley and a committee of volunteers are, for the second consecutive fall, creating a haunted house in a carriage house behind Ringling House Bed & Breakfast. Their goal isn’t to conjure Ringling family ghosts, but to raise money for improvements to the historic property.
Last year a nonprofit organization, Friends of the Charles and Henry Ringling Estate, was formed to preserve the buildings and grounds once owned by the brothers of circus fame. The one-acre estate includes the main house, which the couple operates as a six-room bed-and-breakfast; the carriage house; a cottage; and a barn. The 1901 Colonial Revival home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We think – we hope – the community wants this property to stay intact,” Stuart said.
Julie said the nonprofit will remain in place even if the property changes hands someday. “This is designed to protect these buildings as long as they’re around,” she said.
The couple plans to transform the carriage house in an event venue. They foresee hosting theatrical performances and other events attracting groups of 100 to 200 people. “There aren’t a lot of places in Baraboo for those kinds of events,” Stuart said.
Money generated through the Carnival of Horrors haunted house will support that project. Setup work began last month, with the team adding to the maze of horrors it set up last year. Julie said the team needs volunteers to help set up the haunted house and operate it. A crew of 15 is needed to sell tickets, provide security and act as ghouls within the indoor-outdoor haunted house.
Also needed this year are sponsors. The Friends of the Charles and Henry Ringling Estate group is offering sponsorships ranging in cost from $40 to $1,000 in exchange for tickets and prominently displayed gravestones bearing donors’ names. Donors will be invited to a VIP event at Ringling House, featuring personalities from the “Bordello of Horror” television show. Rachel Frank will offer demonstrations of horror-themed makeup and fashion. To volunteer or secure a sponsorship, send email to ringlingfriends@gmail.com.
The VIP event isn’t the only new feature this year. The haunted house is adding matinees for kids, who figure not to get as frightened in the daylight. Carnival of Horrors will be open Fridays and Saturdays starting October 11 from 7-10 p.m. During the final week of October, it will be open Thursday through Sunday, featuring $5 matinees for kids that Friday and Sunday from 2-4 p.m. (Otherwise, the haunted house isn’t recommended for youths under 10). Admission will cost $15 at the door, but tickets can be had in advance for $10 at https://ringlinghousebnb.com/event/, at the Al. Ringling Theatre and at Con Amici Wine Bar,  starting Friday, September 27th.
Last year the haunted house attracted 700 people. This year’s goal is 1,000. Halloween fans came from across the state last year. “That’s a lot of people who probably wouldn’t have come to town otherwise,” Stuart said.

Friends of the Charles & Henry Ringling Estate

Henry Ringling

Charles Ringling

The Friends of the Charles & Henry Ringling Estate, is a nonprofit group established to improve and protect the Ringling estate off Eighth Street in Baraboo.   The estate that sits on the corner 8th and Ash St. is the only home built and lived in  by two separate Ringling Brothers of circus fame.   The one-acre estate includes the main house, which operates as a bed-and-breakfast; the carriage house; a cottage; and a barn.

The first fund raiser for the non-profit called “Phantom Carnival” is being set up in a carriage house behind the bed-and-breakfast, and will expand to cover part of the lawn out back. Where once circus impresarios’ horses whinnied, this fall visitors will shriek.

The non-profit hopes to run the haunted house for two years, then convert the carriage house into an event center. This will require replacing the 1901 building’s original wiring, and adding bathrooms and a kitchen.

The Ringling home and surrounding property was owned by the circus family for a century before Koehler and Hearley bought it in 2015 and opened their bed-and-breakfast. The Colonial Revival home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Koehler and Hearley have become active participants in local affairs, helping to launch events such as the downtown Cocoa Crawl and First Night celebration. Their short-term goal in hosting a haunted house for young adults is to create an entertaining Halloween event: Their long-term goal is to create a place for all types of community events.

 

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