Blue Ox Haunted House:
Make it Out or Die Trying
By Benjamin Fordham | Photographs by Evan Wisheropp
Is Eureka’s Blue Ox Millworks haunted? Probably. But it will definitely be haunted this Halloween, when the North Coast Repertory Theatre takes it over. This will be the second year of the event, and NCRT Director David Hamilton promises he and his crew have some new tricks up their sleeves.
The theatre had done their own haunted house at their 5th St. location in the past, but there just wasn’t enough space for all their cool stuff. “We were kind of wanting to do it again,” said Hamilton.
Enter the Blue Ox Millworks. “It’s about the creepiest place you could think of,” says Hamilton. For those unfamiliar, Blue Ox is a traditional millworks that was started by Eureka native Eric Hollenbeck and his wife Viviana in “roughly 1973.” Part millworks, part historic park, and part school of traditional arts, Blue Ox uses traditional methods and machinery from the 1800’s and early 1900’s to produce custom woodwork. Their work has appeared in national parks, historic cathedrals, and governor’s mansions. The school of traditional arts takes between eight and 12 students per week from Humboldt County’s Education Resource Center and teaches them woodworking, weaving, blacksmithing, ceramics, and other vocational skills.
By day the grounds are full of people working on things. By night, they are spooky as hell. It’s the perfect place for NRCT’s technical expertise (including special effects wizards and fight choreographers) and dark creative vision.
Last year, leading up to the first night, Hamilton said they weren’t sure if anyone would even show up. “And then people started lining up before we opened.” All told, over 2,500 people went through the haunted house, and Hamilton estimates that over 1,000 people had to be turned away. This year, organizers are expecting over 3,500 people and are recommending that people buy advance tickets with a particular tour time and day.
Last year’s theme was a haunted meat packing plant, which, as you can imagine, included dead bodies hanging from chains, severed limbs, mad scientists, genetic experimentation, and dark rituals. “We had so many jump-scare people,” said Hamilton.
It takes a small army of volunteers to make it come together, and Hamilton says the haunted house has a larger budget than any of their other NCRT production. But is it fun scaring people? “Oh god, yes,” says Hamilton.
This year’s theme will be slightly different, says Hamilton. It’s been a year since last Halloween’s dark rituals and human sacrifice. “What sort of monstrosity has awakened at the mill?” What sort indeed. I’m not allowed to say, but I’ll give you a hint: Tentacles.