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Death Becomes You Productions is alive at Cranmore

The Ghoullog is an experience that goes way beyond creepy

Lance Davis and Jim Chichwak, owners of Death Becomes You Productions, holding their life (death?)-like masks. Rachael Brown. (click for larger version)
October 29, 2009
On these four weekends leading up to and including Halloween, Cranmore is transformed into a haunted mountain and the brains behind this ghoulish setting are Lance Davis and Jim Chichwak, both from Jackson. Davis grew up in Jackson and now lives in Massachusetts and Chichwak is a longtime resident who says, "I have been here long enough that the natives think I am okay."

Natives, locals and visitors think that both Davis and Chichwak are okay — on a given Ghoullog night as many as 800 people visit the chilling scene at Cranmore Mountain to be scared half to death. You see, Davis has been intrigued with Halloween and its blood curdling details all his life and in 2005 he and Chichwak brought Death Becomes You Productions to the Mount Washington Valley.

The haunted scene began in Halloween of 2005 and was staged at the old Spruce Mountain Lodge in Jackson. Before this, Davis had been throwing quite spectacular Halloween parties for years, each year they got bigger and bigger, like a Hollywood experience he says, and soon his friends were convincing him to invite people and to charge them.

The setting at Spruce Mountain was perfect for a scary experience. "It couldn't be a more natural setting — the cabins were scary, dingy, in disrepair, and it was out in the woods, perfect for a haunted lodge," says Davis. There was no electricity and the two provided flashlight tours. Word of mouth traveled around town about the scary haunted tour and Chichwak says soon town folk would approach him at the Jackson post office saying that Ben Wilcox, general manager of Cranmore, wanted to talk with him and Davis. A conversation took place and now the Ghoullog has been running for three years at Cranmore Mountain.

Guests enter at the base of Cranmore, begin at the Eating House, stroll through a haunted walkway to the Quad lift and take the seven-minute ride to the 2,000-foot summit to the Ghoullog mountaintop tour. Neither Davis or Chichwak would say what happens on the way up.

What's a ghoullog? Ghoullog is a play on words, says Davis. Taken from the word ghoul and log, it is a compound where a mad scientist lives and a prison for the undead, he explains. Davis says it is an unusual name and their haunted scene is different from the rest.

"The haunted industry is big business and usually cookie cutter. There are thousands of haunted houses, acres, manors, using the same words over and over again, and we wanted to choose a name that was not common," he says.

The props and masks are uncommon, too. For example, a 12-foot skeleton-like scary creature was brought in by a tractor trailer and took four people to unload it, says Chichwak. "It was worthwhile just to see the look on the driver's face," he adds. The abundance of masks are made from silicone, not the usual latex or not like everyday masks found in retail stores. "The masks emulate real skin, you can see smiles and wrinkles... When people come up to me and want to touch my face, I just let them," says Chichwak.

While many haunted venues use mostly props, Death Becomes You Productions uses real actors. Davis explains that on a given performance there are anywhere from 38 to 40 actors who hail from all over whose purpose is to really scare people.

Guests come from all over, too. Chichwak says that many of the local lodging properties are offering Ghoullog packages and the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce is helping to get the word out. "The Ghoullog has become a destination weekend," says Chichwak. Davis adds that national publications have also picked up on the Ghoullog and the local community comes out too.

"There is not much going on this time [after the foliage], this is a new dynamic, it is the only mountaintop haunt that I know of," he says. "Business is fantastic — we have grown 100 percent each year," he adds.

Why do people come? "We tap into the fears of everyone, we go through every gamut of fear: alone in the outdoors, claustrophobia, medical treatments, and clowns — it is amazing how many people are afraid of clowns!" says Davis. Is it scary for Davis? "I am perhaps the biggest scaredy cat of all; maybe that's why I do this," he adds.

Some guests cannot handle the fear. "Each night we turn a minimum of 10 people away, they just don't make it through," says Davis. Chichwak says, "Once they [guests] get off the chairlift they are a mile away from their car, in the pitch black national forest; some don't make it up the chair."

The guests sometimes scare themselves. "People are their own worst enemy, they do it to themselves, we don't chip people up," adds Chichwak.

"But we do a pretty good job of pushing that [scare] button," says Davis.

The Ghoullog's last run for this year is Thursday, Oct. 29 through Saturday, Oct. 31, at Cranmore Mountain. Thursday is locals' night with discounts for residents of Carroll, Coos, and Oxford counties.

For more information or tickets, visit: http://www.cranmore.com/ghoullog/

or e-mail Jim Chichwak: jimreaper@live.com.

Martin Lord and Osman
Salmon Press
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