Behind the scenes of the Children’s Museum Haunted House

“Knock, knock!” Cheery voices rang out at the front door of Indy’s Child HQ last week. And what bedecked our doorstep were two smartly-dressed witches in head-to-toe black, tulle and pointed hats.

The Head Witches of the Children’s Museum Cursed Castle Haunted House had arrived.

With the opening of the area’s most famous and favorite Haunted House on the horizon, Witches Bis Feldmann and Mary Beth Reffett were making their rounds {by car not broomstick no less} promoting the impending launch of this year’s “Cursed Castle.” It was a great chance to pepper them with all the questions we’ve always wondered about the annual Haunted House – put on by The Children’s Museum Guild, a strong team of volunteers! – and test our own knowledge.

Children's Museum Haunted House _ Indy's ChildIndy’s Child: So first, tell us about the process you went through for concepting this year’s theme.

Head Witches: It’s amazing. When we found out we were going to be the Head Witches for this year’s Haunted House, we came up with 4 different ideas. The first step is to take them to the Children’s Museum Marketing team to review and they begin thinking through how to execute them from a communications side. Will this translate well to the public? Can we effectively market it? Things like that. You can have the best idea in the world but it all depends on how we can best tell the story on the marketing side.

IC: What was so special that made “Cursed Castle” stick then?

HW: Well we had looked at the popularity of the Museum’s Pirates and Princesses: Storybook Adventures exhibit and realized that the Haunted House hadn’t tackled a haunted castle idea in many years. How perfect would that be to play off one of the most popular exhibits? Families come to the Haunted House each year dressed up so it offers a great chance to come as princesses, princes, queens, kings, anything they’d like.

IC: And we hear families need to beware of a special creature?

HW: YES. The castle might be inhabited by Burnadette a fire-breathing dragon who has cursed the castle for 600 years. We need families to help break the curse because she could still be hiding in there. {Head Witch Bis Feldmann breaks in at this point with a cute smirk saying ‘Spoiler alert! She’s there!’}

COMING SOON: Stay tuned for the review of this year’s Cursed Castle Haunted House on!

IC: When did you start working on this year’s Haunted House?

HW: It’s been almost a year believe it or not. We revealed the theme back in January and then divided the Children’s Museum Guild volunteers into teams: Costumes, marketing, sponsorship and the “look” committee whose sole responsibility is to come up with the individual look of the rooms and eventually oversee their construction from scratch. It takes 2000 hours to build this House each year.

IC: I’m sorry, I thought I just heard you say two THOUSAND.

HW: Absolutely correct.

IC: Talk to us about the purpose of the Haunted House.

HW: Many people don’t know that it’s the largest fundraiser on behalf of the Children’s Museum. All of the proceeds raised go back to the Museum for programs. Last year’s Pirates Revenge Haunted House raised $677,000 and we’re hoping to exceed that this year. Since 1964 the Guild has given back over $11 million to the Museum.

Children's Museum Haunted House _ Indy's Child
Photo credit: Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

IC: What an incredible number. Now the Guild is primarily made up of women – you mentioned they’re all volunteers. What is your history with the Guild?

HW Bis Feldmann: Most of our members are moms and my mom was a witch when I was younger. In fact both my brother and I were haunters at past Haunted Houses.

HW Mary Beth Reffett: Yea, we went to the Haunted House every year growing up. I had aunts in the guild and have loved being a part of it myself.

IC: Okay last question, what is probably one of the oddest things people don’t realize about the Haunted House?

HW: {giggles} Well, there’s a secret 4th floor of the Museum where we store all of our Haunted House props. Like huge boxes filled with just fake rats and snakes. We’ve been known to blurt out “Where is that box of heads?!” like it’s an everyday thing to say.

Well ladies, the excitement is always worth the wait and now knowing the work the Guild puts into each Haunted House makes it all the more special.

MORE INFO: The Children’s Museum Guild “Cursed Castle” Haunted House opens October 8, 2016 and will run through October 30th. The Haunted House offers IPL’s Lights-On Hours (for children who scare easily) and Frightening Hours (with the lights off, for children who dare to be scared). Tickets are $8 at the door and are available at The Children’s Museum Box Office or online. Visit the Museum website or call {317} 334-4000.


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