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Festival of Frights: Hanover Home Becomes Halloween Heaven

  • Alex Paquette rallies her group of friends and actors- dressed as pirates- before opening the gate to trick-or-treaters at her home in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Alex Paquette rallies her group of friends and actors- dressed as pirates- before opening the gate to trick-or-treaters at her home in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • A dining room is filled with completed bags of candy at the Paquette home ten days before Halloween in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. Alex Paquette and several friends spent a full Saturday making sure each of the 1500 bags were filled to the brim with a variety of candy. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    A dining room is filled with completed bags of candy at the Paquette home ten days before Halloween in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. Alex Paquette and several friends spent a full Saturday making sure each of the 1500 bags were filled to the brim with a variety of candy.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alex Paquette, 16, helps Jason Swett, left, of Rutland, Vt., to affix a skeleton to the dock in Paquette's yard in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. Swett has been heading the general setup and lighting of the Halloween set for several years, and is on site the night of Halloween to coordinate guests and troubleshoot. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Alex Paquette, 16, helps Jason Swett, left, of Rutland, Vt., to affix a skeleton to the dock in Paquette's yard in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. Swett has been heading the general setup and lighting of the Halloween set for several years, and is on site the night of Halloween to coordinate guests and troubleshoot.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Freddie Fae of Lititz, PA, a professional actress dressed as a mermaid, throws beaded bracelets at trick-or-treaters waiting in line in front of the Paquette house in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 31, 2013. Actors and actresses from Pennsylvania and New Jersey dressed as pirates, mermaids, and fortune tellers to bring the elaborate set to life. <br/><br/>(Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

    Freddie Fae of Lititz, PA, a professional actress dressed as a mermaid, throws beaded bracelets at trick-or-treaters waiting in line in front of the Paquette house in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 31, 2013. Actors and actresses from Pennsylvania and New Jersey dressed as pirates, mermaids, and fortune tellers to bring the elaborate set to life.

    (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • After winding his way through the pirate scenes at the Paquette home, Maxwell Dunten, 6 of Hanover receives his bag full of candy at the door in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    After winding his way through the pirate scenes at the Paquette home, Maxwell Dunten, 6 of Hanover receives his bag full of candy at the door in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Trick-or-treaters walk down Rip Road after leaving the Paquette Home with a bag stuffed with candy in Hanover, NH on Oct. 31, 2013. Hanover Police were hired to close the road and allow for guests to safely travel between Rip Road and the Ray School, where many people parked. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Trick-or-treaters walk down Rip Road after leaving the Paquette Home with a bag stuffed with candy in Hanover, NH on Oct. 31, 2013. Hanover Police were hired to close the road and allow for guests to safely travel between Rip Road and the Ray School, where many people parked.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Costumed actors fire off their pistols to signify the opening of the gates at the beginning of trick-or-treating at the Paquette Home in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Costumed actors fire off their pistols to signify the opening of the gates at the beginning of trick-or-treating at the Paquette Home in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • With little less than a week to go, Alex Paquette directs Micky Grant and Jason Swett on where to set up lights at her home in Hanover, N.H. on October 21, 2013. Paquette, 16, is in her second year of directing the elaborate Halloween event at her home every year which features a pirate-themed set, actors, and massive amounts of candy. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    With little less than a week to go, Alex Paquette directs Micky Grant and Jason Swett on where to set up lights at her home in Hanover, N.H. on October 21, 2013. Paquette, 16, is in her second year of directing the elaborate Halloween event at her home every year which features a pirate-themed set, actors, and massive amounts of candy.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alex Paquette rallies her group of friends and actors- dressed as pirates- before opening the gate to trick-or-treaters at her home in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • A dining room is filled with completed bags of candy at the Paquette home ten days before Halloween in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. Alex Paquette and several friends spent a full Saturday making sure each of the 1500 bags were filled to the brim with a variety of candy. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Alex Paquette, 16, helps Jason Swett, left, of Rutland, Vt., to affix a skeleton to the dock in Paquette's yard in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. Swett has been heading the general setup and lighting of the Halloween set for several years, and is on site the night of Halloween to coordinate guests and troubleshoot. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Freddie Fae of Lititz, PA, a professional actress dressed as a mermaid, throws beaded bracelets at trick-or-treaters waiting in line in front of the Paquette house in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 31, 2013. Actors and actresses from Pennsylvania and New Jersey dressed as pirates, mermaids, and fortune tellers to bring the elaborate set to life. <br/><br/>(Valley News- Sarah Priestap)
  • After winding his way through the pirate scenes at the Paquette home, Maxwell Dunten, 6 of Hanover receives his bag full of candy at the door in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Trick-or-treaters walk down Rip Road after leaving the Paquette Home with a bag stuffed with candy in Hanover, NH on Oct. 31, 2013. Hanover Police were hired to close the road and allow for guests to safely travel between Rip Road and the Ray School, where many people parked. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Costumed actors fire off their pistols to signify the opening of the gates at the beginning of trick-or-treating at the Paquette Home in Hanover, NH on October 31, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • With little less than a week to go, Alex Paquette directs Micky Grant and Jason Swett on where to set up lights at her home in Hanover, N.H. on October 21, 2013. Paquette, 16, is in her second year of directing the elaborate Halloween event at her home every year which features a pirate-themed set, actors, and massive amounts of candy. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Hanover — With the surrounding roads closed, adventure-seeking airline pilots, Vikings and butterflies traveled on foot Thursday to 45 Rip Road, the home that’s become a pirate-themed mecca for Halloween lovers. There, they made their way through a maze of nautical scenes and met pirates who showered them with “gold” and cheerful insults.

“Take some shiny things and go away!” the actors shouted, tossing plastic coins to the trick-or-treaters.

Among the drizzle-dampened crowd were three very enthusiastic Richmond Middle School students.

“It’s awesome. There’s nothing like this in Fairlee,” said Kylie Zubkoff, whose sliced up striped sweater was the last piece of her costume still intact; her dog had chewed up the Freddy Krueger mask. She and her friends Lestyn Williams and Matisse McMahon had toured the maze together.

“It’s got a lot of details,” said Lestyn, who had a demon mask but wasn’t wearing it.

Matisse, dressed as Raggedy Ann, was impressed by the actors, who “really stayed in character,” she said.

For most people, Halloween means buying a few bags of candy, plunking a pumpkin on the porch and calling it good. But for the Paquette family, who engineer the event, there’s much more involved.

Each fall, their well-kept property is transformed into Halloween heaven. It gains a cemetery — dozens of fake gravestones propped on the hillside, and intricate life-sized dioramas fill the yard, which is enclosed with a mock wrought iron fence for the occasion. Cheryl Paquette started the tradition in 2001, but for the past two years, her daughter, Alex Paquette, 16, has led the charge.

“I grew up with a mom that loved it, so I kind of shared her love for it,” the Hanover High junior said.

The week before Halloween, she stays home from school to coordinate volunteers and professional decorators, musicians and actors. But the planning starts long before that.

“On Nov. 1, my first ideas for next year come out,” said Paquette, who last Tuesday wore a black sweatshirt with the image of a skeletal pirate printed on it.

As in the past few years, the event had a pirate theme, dictated mostly by a prop — an enormous wooden boat on the Paquettes’ front lawn that’s too fragile to move. Also, Alex Paquette is wild about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

“I watch them over and over with my friends,” she said.

This year’s scenes, populated with life-sized plastic skeletons and live actors, included a shipwreck, a mermaid pool, and a marketplace complete with fresh fruits and vegetables that would later be donated to a local food shelf.

“I love this one,” Paquette said, pointing to the jumble of tables and straw baskets that would soon hold limes, oranges and fresh bread. “It’s just very joyful.”

In 2012, more than 1,500 people from as far away as Boston and Maine wandered through the brightly lit maze. For many families, such as the Huebers, of Warren, N.H., it’s become a tradition.

Bob Hueber, his wife, son and daughter make an annual pilgrimage to the site, followed by a visit to the Shaker Haunted Trail in Enfield. This year, 4-year-old Emma was planning to be a “mermaid princess,” Hueber said. “She has me dress up as the knight to guard her.”

Every year, a few little kids get spooked, Paquette said, but the display is not meant to be scary. More Disney set than haunted house, there are no “squishy eyeballs,” no cackling witches and no monsters shouting “boo!”

“The actors … are friendly and talk to you,” she said. “It’s just a walk around to see all the scenes.”

For Adriana Caraeni, one of the more intrepid visitors, that proved a bit of a letdown.

“I want something scary,” said Caraeni, an 8-year-old pirate from Lebanon.

Admission is free — the Paquettes decline donations. But this year, anyone who wanted to could contribute to the Hanover Class of 2015. “We’re a little behind” on fundraising for the prom and class trip this year, Paquette said, so some of her classmates set up a stand nearby to sell drinks and glo-sticks as a fundraiser.

This fall, dozens of people, including students from the high school, helped prepare for the big night. After several years, Paquette has streamlined the process.

Last week, using an assembly line setup, about 25 people packed the “goody bags” — 1,500 shiny paper gift bags filled with potato chips, fortune cookies and movie theater candy that took up the greater part of two rooms. Last year, they prepared 1,200 bags but ran out after just a few hours, she said.

Paquette is always looking to expand the experience. This Halloween, instead of covering only the front yard, the scenes wound around the perimeter of the house. In addition to new displays, Paquette also planned to provide a guestbook in which visitors could write their names and comments.

“We want them to know that we appreciate them coming every year,” she said.

AImee Caruso can be reached at acarusso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.