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Out & About: Dorchester ‘Spooky Barn’ ready for fright-seekers

  • Scenes from the Spooky Barn in Dorchester. (Scott Hall photographs) Courtesy photograph—Courtesy photograph

  • Scenes from the Spooky Barn in Dorchester. (Scott Hall photographs) Valley News — Liz Sauchelli

  • Scenes from the Spooky Barn in Dorchester. (Scott Hall photographs) Courtesy photograph—Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2021 9:56:39 PM
Modified: 10/20/2021 9:56:46 PM

I saw the masked person lying on the floor and I knew he was going to scare me.

And yet when Ryan Morse — wearing the white mask made popular by the Friday the 13th franchise — jumped up, I still screamed and tried to jump on my husband’s back, the force causing him to stumble. I spent the rest of the trip through the haunted house gripping my husband’s hands. I knew I’d be scared again, and I welcomed it.

Such was my experience at the Spooky Barn at the Farm in Dorchester, which is operated by Monica Cox and her friends — including a trio of teenagers who do a really good job at scaring guests.

It is open from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night in October. Admission is $7.50 for adults and children age 12 and older, $5 for children 6 to 11 and free for children 5 and under. Pony rides are $5. It is located on the right side of Route 118 about six miles from the junction of Routes 4 and 118 in Canaan Village. Do not put its address in your GPS: It will get you lost. Instead, just drive along Route 118 and look for the lit-up sign at the end of Cox’s driveway. It is recommended for people of all ages and masks are encouraged. More information can be found on Facebook: “Spooky Barn at the Farm.”

“It’s scary enough, but not traumatizing scary,” Cox said.

When a group that includes young children walk through the barn, the actors dial back the scares and go for humor instead.

Cox started the Spooky Barn last year as a way to bring extra income into the farm, where she raises goats and rabbits with her husband. It was also a way to showcase her impressive Halloween collection.

“I’ve been wanting to do this since 2018 when my red barn went up and my husband wanted my animatronics out of the house,” Cox told me during a walkthrough before the Spooky Barn opened for the night. Around 100 people attended last year.

Truthfully, I’ve never been a fan of haunted houses. I don’t enjoy horror movies. I hate the adrenaline rush that comes from being scared and I hate the way my mind wanders late at night when I hear something creak in our house. But the Spooky Barn is much more than a haunted house: It’s a celebration of creativity and Cox’s love of Halloween. If a haunted house could be described as joyful, the Spooky Barn fits the bill.

“People say Halloween is a holiday,” Cox said. “It’s not a holiday. It’s a lifestyle.”

There’s a path around the house that features graves and animatronic figures, including a masked figure that eats a child. In one scene, two skeletons have a kayaking accident. In another, a skeleton sits by a campfire with a bottle between his legs and his skeleton hand on a skeleton dog. A skeleton cat is roasting on a fire pit stacked with wood and orange lights.

“I do my shopping on (Facebook) and Craigslist,” Cox said.

The day after Halloween, she heads to Spirit Halloween and other stores for half-off sales. When Costumania went out of business, she cooped up mannequins, torsos and dummy heads which she’d figure she’d find a use for (she did, in a delightfully creepy scene in the barn). Among her online finds includes skeleton horses from Salisbury, N.H.

Cox has help from the Morse family, whom she met when they moved to the Mascoma Valley for Amy Morse’s job as director of music at Mascoma Valley Regional High School. It took them about a month to set up.

“We go through a lot of extension cords and power strips,” Cox said. The impact on her electric bill is minimal, she added.

Inside the barn, visitors are greeted by a witch in a rocking chair. A short way away, a child on a rocking horse moves as the song Ring Around the Rosie plays. Each stall has a theme. There’s the “Zombie Baby Daycare,” another filled with animals, and another with clowns. One of my favorites is a Christmas-themed stall featuring Krampus and two witches who are stirring a pot that has Rudolph and Santa shoved into it. Exiting the barn, there are dragons and other animatronics. The level of thoughtfulness is apparent in each scene.

“I like all of it,” Cox said. “It’s just fun and I like seeing people have fun. It gives me a lot.”

A couple hours later, my husband and I returned to the Spooky Barn to get the full impact.

That’s when I encountered Ryan and Jack Morse, 13-year-old twins from Canaan, and their friend, 14-year-old Koby Daigle, of Grafton. The three wear costumes and effectively jump out to scare visitors, moving throughout the barn and outside as people walk through. During breaks, they recount their scares (and rightfully ribbed me for my reactions).

“I love it,” Koby said. “It gives me something to do on weekends.”

They helped set it up and “now I get to scare people,” Ryan Morse said. “It’s pretty fun.”

It is also, in a way, an educational opportunity. Amy Morse encourages the boys to come up with scenes to act out.

“It’s a theater experience too,” Amy Morse said. They’re already thinking about what to do next year.

If you’re like me — a self-avowed avoider of everything scary — I’d still recommend going. It’s not just about the scares, it’s about creativity. I already can’t wait to see what Cox and her friends come up with next year.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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