By Annie Reuter
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Janna Kennedy Hyten had no idea when she started a haunted house for friends and neighbors 17 years ago that her Brooklyn residence would quickly become the place to visit during Halloween.
The attraction has turned into a themed performance by professional actors, drawing crowds of 5,000 each year.
When Claudia Howard moved upstairs in 2003 everything changed.
“Claudia is a very talented writer. She took over writing scripts and basically structuring out what we were having as free-for-all lawn shows,” Hyten said. “When she moved in, she began to write structured shows. Not necessarily a play, but action on the stage that made sense. We then started calling them by name and they had a theme.”
This year’s theme, “A Grimm Scarytale” is the story of the Big Bad Wolf teaming up with Hansel and Gretel, Hyten explained.
“They get into all kinds of trouble and create a lot of problems for Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood. The set guys are putting together a gigantic book. What we hope to happen is that in one portion of the story, the characters will actually walk through the pages as they turn,” she said.
Most of the people in the show have been professional actors at one time or another. As a result, viewers get a little bit of Broadway Brooklyn for free.
“It’s pretty remarkable that we’re able to pull it off the way we do,” Hyten added. “I completely eat, sleep and breathe it.”
A year of planning yields to four shows on Halloween night, starting at 5 p.m. October 31 with half hour rotations.
Hyten and neighbors already have themes for the upcoming two years.
“We’ve been talking about the show for next year for the last six months. While we’re supposed to be talking about this show, whenever we get together we start throwing ideas out so it’s already in the mix,” she said. “As soon as this Halloween is over and I get bored, which is usually about November, I start researching.”
Each year, the crowd gets bigger and most importantly, the kids have a good time.
“The kids love it and sit out there in great participation. They’re there from 3 ‘o clock on and by 5 p.m. are chanting ‘We want a show!’” she said. “I’ve been very blessed and very lucky that so many people are happy to join in. It blows me away.”