Halloween 2011: Haunted Plantation
BY PAIGE L. JINBO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
By day, Hawaii’s Plantation Village is a living history museum and serene garden park with guided tours offering insight into life surrounding the old sugar mill. But for nine nights in October, Waipahu’s historic sugar plantation transforms into one of the nation’s most frightening venues for thrill seekers.
“If you want to be scared, come to us,” said village executive director Jeffrey Higa. “People can’t prepare for what we do here.”
» Where: Hawaii’s Plantation Village, 94-695 Waipahu St.
Last year, the Haunted Plantation, as it is known this time of year, was voted sixth-scariest haunted house in the U.S. “that will scare the bejezuz about of you” by Matador Network magazine and ranked 13th on TopHaunts.com’s “Top 20 Haunts in the World.”
Part of the appeal is the real-life history and tragedy the plantation is steeped in, said scare master Noa Laporga, who organizes the event. He said the scare tactics draw upon ghost stories from local cultures, such as the obake (Japanese ghost) woman with no face seen creeping around the place.
“What makes us different is that we utilize our facility as a backdrop with all its superstitions and history,” he said.
Higa said that in the years spanning the plantation’s heyday from the 1850s to the 1950s, many residents died in some of the 16 plantation houses on museum property. Both men said there are periodic reports of supernatural beings wandering the area. Since the Haunted Plantation debuted in 2005, more than 30 of the actors have quit because they were spooked by ghostly apparitions, they said.
The plantation was featured on Syfy’s “Ghost Hunters” series last month in an episode in which the team investigated “sightings of a ghostly girl and possibly haunted artifacts,” according to a program guide.
As the Haunted Plantation celebrates its sixth year of inducing fear in its visitors, Laporga says he’s amazed at how the event has evolved from a one-night stand with 12 actors to a nine-evening run this year employing more than 50 actors, all of whom attend Laporga’s “Scare School” for a few weeks in September. The training focuses on “bringing the monster out in someone,” he said.
During the 20-minute walk, attendees enter old plantation houses where they are greeted by the horrifying beings who used to live there.
“It’s definitely one of the scariest places I’ve gone to,” said University of Hawaii student Jana Coloma, 24, who has visited the attraction twice before and plans to go again this year. “It’s not just one small room or warehouse, it’s an entire haunted plantation.”
Last year, about 10,000 people traipsed through the Haunted Plantation, and Higa anticipates more this year, especially since more of the plantation houses have been opened — eight instead of six — for visitors to walk through.
Since Hawaii’s Plantation Village serves as a museum in the daylight hours, Laporga and his team must go in every weekend and set up the props in the houses and take them down at the end of each night. Laporga declined to comment on how much it costs to produce the Haunted Plantation, but said his entire team, including actors, consists of about 100 people.
Higa advises those daring to brave the Haunted Plantation to go early. While the gates open at 7 p.m., the tour is often sold out by 8 p.m.
Coloma thinks the wait is worth it.
“It’s so awesome and they keep stepping it up every year. I was so scared I was sweating bullets — my sweat was sweating — and your heart’s just racing so fast, it’s such an experience,” she said.
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