John Hays Hammond Jr.’s favorite time of year was Halloween, and for the past 28 years, the Hammond Castle, which he built in mid-1920s, has treasured the season of eerie fun with its annual haunted benefit event.
This year is no different. The haunted tour, titled “Castle of Madness,” through the medieval-style castle, has been extended past Halloween to include this Friday, Nov. 1 (All Saints Day), and Saturday, and Nov. 2 (All Souls Day) for the first time.
Castle curator John Pettibone always gets into the festivities, and for the past decade has temporarily adopted the persona of the cannibalistic serial-killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter for this event, which this year starts at Stage Fort Park, the only site for tickets and boarding the castle shuttle.
“Are the lambs still silent?” he asked visitors last weekend before they boarded the bus. He also handed out Lecter’s business card —stamped with a brain. Over the years, he has mastered the voice of Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the character.
Aboard the shuttle, visitors hear about a murderer who killed his family and are tasked with attempting to enter the killer’s mind and being a witness to his nightmares. At the castle, visitors are greeted and escorted by mad scientists toting blue lanterns before entering the seaside estate in small groups.
The visitors pass through about 20 rooms and common areas where they will take in an array of sinister scenes and characters, ranging from screaming women to a butcher in the kitchen to a creepy clown.
An element from years back is reincarnated this year.
“You might find it ‘amazing’ that in a room of 2,800 square feet, guests will find a maze,” said Pettibone.
He has seen many of his haunted house volunteers — about 50 are needed each year — pass down their role to their children who are now part of the annual escapades. The volunteers range in age from teen-agers to senior citizens.