Some families have skeletons in their closets; for now, the Shiry family in west Forsyth has them in their garage and front yard.
On Halloween night, the Shiry family’s garage, located at 5645 Lilac Pass in the Post Brook Farms subdivision, will be open to visitors as a haunted castle, complete with terrifying props, haunting music and more. The haunted house is free to attend.
“We’ve always been doing Halloween stuff,” said Jean Shiry. “We used to do just a haunted path at our other house in Ivy Manor, then we started to do a haunted house here in 2014.”
The Shiry family is made up of husband and wife Lee and Jean Shiry and their kids Rachel, 16, Rebecca, 13, Hannah, 8, and Joseph, 6.
Lee Shiry said Halloween is a big deal for the family.
“We’ve kind of always been the big Halloween house in the neighborhood,” Lee Shiry said. “We’d always add a little bit every year and it got pretty big. Jean’s brother has done a haunted house for many years in his neighborhood, so then Rachel really wanted one in our house, too.”
Haunted houses aren’t built overnight, and the Shirys have been building theirs since the beginning of September. The walls of the maze were up by the end of the month to give the family plenty of time to plan and decorate the scary parts.
Before any of that, it starts on a piece of graph paper from oldest daughter Rachel.
“First, I kind of think about what I want in it and what big things, like big scares, and kind of plan the floorplan around which big things to do,” she said. “If you want to do a prop with multiple things, you can’t just put it somewhere; you have to plan around it.”
Once they have a plan, the family can get to work making the house scary and filling it with props like bats and bones to more advanced scares including music, lighting and actors in costumes.
“We start with going by her design to know where to place the walls because it’s kind of a little maze walking through there, then we start doing things like running the power, running lights, putting the props up,” Lee Shiry said.
The haunted house also seeks to educate rather than only terrify.
Rachel Shiry suffers from an autoimmune deficiency and the haunted house will give out gift bags with information on such disorders and direct attendees to donate to the Immune Deficiency Foundation. Jean Shiry said the disorder attacks memory cells the body uses to fight disease, but research has come a long way.
“If you don’t have your memory cells, then when you get sick your body doesn’t know what to do,” she said. “Either it takes a long time and you fight it or you get really sick or you just need longer antibiotics or longer infusions.”
The disease and its impact on the family meant they skipped hosting a haunted house last year, but, with Rachel feeling better this year, they decided to use it as a learning opportunity.
“We took last year off because she was so sick, and she was feeling a little bit better, at least somewhat on the right path,” Jean Shiry said. “So, we were going to do another haunted house and were like, ‘hey, we’ve got this diagnosis that really makes sense, why don’t we bring awareness since it is so rare?”