Few characters invite frightful screams and trembling hearts like Sweeney Todd, Jekyll and Hyde and Jack the Ripper. At the Ox Bow Saloon Saturday night, a macabre cast of student actors elicited screams and howls from spectators in a elaborately themed haunted house on the west end of Main Street.
The streets of “Ye Olde London” truly came alive with some eight themed backgrounds inspired by Victorian and Edwardian England, including an electric
chair, deadly barbershop and even Peter Pan.
For three fright-filled hours, as many as 5,000 people waited to get through the haunted house, which many claim really is haunted by prostitutes and gunslingers from Payson’s earlier days when gunfights and illegal activity were rampant on Main Street.
Student actors from Payson High School’s drama department acted out several ghoulish scenes including a beheading. The evening’s scariness was tailored to different levels so children — and grown-ups — could enjoy the event at their own scare threshold.
The only thing more frightful than Saturday’s haunted house were the lines outside.
Deb Rose, recreation coordinator with Payson Parks and Recreation, said the whole evening “was the craziest event,” given in part to a line that stretched from the Ox Bow Saloon down South McLane Road to the Humane Society of Central Arizona.
At 7:30 p.m., a line count was taken and at least 2,600 people were waiting to get into the Trunk or Treat Festival.
Rose estimates at least 5,000 Halloween-goers went through the festival in a three-hour period.
“There were just waves of people,” she said.
The town once again purchased all of the candy and provided it to more than 30 decorated “trunks” who handed it out to children ages 12 and under.
The town buys the candy to provide a safe environment for children in which to trick or treat.
Rose said she worried at one point that there wouldn’t be enough candy to go around, even though she had picked up $5,000 worth of candy (60 cases) earlier in the week.
“There is that critical point where you wonder if we are going to run out,” she said.
Luckily, by 9 p.m., all the little goblins and fairies had gone home and there were still a few cases left.
The town buys all of the candy from a Phoenix supplier, whose prices cannot be beat locally, Rose said.
“We have been using the same candy company for more than 10 years,” she said.
With the event’s huge popularity, some wonder why the town does not stretch it out over two days.
Rose said they do not have the work force to hold it Friday and Saturday, although “it would be cool.”
To keep the real goblins away, the Pro Rodeo Committee provided security.