Months prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus across the state, the executive director of the Red Mill Museum Village in Clinton promised that this year’s haunted attraction would be the biggest one yet.

Against all odds, he has managed to uphold this promise — as well as bring the attraction into the homes of all who wish to see it.

The Red Mill Museum Village has partnered with “Unexplained Cases,” a paranormal investigative documentary web series, to host a #saveHalloween virtual event on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 24 in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Haunted Red Mill.

In addition to a live haunted house attraction, the event will also feature a Halloween costume party and contest hosted by YouTube star Malia Miglino, the creation of Halloween-themed cocktails, and a live paranormal investigation of the Red Mill led by two stars of A&E’s television show “Ghost Hunters” — Daryl Marston and Mustafa Gatollari.

#saveHalloween at the Red Mill

Daryl Marston from “Ghost Hunters”Courtesy

#saveHalloween at the Red Mill

Mustafa Gatollari from “Ghost Hunters”Courtesy

Paul Muir, executive director of the Red Mill Museum Village, described the paranormal as a “very real experience” with historical linkages to the Red Mill.

“There are very few people that have been granted access to come and experience that,” Muir said. “Over the past ten years, maybe one hundred people have been allowed through a guided event or by professional paranormal investigators. So to open that up is, in my opinion, a really amazing experience.”

Echoing Muir, Darren Dedo, the lead anchor and reporter for “Unexplained Cases,” said there’s a “history at the Red Mill as far as spirits.”

“There are some stories and legends of things that have happened at the Mill; there’s a worker that passed away that could be haunting it, a child,” Dedo said. “Those are the types of things that Darrell and Mustafa will investigate.”

Dedo will virtually tune into the paranormal investigation to serve as the “quarterback” for its main stars, he said.

“I will work with them, guide them, provide a little bit of historical analysis when I chime in from time to time,” Dedo said. “Darrell and Mustafa are two of the stars of ‘GhostHunters’ on A&E, so of course they’ve got all of the high-tech equipment they’re going to bring with them. Not only that, but use their senses — whatever they do when they go out and ghost hunt.”

While not directly involved in the investigation, those tuning into it — which Muir projects to be 10,000 or so viewers — can engage with those leading it.

“During the investigation, what we’ve typically found is folks are participating in the chat. They’re watching, they’re hearing things, they’re talking with other people that they know, and we’re able to put their questions … onscreen so everybody can see and respond,” Rick Garner, executive producer for “Unexplained Cases,” said. “So one could sit back and enjoy, but then also you can be as involved as you want to.”

Maryam Faresh, a medium and producer for “Unexplained Cases,” will remotely collaborate with Marston and Gatollari during their investigation. Faresh said that “more often than not” the audience “feels things that I’m feeling at the same time, or sees things that I’m not seeing” in arguing that the concept of paranormal activity is rooted in authenticity — and not to be mistaken with spooky experiences that are not.

“If you’re ghost hunting or doing an investigation, that’s a very real experience,” Faresh said. “And a haunted house obviously feels real, but is not real. So there was a lot of discussion on how to make sure those two were separated, and that people saw the integrity of the investigation and the creative outlet of the haunted house.”

#saveHalloween at the Red Mill

Maryam the mediumCourtesy

Although the haunted attraction at the Red Mill will remain physically vacant, it will be built and infused with more innovative spirit than ever before.

“My struggle for the actual Haunted (attraction) … is usually trying to reign (constructors) in to create something that is achievable. But, for this, no holds barred,” Muir said. “This is not a video walk-through, first-person experience of our event … It’s much larger. It’s a 45 minute to an hour experiential haunt. This is crafted just for this event, and there’s going to be some things that we probably can’t normally do.”

“It is completely different from anything we’ve ever done in the past, so we get to switch gears and really come up with some more creatively,” Ray Bindus, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Red Mill Museum Village, said. “But I’m confident it’s going to be one heck of an experience.”

Faresh said the point of the haunted attraction is to make the audience “feel like they’re there.”

“We’ll go through the attraction and it will be ideally produced and set up in such a way where people at home, they’re not watching it like it’s something on the news. They’re going through it with us,” Faresh said. “They’re experiencing the jump scares and the suspense.”

The Haunted Red Mill was visited by roughly 6,000 people last year, earning about $150,000 in revenue for the museum village. As the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser, Muir said sacrificing the event would have dealt a significant blow to the organization — especially following months of closures and canceled events.

“We employ as many as 31 people and a lot of people were furloughed from our school tour program. Our core staff stayed on, but this is a game-changer for us for 2020,” Muir said. “This is no small event or help that we’re going to be receiving. So we’re thankful for that and excited about it.”

It was the Red Mill’s desperate need for support that led to the creation of this virtual event, according to Faresh.

“October starts to rear its head and I say to the guys, ‘Halloween is it. That’s our day … What are we going to do to really make this a phenomenal Halloween?’ And that’s when Rick started researching … and went, ‘You guys, there are locations that are losing money and can’t hold events.’ And Red Mill was one of the first ones that popped up,” Faresh said.

“Our motto is preserving history while documenting the strange, paranormal and unexplained. So we’re always looking for stories to be able to feature, to do episodics on, and happened to come across this article that talked about the Red Mill (event) being postponed,” Garner said. “And it was like, ‘Wow, what if there’s some way we can do some type of live paranormal investigation and event to be able to #saveHalloween?’”

“I think Maryam could sense our worry and brought Rick to us,” Muir joked. “It’s rather serendipitous.”

While hopeful that in one year’s time attendees of the Haunted Red Mill can once more experience its thrills and scares in person, Muir does not foresee the end of the pandemic to mark an end to the paranormal.

“I always look for the silver lining, and we’ve had to change and adapt and learn this year,” Muir said. “And I think learning how to reach your audience virtually and being able to do that is the silver lining and the benefit, and I think a partnership with Unexplained Cases going forward is going to be beneficial for all of us.”

Time and tickets

#saveHalloween will kick off with a pre-party at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, and last through midnight.

To purchase tickets and learn more about the event, individuals can visit this website.

Tickets are $25 per person, but individuals can shave $10 off the ticket price by entering the code REDMILL.

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Caroline Fassett may be reached at cfassett@njadvancemedia.com

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