by Kyle Shirk
After five months of preparation involving business contractors, equipment pre-orders, an 18-person staff, 4-person construction team and 5-person board of directors, sophomore Ethan Berman has, for the seventh consecutive year, turned his ordinary Westfield residence into a haunted house production.
Berman has created a popular Halloween destination with his non-profit organization, No Escape Productions. The haunted house raises money for four different charities: Mandy Reichman Feeding Program, Food Allergy Research & Education, Friendship Circle and Play for P.I.N.K. The non-profit haunted house recommends charitable donations to any of the available options.
Berman and his crew are ¨constantly planning for the years ahead,¨ he said, with the initial pre-production beginning in the first week of June. Beninger & Sons Odd Job Company, a construction business in Mountainside, transforms the house into a professional scare location, Berman said.
“We start the tape layout the last week of June...our builder comes a few days throughout the summer,” said Berman.
Following design and construction, operation begins in September and concludes early in December. This year’s theme is “Westfield Dead and Breakfast Haunted Hotel,” which includes a basement and backyard setup, including an elevator as part of the setting to up the ante this year.
The intricate, dark paths take you on a half-mile walk through the haunted hotel. Customers are led through themed rooms where butchers, clowns, psychiatric patients and zombies await. With rattling floors, unexpected noises and sensor-operated props, the design and layout of the maze is professional in its level of detail.
Senior Bear Mooney, who attended the haunted house last year, said, “It was definitely an insane and scary experience. [Berman] did a very good job setting it all up; I was very impressed.”
Said Berman, “As people [enter] they go through the paths but they don’t realize that there are a significant amount of employee passages that cut through as well as our security department, costume room, makeup room, junior backstage rooms and our main backstage room.¨
The house operates most Fridays and Saturdays by reservation only from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Junior Julian Mazzola, who is executive scarer of No Escape Productions, said: “I have known Ethan throughout the theater program in middle school. What he puts together is something fun to do with friends and is done for a very good cause.”
In addition to his huge home setup, Berman is the founder and CEO of his company, EJB Entertainment. “It is one of the only teen-run companies to specialize in DJ entertainment event planning, photo booth setups, event activities and much more,” said Berman. His company, which can be found at ejbentertainment.com, has social media outlets and can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at (908) 345-6505.
With the fall underway, Berman and his staff expect to stay open into December, encouraging customers to come support a great cause.