A Grovetown plantation steeped in history will be the scene for thrills and chills this fall.
Nightmare Plantation will be a haunted attraction at 1110 Dodge Lane, the former winter home of horse enthusiast John Dodge.
"Essentially with a haunted house, what you have is a movie set that people walk through and experience," said Don Dyches, the director of Nightmare Plantation.
The haunt will take place on 15 acres surrounding the plantation home, now named Mandalay Plantation. About 50 actors from Le Chat Noir, a nonprofit theater group in Augusta, will put on the performance each night Nightmare Plantation is open. The property is next to the Augusta State Medical Prison.
"The grounds themselves are spooky, but when you add in actors who are trained ... to scare safely; they're very good at startling folks," Dyches said.
Those with brave souls will trek through a fabricated graveyard into a historic 8,500-square-foot barn and back outside, where the haunt continues. The attraction takes about an hour to walk through, Dyches said.
"There will be some classic characters, but we have developed our own story line that centers around a character, called Bobby Bones," he said.
The concocted creatures might not be the only ghosts and ghouls roaming the property. Many who have visited or lived on the plantation have reported supernatural sightings.
"Things go on all the time," said Cheryl Carswell, who has owned the home since 1985. "You know, I'm kind of used to it.
"The first week we moved in here all the clocks in the whole house stopped working at one time -- even the wind-up clocks."
Carswell said she has heard her name being called and people walking on stairs in the empty house.
A woman wearing a brown coat, carrying bags and walking on the old horse-racing track in the fog have been seen by family members. Others have reported seeing strange lights on the property, which Carswell said is "very dark" at night.
The old plantation home was built in 1912 by Dodge, a harness racing enthusiast.
Dodge, who died in the home, would train his horses at the plantation during the winter, Dyches said.
The large barn, servants' quarters and other old structures remain on the 21-acre plantation.
As owner of the property for 25 years, Carswell has developed a deep connection to Mandalay Plantation.
Two of her three children died of cancer in the home. Her 12-year-old daughter, Heather, died in 1990, and her 23-year-old son, Jamey, died in 1999.
After their deaths, Carswell wanted to find a way to give to other families in similar situations.
"When children are that sick it's difficult for families to plan to go anywhere of distance, like on a vacation," she said. "I had always hoped that after she (Heather) died that I could offer the planation as an opportunity for families whose children are sick or compromised."
With revenue raised from the haunted attraction, Carswell, a licensed counselor, wants to open the doors to Mandalay Plantation as an oasis for sick children and start a program for troubled youth.
Proceeds raised from Nightmare Plantation will also go to Haydens International Gymnastics Academy's new Special Olympics program.
Other potential plans for the plantation include a bed and breakfast and a venue for small wedding receptions, corporate retreats and conferences.
For now, Dyches and Carswell are concentrating on Nightmare Plantation.
The haunt will remain open on Friday and Saturday nights from Sept. 24 to Oct. 9 and on Thursday through Sunday nights from Oct. 14 until Halloween.
Dyches gives Nightmare Plantation a PG-13 rating and said parents should use discretion when bringing children to the attraction.
For information about Nightmare Plantation, visit www.nightmareplantation.net.
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