Northwood church gets spooky

St. James Lutheran Church is hosting a haunted attraction event to raise money. Some say it’s truly haunted.

St. James Lutheran Church. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

St. James Lutheran Church in Northwood is turning to an unlikely fundraising strategy to keep its congregation afloat financially.

Later this month, the church, located at 5185 Castor Ave., will be hosting a two-night haunted attraction event to raise money. It will feature about 30 actors, props and decorations, but, according to some, the 93-year-old church is spooky enough on its own.

“Many, many people have said they have seen things and heard things,” Pastor Rob Cook said before adding, “I don’t believe in ghosts. I believe in demonic activity.”

Cook said he has heard voices, growls and other loud noises in the church at night. He once saw an older man sitting in a pew late at night when the building was empty. Nine people have reportedly died in the church.

“It can just be unnerving sometimes to walk around in the dark,” Cook said. “I believe something’s going on there, but I’m not a professional in that area.”

The church and its members have decided to embrace St. James’ eerie qualities. For a number of years, the church had hosted a haunted house, but a previous pastor put a stop to the ghostly antics. This will be St. James’ first “Haunted Church” in six or seven years, Cook said.

St. James Haunted Church will run from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27. Tickets are $10 and will go on sale at 6:30 each night.

JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTOS

Nick Sarro, one of the event’s organizers, said he has worked on several haunted attractions around the country. He will be helping to train the actors, who are mostly church members. A team of volunteers is working to turn the entire church, except the sanctuary, into a scary setting.

“It’s going to actually be a full-sized haunted attraction,” Sarro said.

Participants will experience a 30- to 45-minute walkthrough of the church, according to Sarro.

Some Christians are wary of Halloween, and Cook admits that he has never heard of a haunted house at an active church. In fact, Cook said he’s not even quite sure how he feels about the concept.

“I just told them I didn’t want it to be too crazy,” he said, adding that he wants to invite participants to come to the church and take part in other activities there.

Cook said he hopes the fundraiser can generate enough money to help the struggling church. Most of the people served by St. James are low-income, he said, and the congregation is in danger of folding.

“The church has been in dire straights,” Cook added. “I just gave up my salary for the next five years just to keep the doors open.”

All money from the Haunted Church event will go toward the church, Sarro said. The event will also feature food and drinks.

For more information, visit the “St. James Haunted Church” Facebook page. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com