PARK SLOPE – The officers of the NYPD’s 78th Precinct want to scare you—but all in good fun.
For the past three years, Commanding Officer Frank DiGiacomo has been the mastermind behind transforming the precinct’s basement into an elaborate, multi-room haunted house for Halloween.
“Each room has its own individual theme,” he says, including a hospital room, morgue, Frankenstein’s laboratory, a Ring-themed room complete with a hand-crafted well, a clown room, witch room, butcher shop, electric room, and a [creepy] baby room.
“Each year it gets better and bigger,” Officer DiGiacomo adds.
DiGiacomo and the precinct’s Community Affairs Officer, Brian Laffey, enthusiastically gave BKLYNER a behind-the-scenes tour of the house of horrors Thursday afternoon. Created using mostly donated props and materials, the maze of rooms is incredibly detailed and creepy even without the full-on effects.
“It really doesn’t come alive until you get the actors in it,” DiGiacomo said, who dressed as a demon for last year’s fright fest. “All the cops volunteer their time, dress up, go downstairs, and scare the kids.” There can be anywhere between 13 to 25 officers in character at the haunted house at a time, terrifying kids and adults alike. DiGiacomo notes that it is usually the “biggest, baddest kid” who is the “first one to run out the front door.”
“A lot of parents are impressed,” Officer Laffey adds. “They don’t anticipate it being so detailed. People are shocked when they see it.”
A lot of time and effort goes into making the macabre sets. “We started about two and a half months ago,” DiGiacomo says. “We start early. We do it a little at a time,” he explains, noting, “This week is our crunch time,” when the officers will use their spare time to decorate the building’s exterior and the alleyway that leads to the haunted house’s entrance.
Last year, the precinct welcomed approximately 700 visitors a day to the spooky spectacle. They hope to see more this year.
“We thought it was something nice to do for the community,” DiGiacomo explains. “Most people come to police precincts for bad things, so this brings kids and parents to the precinct to see something good and to have fun.”
The officers let parents use their discretion on whether to bring their kids down to the chamber of horrors or take the tinier tots to a less scary, Disney-themed Halloween room upstairs.
Either way, they invite all to drop by and join the fun. “Meet your local police officers and have a great time,” DiGiacomo insists. “People may go down crying and scared, but they walk out smiling, and that’s the best thing.”
“That’s our goal—let them come here, spend a couple of hours with us, and go home happy.”
78th Precinct’s Halloween Haunted House
65 6th Avenue (between Dean & Bergen Streets)
Wednesday, October 25—Monday, October 30, 3pm to 9pm daily
[Photos: Pamela Wong/BKLYNER]