In their 45 years the Broadview Heights Lions have never hosted a pancake breakfast.

In lieu of a day started with hot flapjacks and friendly neighbors, the Ohio club chooses to spend its year working on ways to scare the bejesus out of the unknowing and innocent at Bloodview Haunted House, their major fundraiser now in its 40th year.

Everyone, from ghouls to ticket takers, is a volunteer there at 1010 Towpath Road in Broadview, and because of that the Lions have raised close to US$3 million for others.

“We scare because we care,” says 27-year Lion Gary Cerasi. “You have to be kind of nuts to run it, but we’re thrilling a lot of people and making a ton of money for others by doing it.”

Bloodview Lions Club Haunted House
The Bloodview Haunted House is the Broadview Lions’ only fundraiser all year and it has raked in close to US$3 million that the club has donated to its causes.

Attendance has grown into the thousands at the interactive scare house between Cleveland and Akron. Seventy actors from the nonprofit improv troupe Legion of Terror, plus a few scary Lions, produce and provide the fun and the fright in 20 rooms, plus The Gore House, the cemetery, and this year’s new Baby Doll Island. Another 30 far less gruesome but dedicated Lions run concessions, park cars, and take tickets every weekend from mid-September through October.

But then November 1 comes. The ghouls are suddenly gone, and the house is locked up tight, empty of all but ghosts. Lion minds start planning for the next autumn, aiming to have all new construction at the houses done by June.

Cerasi, who loves Bloodview but hates scary movies, says at least five of the 30 sets will bring new screams each year because well, it just wouldn’t be fun if the guests know there’s a monster with an ax around the next corner. A good haunted host knows his visitors thrive on surprises.

“People love to be scared for 45 minutes,” says Cerasi. “Then they go home in their nice warm car.”

Across the country in California, the Fort Bragg Leos are the ones providing the creepy (and all for charity) Haunted Hall of Horrors at the Fort Bragg Lions Hall. In 13-plus years they have raised more than US$75,000.

The community has enjoyed being frightened so much that the Leos have added some scare to summer as well. Their popular Zombie Walk through town helps families with children fighting cancer.

It all started in 2005 when the Leos wanted a Halloween activity for the older teens. With the help of Lion Cindy Lemas-Gillespie, a producing director for theaters and film, they built a 13-room haunted house and maze, opening for just one night. Admission was US$2 or a donation of used eyeglasses, and on that night Leos collected US$1,200 and more than 300 pairs of glasses.

Lions dressed for a haunted house
Fort Bragg Leos haunt the Hall of Horrors in California, raising more than US$75,000 that they’ve put back into their community.

Pumped by their success and the community interest, the Haunted Hall of Horror soon grew to include more dramatic sets, more volunteers, more nights open, and more profit. Leos and Lions began attending the West Coast Haunters Convention, taking classes in design, sets, safety, makeup, and more to create a very high-tech scary house.

In 2019, a cast and crew of 65 adults and teens celebrated their 14th year of horror. The Leos provided funding for an anti-bullying program (now a government-funded program) at the Fort Bragg Middle School, and they support numerous charities.

Cast and crew have benefitted as well, learning skills from carpentry to cosmetology for film and stage. Leo Cheyenne Christman, 14, says the haunted house gives her a chance to share her personality and creativity as well as work with others. Fellow Leo, 16-year-old Branden Myers, says, “Working on the Haunted House of Horrors has made me show mettle.”

Although COVID-19 canceled all this Halloween fun two years in a row now, there are more fright-filled years ahead. And now many of those once scary Leos are Fort Bragg Lions.

District 4C2 Governor Lemas-Gillespie says her daughter, Nicole, who is disabled, was welcomed into the Leo club at age 12 and has enjoyed being a scary character in the haunted house since the day it opened. She is now a Fort Bragg Lion, always reminding them that “together we are better.”

Not so scary.