The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office held the 8th annual Nightmare on Jail Hill over two weekends in October to raise money for the Brown Santa program. Brown Santa is a community service program of the Sheriff’s office and the many sponsors and volunteers who make it happen each year.
Jail Hill is the single largest fundraising event for the program and has raised more money year over year thanks to the hundreds of hours of preparation by volunteers and help from the Brown Santa Board headed up by Captain Pete Hughey.
The program provides assistance to families living at or below the U.S. poverty level guidelines or who have experienced a significant hardship during the year. Families with children age 0 to 17 receive toys, books, and other items to make Christmas merrier and positively impact families that, without their assistance, will not have what some take for granted.
Brown Santa donations purchase toys, books and other items needed to make the children’s Christmas brighter.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department used to give historical tours of the Williamson County Jail. Having been in use since 1889, research turned some dramatic stories and interesting people inside its walls. It is even believed to be a little haunted for real.
In 2008, (now) Detective Jeremy Brinkman came up with the idea to haunt the jail and sell tickets to raise money. He got approval from County Judge Gattis and a lot of people jumped on board right away.
Since then, Nightmare has grown from a few scares and a handful of actors to—beginning with preparations in August—three full floors of menacing weirdos, psycho clowns and a few truly creepy little-girl-ghosts.
Even the volunteer force has grown in size and popularity year over year. Estimates for attendance for the 2016 event show nearly 2500 visitors and gross receipts in excess of $30,000. This year they added “fast pass” tickets for $20, which turned out to be very popular to the tune of nearly 250 per night. Those who waited in long lines were kept amused by the glowing red eyes of the fiend throwing glow sticks to the crowd from the roof.
Captain Hughey’s daughter Colby organized all of the volunteers, which included whole classes of kids from local high schools, moms and kids, deputies and correctional officers, elected officials, community leaders and residents who just want to be a part of it. “We talked to people in line who said they had just left [Austin attraction] and said it was no where near as good as ours.”
Captain Hughey added, “The best part of Jail Hill is the volunteers who pull everything together and enjoy two crazy weekends.”
The Advocate visited the Jail and noted about 200 people in line for most of the evening, beginning even before sunset. One group of teens came from San Antonio just for the Jail’s great reputation and one couple drove five hours as part of their attempt to see every haunt in Texas.
Brown Santa Help
There is still time to help the Sheriff’s Department prepare for the gift-giving season. Volunteers are needed to sort and box the gifts purchased for the program. There are several dates and slots available from now until December 1. You can also come out to see the Teddy Bear Parade on December 9. Children from Liberty Hill ISD who have earned money to purchase bears and toys will proceed around the Georgetown Square and try to cover Santa with them at the Sheriff’s office. Email BrownSantaWilco@gmail.com for volunteer opportunities and dates.