This story is courtesy of Newsteam, posted on 27 October 2011.
Get ready for a dark descent as Boulder Valley High School is opening the doors Oct. 27 for their 7th annual fundraising event, the Boulder Valley High School’s Haunted House.
Every year is a different theme. Artistic Director Alex Rideout says they decided that this year’s theme, a haunted Victorian mansion, would open them up to be more creative.
The school was built in 1936, leaving many naturally creepy places that they can use to create the terror, including tunnels, passageways and running water.
Where most haunted houses may scare you with cheap thrills and big sound effects, Boulder High is going for a more subtle, psychological approach.
“We want to get down to people’s unconscious thoughts that go all the way back to their primal fears,” said Chris Sweeney, the school’s theater instructor.
Groups of five to six people at a time can go through the house, and it takes about seven to ten minutes. A lot of people, even the toughest football players, sometimes can’t make it all the way through.
“It’s that cold sweat, stomach dropping kind of fear,” Rideout said.
Sweeney and Rideout gave NewsTeam a sneak preview.
“In previous years, we’ve done specific themes, such as a circus,” Rideout said. “But then we ran into the difficulty of making sure that whatever we did had to be something that someone would see in a circus. With a haunted mansion, we can have a sewer and marsh leading up to it, a foyer, and different rooms of the house. It allows us a lot more room for creativity.”
Rideout, a recent Boulder High School graduate, was hired this year because he was so passionate about the school’s theater department during his years there. He even got his brother and his parents involved in the event.
Sweeney says it is not uncommon for kids to get try out theater and then decide to stay in it.
“Kids are really winning at all levels here,” Sweeney said.
About 70 students, made up of freshman through seniors, work with each other to come up with the concepts, build the sets, and even act in the haunted house. The entire production is student driven.
“These kids really put a lot into it,” Sweeney said. “They work on it during free periods, after school, even on weekends. They’re really putting in some long hours because they are so passionate about it.”
Chris Morrison, a Boulder High senior, says that after all of his friends graduated last year, he was looking for something to do.
“I work at Home Depot, so I’m used to building stuff and I like it,” Morrison said. “So I thought, ‘Why not build sets for the theater department?’ It’s cool because then I take my parents to the shows and can say, ‘See that? I built it.’”
Aside from the sense of community, enjoyment, and learning experience from working in the theater department, Sweeney also said the school’s haunted house is the major fundraiser for them for the year. They’re hoping to raise $10,000 with this event.
“A lot of people think that the theater department gets funding when, in fact, that’s not true,” Sweeney said. “We don’t get any funding from the government or the state. The theater department’s budget is solely reliant on ticket sales from shows we put on, private donations, and fundraisers such as this.”
Because of the department’s tight budget, the kids have to be even more creative. They get their props from past shows, donated items, thrift stores and garage sales, and the rest is up to their creative genius.
“These kids have really come up with some cool ideas to make these special effects look real,” Sweeney said. “For instance, our skeletons. It’s a very cheap and simple method that they use to get that bloody residual look. We can’t tell you how they do it, though. Those are Boulder Valley High secrets.”
Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for community members. The descent begins every night from 6-10 p.m. and runs tonight through Halloween at Boulder Valley High School.