Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The haunting of Kellogg High School

Staff Writer | October 31, 2023 1:06 AM

KELLOGG — The fear that descends when you’re alone in a large and unoccupied space at night can prey on the mind.

The hallways echo. The light or lack thereof seems to color the world a little differently. Noises become more alarming detached from their context.

There’s a reason empty schools are often used for settings in horror films. When the school day is over and the crowds depart, the mind is quick to fill in the natural emptiness of the environment with lingering anxieties or fears.

What better setting, then, for the Kellogg High School Haunted House?

Saturday marked the second year for the high school fundraiser. Students and staff went even bigger than last year’s undertaking, taking over the former Kellogg Middle School building (now the administrative annex) to put on a frightful night for those brave enough to venture in.

Adam Ream is the performing arts director for the school and was in charge of wrangling the leadership team for planning, then coordinating 40 students from drama and the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps to act throughout the haunted house. The haunted house was part of Kelloween festivities in uptown Kellogg. A trolley brought more people to the administrative annex to enjoy the frights.

Four crushed cars donated by Nickerson’s Towing were scattered outside of the building. Young people in military attire warned anyone coming through the area of imminent danger, urging them to turn away.

“It looks very apocalyptic-esque," Ream said. "The second you get out of your car, you’re essentially in the haunted house."

Student preparations for the haunted house were underway even before the school year began. The Halloween spook-tacular is a fundraiser to promote morale-boosting events for students throughout the school year, so a successful scarefest means that they’ll have more supplies for future fetes.

While the hours barreled toward curtain time at the haunted house, student actors were added to the ranks to cover last-minute conflicts from other students.

“Tensions are running high,” Ream said.

As part of the leadership team involved in the planning, Ragen Oertli, Charlie McDaniel and Makaila Groth said the group has been honing in on what creates the best scares. Constant screaming or just a wall of sound isn’t as effective as staging the creepy noises or movement from actors in waves. 

“Acting like you’re scared works, too," Oertli said. "My job last year was I would wait for people to walk by and then start screaming."

Just like a good horror film, everything needs to be paced to happen in a way that builds tension and suspense. When you relax and think you’ve visually found all of the threats in a zone, that’s when you are the most vulnerable.

The building outside of its former school status also added to the fear-inducing ambiance.

“It’s cold there, everything echoes,” Oertli said.

Among the haunted house zones in the building, a creepy clown area featured blood poured on the stomach cavity of a dummy with birthday candles shoved in its mouth. With some visible actors and others obscured in corners of the room, clowns readied themselves to surprise visitors.

Blackout areas of the haunted house played on sensory deprivation, which added to the horror effect. 

“When you turn off all the lights and fire alarms are going off, it really adds to it,” Ream said.

Dolls, scenes evoking "The Purge" films, zombies and cannibals helped create what members of the leadership team called “layers of panic” among the attendees.

In addition to the figurative blood, sweat and tears that went into the haunted house going off without a hitch, there was nearly as much fake blood setting the scene. The fundraising venture paid off — about 520 people came through the haunted house Saturday night.

“It’s a lot of hard work, for sure,” Oertli said.

    Brooke Bening scares guests with a chainsaw at the haunted house in Kellogg.
    Bloody handprint decorations block out a window in the haunted house.
    Four cars marked to be destroyed at Nickerson’s Towing were spray-painted with warnings and became part of the haunted house in Kellogg.
    Hadley Bush and Addison Miller work on makeup in the darkness of the former cafeteria Saturday in Kellogg.
    Reed Whatcott holds up a bloody foot prop in the cannibal zone of the Kellogg High School Haunted House.
    Dummies on gurneys filled the lobby of the Kellogg High School Haunted House.

    Audrey Hart, left, and Nevaeh Schabell made decorations to add ambiance to the Kellogg High School Haunted House.
    "Stay out" sprayed in red paint warned attendees at the Kellogg High School Haunted House of the terrors within.