It’s been a reigning champion of frights and fits for more than a generation. The “Nightmare on Fourth Street,” otherwise known as the Post Falls Lions Club’s annual haunted house, is set to open its disturbed doors once again, coaxing the brave-hearted into the creepy corridors of the former Idaho Veneer Co. building on the corner of Fourth and Post streets.
For roughly 36 years, the Lions Club’s main event has provided a Halloween-time tradition for countless Inland Northwest residents, with lines 500-people deep that form outside hours in advance, while serving as the group’s primary fundraiser for the year. During the club’s two-week reign of terror, its members delight in their roles of becoming masters of the macabre.
“Oh yeah, it definitely is scary,” proclaimed Ken Cook, the Lions Club treasurer and a longtime haunted house volunteer.
How scary? Well, Cook said, through the years he’s witnessed many seemingly macho men bolt out of the house in fear. “These macho guys who go in there sometimes have to come out the emergency exit,” he said. “People go in with a sweatshirt tied around their shoulders and come out with it tied around their waists. I’m not sure why, but I think I have an idea,” he laughed.
But to make it truly twisted, the Lions Club enlists the help of those who strike fear in the hearts of many parents: otherwise known as teenagers. The house is filled with a small contingent of local high school students who take their roles as ghosts, ghouls and other wicked characters seriously.
“It is pitch black in there, so the actors and actresses are the ones who make it scary,” Cook said.
The frightening effects are aided by a pair of professional North Idaho makeup artists. The duo transforms the high school students into the undead, disemboweled and other appalling inhabitants that lurk in the home’s snaking halls.
And for those who think they’ve seen it all or know what to expect, there are some surprises sure to alarm even the most-jaded fright seeker, Cook said. The Lions Club and local volunteers spend weeks, and sometimes months, in advance, changing the labyrinth-like interior to keep the fright-fest fresh. Featuring more than a dozen rooms with deranged themes – many of them new additions – and video cameras that transmit a live feed of the reactions from those inside to monitors seen by those waiting in line, the haunted house is designed around scaring the wits out of each visitor.
The more fright-filled customers the better, though, since that translates into more money for local causes, Cook said. While the event is the largest fundraiser for the Lions Club, it also benefits local high schools. The proceeds are split between the Post Falls High School band program and New Vision High School, providing funding for academic scholarships and community projects.
“The Lions Club has been very generous,” said New Vision teacher and senior adviser Peggy Harriman, who also volunteers at the haunted house. “The students really look forward to volunteering for it.”
Among the list of returning role players is New Vision senior Brock Sherman. During his stint last year as Dracula, the 18 year old said he provoked more than just shrieks from the wandering patrons. “It’s a blast,” he said. “I made a lot of people pee their pants last year.”
Through the years, the more than 50 Post Falls Lions Club members have done a variety of projects, including an annual golf tournament and building a Boy Scouts of America meeting house and community park restrooms. However, the group’s primary goal is to help supply hearing aids and eyeglasses for the less fortunate.
“All the money stays right here in the area,” Cook said, adding that the event usually brings in at least several thousand dollars, with a best-ever yield of more than $40,000. “This is our major fundraiser. This is the one that allows us to support all our causes every year.”
With lines that often number into the hundreds, Cook offered a word of caution: “The main thing is if you are coming, come early and always dress warm.”