The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 5, 2011

‘Nightmare’ haunted house returns to City Hall

DARE fundraiser continues to grow in production, popularity

OTTUMWA — Fear is brewing in the basement of City Hall.

The annual Nightmare on Third Street Haunted House is back, and it keeps getting bigger.

“Every year we’ve been able to add a little bit to it,” said Lynn Diveley, records clerk for the Ottumwa Police Department. “When we started out the first year, everyone was pretty skeptical. They didn’t know if we’d really be able to pull it off and make money.”

School Resource Officer Mike Murphy, Diveley and a few others started the haunted house in 2003, and Officer Brandon Gravett got involved in 2007.

“When I was appointed to DARE [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] Officer, we were thinking of fundraising ideas and [Diveley] and some other individuals had done haunted houses in the past, and I thought that’d be a good idea,” Gravett said.

Diveley said that last year the committee was able to eliminate plastic divides separating the 23 rooms and painted the entire house black. Everything in the house is made from scratch, including the walls, which are now made from materials the committee finds and assembles.

“There’s an industry out there that makes all that stuff, but obviously we don’t have a budget for that,” Diveley said. “I’ve researched those things and found out how to build it ourself.”

For example, the claustrophobia room could cost around $1,500 if purchased through a company; the committee was able to build their own for $400.

All proceeds from the house go toward the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) and Gang Resistance Education And Training (GREAT) programs.

“This is our main fundraiser for the year,” said Gravett, who heads the DARE program. “We don’t have to do a lot of the little fundraising because of it.”

Last year, approximately 2,300 people went through the house, raising nearly $14,000 for the programs.

“The money raised is used to buy a variety of prizes for the students who may not have something,” Gravett said. “It’s also used to put on a graduation ceremony and a pizza party for the kids after they’ve graduated.”

Proceeds are also used to buy materials, videos and props needed during DARE activities and T-shirts and workbooks when necessary.

While Gravett didn’t want to give anything away, he said there are many “little scares” throughout and that there’s something for everybody.

An average of 35 volunteers help run the show every night and they’ll be implementing a new fear in this year’s house: clowns.

The clown room was painted with fluorescent paint and each clown was drawn by Diveley and then painted by her and the committee. Diveley said the haunted house is a great creative outlet.

“Most people fear something,” she said. “We try to find that fear for just about everybody. If anybody has some type of nightmare that really frightens them, we may touch on it down there.”

Depending on how fast you move — or how scared you are — it can take a person 10 to 20 minutes to get through the house.

And because it’s “pretty intense,” Diveley advises parents to think before bringing their children.

“Every child’s different,  but for the very young children it may not be very appropriate.”

The committee has been working since January and hopes to put its final touches on the house this week.

“The ending is the most scary,” Diveley said. “I don’t want to give that away.”

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