An empty store-space in Soldotna’s Peninsula Center Mall has been possessed this week by demonic forces from beyond the grave, according to the Soldotna High School Drama Troupe. The Troupe, led by Soldotna High English teacher and drama coach Sarah Erfuth, has transformed the space into a black pit of insanity and terror for their haunted house fundraiser.
“The kids came up with it,” said Erfuth of the haunted house. “They thought it would be something that would help provide a little more entertainment around Halloween, as well as something that might get a little bit more attention.”
Erfuth said that the 18 participating students “set it up, and they’re doing everything themselves. I’m the supervisor.” The students collectively created their the make-up and costumes, using items they found and contributions from other sources.
“The props are from the theater department,” said Erfurth, “and also we had some donations from the Kenai Performers, and from the student council at our school.”
The funds raised by the haunted house will be put toward the goal of sending ten drama club students to a workshop in London, England, this June. “We’ll have a few workshops,” Erfuth said. “One at the Globe Theater, actually, with the Shakespeare Company, a couple of backstage tours, and we’re going to go see three West End plays, and tour all the local theatre hot-spots.”
“This year the kids are fundraising to get themselves over there,” Erfuth said. Among the group’s other planned fundraisers are a talent show this winter and a dinner theater in the spring.
Before being haunted by the Drama Troupe, the space in the mall was previously occupied by another actor’s group, the Triumvirate Theatre company, which moved to a building in Kenai in August. The haunted house’s student organizer, senior Courtney Van Zant, contacted the mall’s owners about using the empty space. Peninsula Center Mall lent it to the Drama Troupe free of charge.
In order to transform the empty mall space into a haunted house, the group draped black plastic sheets from the ceiling to create a winding route for visitors to follow. After buying their $5 tickets and entering the house, visitors will be stalked and ambushed by Drama Troupe students playing a variety of monsters, psychopaths, and undead creatures.
“They (the students) brainstormed what freaked them out the most and then we built on that,” said Erfuth. Among the horrific attractions they devised for the house are a long corridor of lurking ghosts, an asylum of murderous lunatics, a butcher’s shop of human flesh, and a circle of (electric) candles entrapping a writhing demon-possessed girl, portrayed by Soldotna freshman Emilie Fuhrman.
“We decided that I’m more flexible than normal people,” said Fuhrman, describing the contortions of her possessed character. “Basically, I have no backbone, so I was put in the circle.”
Soldotna graduate and Drama Troupe alumni Jazmin Hetherton was “the genius behind the make-up,” said Erfuth. “We used fake blood from the store, and we also made fake blood out of Caro oil, water, and red dye,” Hetherton said. “For peeling skin we used Vaseline.”
Junior Stockton Jones portrays the haunted house’s hockey-masked chainsaw killer. He threatens visitors with a real chainsaw, albeit with the chain removed. “Basically, I’m one of the only ones who actually uses a chainsaw, and I know how to pull the chain off of it, so I just had the tools and I had the strength to start the chainsaw,” he said.
“Also, since he’s built bigger, and he’s taller, he can actually grab people and carry them off,” added sophomore Carleen Marshall. “It’s actually terrifying.” One of Stockton’s jobs as a chainsaw killer is to kidnap and drag away Marshall, who describes herself as “the plant” in the audience. Her role is to mingle with visitors before they enter the house, then to walk through posing as one of them, before being abducted and presumably dismembered.
“I am the screamer,” she said.
“I know,” said Jones. “It rang in my ears.”
The haunted house will be open again on Thursday from 1-3 p.m, and during the mall’s Halloween Carnival on Friday, from 5-8 p.m. Also on Friday, from 1-3 p.m, the Drama Troupe will do a less frightening haunted house performance for younger children.