The student-thespians at Boulder High School pride themselves with finding new ways to get people to jump out of their skin every year.
“The theme this fall is nightmares,” explained co-director and Boulder High School Senior Leo Serverter. “We have a variety of different things from real nightmares like going to the dentist and then we have a couple of more feverish and dream-like nightmares, such as a person made out of skin and patchwork. Very spooky.”
His favorite this year is what he calls the “arts and crafts” room, where a person is in the process of dismembering someone with craft scissors. The walls are decorated with skeletons and past “art projects.”
“That is one of the fun ones,” Serverter said.
Like a real theatre performance, former Boulder High Language Arts Teacher Chris Sweeney, who has stayed on after his retirement to help with the haunted house and to train other teachers to take over the theatre, says the students continue to fine tune their performances during the haunted house run. Towards the beginning of this season, he remembers a meeting when students were talking about one of the first scares, when a character jumps out and then follows participants down the hallway.
“That is always super creepy. Then we were thinking what are we missing, what are we forgetting? One of the kids said, ‘the shovel.’ We literally ran into the janitor's closet and we tried out four different old shovels before we liked the sound of this one dragging,” said Sweeney. “You don’t have to bang it, you just travel behind dragging it. It sets people’s nerves on edge.”
While Sweeney says it would be possible to have a successful haunted house in just about any location, because part of the theatre work is suspending participant’s ties to reality, he says that Boulder High School and specifically the tunnels underneath the auditorium are the perfect set for this production.Every year, the experience starts with folks having to descend a steep stairway to enter dark, creepy 1936 tunnels.
‘It is terrifying,” Sweeney said. “A lot of people wait an hour in line and they see the stairs going down and then they say, ‘nope!’”
Not even Boulder High School Principal Dr. James Hill, will go near that part of his school.
“I won’t go through there, even with the lights on,” Hill said, in all seriousness.
And for good reason. Just about everyone we have spoken with has a spooky story about the time they saw an apparition, shadowy figure or something move without explanation, a including Mr. Sweeney.
“We really try to make [the haunted house] dreadful, but the whole thing seems haunted to begin with,” Sweeney said.
He swears that he experienced a haunting with a stage director a few years ago.
“There was a night when we were in there talking around midnight, just the two of us. I was locking up. Both of us stopped in mid-sentence and both focused on the farside of the auditorium. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Sweeney said. “Chills. It was a completely physical presence. We looked for 10 seconds and then looked at each other and were like, ‘did you just....’”
2019 Boulder High Graduate and former haunted house co-director Aidan Robie says his experience occurred during the musical Sideshow.
“Before the show the whole cast went into one part of the tunnel for a senior tradition. Me and a couple of my friends were leading the way and when we got to the end of the tunnel and we were waiting for everyone else to come in. This amber light started forming in the air, it went around my friends head and disappeared,” said Robie.
Later that same night, he and his friends were in a dressing room when another occurrence happened.
“All these little white lights, like little fairies everywhere, started to show up and we ran out of there,” Robie said.
Serverter said his brush with the paranormal happened when he returned to the tunnel one night to fetch a costume piece he left there.
“I went back to get my wings that I left on a chair and I looked down the hallway and I saw someone standing with their back to me in all white. Initially I was like, oh it is probably one of the upperclassmen boys. They are probably fooling with me. I stared for a couple of seconds and I realized that is not a person,” Serverter said. “I grabbed my wings and told everyone that there is a ghost in there.”
Later, he was speaking to a friend who said that she also saw a figure in white.
“We both drew [what we saw] and we compared drawings. They matched entirely. It was mind boggling,” Serverter said.
He has heard of so many similarly spooky stories from other students, including lights that flickered off and other shadowy characters that he can’t write it all off.
“I’m the type of person that doesn’t believe in the afterlife, but there is something else there,” Serverter said.
You can experience a haunting experience for yourself this Friday (Oct. 29), Saturday (Oct. 30) and Sunday (10/31) from 7-10 p.m.
$8 for students
$15 for adults
COVID restrictions are in place. Everyone – actors and participants – wear masks and groups are constrained to no larger than six people.