IF YOU GO:
Post Falls Lions Haunted House
502 E. Fourth Ave.
Post Falls, Idaho
HOURS: Oct. 21, 22, 26 to 31
7-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7-10 p.m. Oct. 26, 30 and 31
ADMISSION: $7 or $5 with two cans of food
The classroom only fits two or three students and each has something dreadfully wrong with them. One appears to have had paint brushes pushed through her face and another might be missing his jaw, the bottom half of his mouth, a red mass of destruction.
These are just a couple of the local high school students giving their weekend nights to the Post Falls Lions Haunted House.
Brianna Noel used to be one of these students but now she’s in charge of the cast filling the house. Noel played just about every role in the haunted house over seven seasons before taking on her new role 10 years ago.
“It takes a special set of nerves to sit in a dark room by themselves for four hours,” Noel said of the teenagers who are the primary source of scares in the house.
Noel keeps the cast to mostly high school-age students, at least 14 years old, with a few cast members out of school. But like Noel, some come back in other roles.
And some look forward to the time they can join the cast.
Zion Carter, 15, watched his older sister work in the house for years and now scares customers alongside his twin sister.
“I never thought I’d like it. It seemed hard,” Carter said.
But now he can’t get enough.
“Scaring people, and seeing their reactions is fun. So is scaring the little kids. Sometimes you feel bad about that, but it’s all for fun.”
On the second night of the 2017 run, Carter has been made up as a zombie clown, a combination of two of the most popular roles in the house, according to Noel.
“I don’t like them to stay in one character,” Noel said.
The cast, which can be up to 22 kids a night, rotates positions, each getting a chance to try out everything. Except chainsaws.
“You have to be 18 to do chainsaws,” Carter said.
The chainsaws can be heard by those standing in line, waiting to enter the home. Getting through and surviving takes the average group about 15 minutes.
“It’s about 492 steps,” haunted house chairman Mike Jarrett said.
Jarret, like Noel, has been working with the house for 17 years out the 41 years it has been operating on Fourth Avenue.
But don’t take that to mean he isn’t scared.
“I don’t go through here unless I’m with someone,” Jarrett said. “It’s terrifying.”
During his time, the house has seen a few upgrades, and the group is always trying out new things where they can. So a suspension bridge has been replaced with a memory foam surface and some of the scare zones have been made more atmospheric.
Ultimately, however, the scares come from the cast and what they can do with their characters and makeup provided.
During the pre-show makeup sessions, hearing someone call out, “Can I have more blood?” is the norm.
Make-up artists McKayla Braddy and Bekah Stevens have also been with the house for a few years, first as cast members and now doing makeup for the cast.
“We try to do different things every night,” said Braddy, who once auditioned for the effects makeup reality show “Face-Off.”
Once makeup is done, it’s up to each actor to embody the character.
“How do you make a teacher look evil?” Braddy said, as she applied the famous four slash marks across the face of the young woman who would play a victim of Freddy Krueger for the night.
Some of these scare school students are quiet as their makeup is applied and hang out with other cast members before they take their places. Once inside, behind their makeup or a mask, things change.
“It boosts their self-confidence in such a spectacular way,” Noel said of her young cast.
Her confidence in them is repaid when the kids call her “Mom,” Mama,” or sometimes “Mama Ghoul.”
She watches out for them, reminding them to stay safe and be the best haunters they can be. She gives them film suggestions and keeps certain phrases out of their nightly vocabularies.
“I don’t want to hear you say, ‘Do you want to play a game?’ That’s for one clown. You have to come up with your own stuff,” Noel said.
Just like the high school classes the cast spend their days in, not everyone is a successful haunter. Noel recalled one group who would scream at the customers who would then scream because they got scared. Unfortunately, this group got scared at the returned screams and scared themselves.
“Some of the kids are terrified to walk by their friends that they know are in there,” Noel said. “I tell them to take that and own it and use it to scare others.”
Like the cycle of former cast members returning to help in other ways, the house itself is designed to help the community.
“We bring in 1,500 -2,500 pounds of food every year,” Jarrett said.
Carter plans to stick around after he ages out of the cast, too. He plans to join the Lions Club when he’s able and continue serving the community.
For now, however, he and the rest of the cast are ready to give each customer a personal fright.
“You’ll see parents who end up more afraid than their kids, or boyfriends who take off running, leaving their girlfriends behind.”
Doing that will definitely get you an A-plus in this scare school.