Marion youngsters aim to do good with spook house

Halloween spook houses usually are designed with kids in mind, but Marion will have one this Friday night with kids in charge.

The ?Scary Larry, Howling Hap, Jack-O-Lantern Jobe?s Haunted Spook House? will be open to the public from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the east wing of the Marion County Special Educa?tion Cooperative building on the corner of Lawrence and Eisenhower streets.

The brain trust behind the operation are a trio of Marion Elemen?tary School fourth-graders: Larry Zieammermann, Hap Waddell and Joeb Corona.

Helping them pull off the event?intended this year as a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marion County?are a support team of parents, at least one grandparent and almost a dozen students from Marion High School.

The event has a history that goes way back…to when Larry was in kindergarten.

After a gym teacher made ?scary T-shirts? for the child?ren, Larry picked up the nickname ?Scary Larry.?

He liked it.

Cathy Martin, his grandmother, said she remembers him saying, ?Scary Larry ought to do a spook house.?

And so he did. With the help of family, he staged some scary encounters at his grandmother?s house and invited his fellow kindergarteners to see the result, which included encounters involving a corpse coming to life, a witch in the bathroom and Larry stabbing a dummy head with a fake knife.

?I?m just really good at coming up with weird stuff like that,? Larry said with a grin.

The following year, Hap and Joeb joined the effort. The event was moved to grandma?s garage, and they invited their fellow first-graders to visit.

This time, the boys asked each student to make a small donation toward the playground equipment project in Marion?s Central Park.

?I told Larry if we?re going to do this, we?re going to do it for a charitable cause,? Martin said.

In second grade, the spook house was moved into a large metal shed at Larry?s rural home. This time, organizers asked for donations of food for the local food bank.

Last year, they raised around $30 by selling their classmates a $1 ticket to ride the ?Ghoul Bus? to the spook house. The money went to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Another new feature: Younger brothers Johnny Zieammermann and Anderson Waddell joined the cause and invited their kindergarten classmates to visit the spook house, too.

This year, BBBS asked the boys to operate the house for the benefit of their cause. As a result, the boys are charging $3 per person this time and are going all out to make the spook house worthwhile for a broader public.

Looking for a new venue, they decided to ask the MCSEC board if they could use the unused wing of the former nursing home that now houses the education program.

Larry, Hap and Joeb presented their case to the board recently and outlined their intentions: to emphasize safety at all times, have an adult guide each tour of five or more guests, and restrict the event only to the unoccupied wing of the building.

The board approved the request with the stipulation that the boys make it clear in their promotion that the spook house is not a school-sponsored event.

Organizers say the event is geared for students in eighth-grade and younger, and is family oriented.

Taking advantage of rooms that once served nursing-home residents, the boys are planning a hospital theme to this year?s haunt. Without divulging too many secrets, visitors will be led through a tour that includes The Surgery Room, The Physical Therapy Room, The Organ Donor Room, The Lab, The Patient Room and, last but not least, The Morgue.

The experience also includes a ride in a hearse.

?It?s really just our truck pulling our horse trailer,? Larry said. ?We?ll have it all decorated up so it?s scary.?

And one more behind-the-scenes secret: Their new recipe for fake blood includes peanut butter, Karo Syrup and food coloring.

Concessions will feature hot dogs and s?mores, thankfully.

To keep alive the tradition of classmate tours, Marion fourth-graders and kindergartners will take in a free ?dress rehearsal? tour, complete with high-school helpers, on Thursday. Students will receive pill bottles filled with tasty ?prescriptions.?

Admission on Friday will be $3, with all proceeds going to BBBS. Visitors should enter off Eisenhower Street on the east side of the building.

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