STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Anyone who has ever thought middle school was pretty scary might take satisfaction from knowing that the former middle school in Bayfield is the setting for a haunted house.
The old building on South Street already has the odd noises and worn-around-the-edges feel. Memories haunt the grounds.
“It’s funny. We get people through here all the time who say, ‘I used to go to school here,’” said organizer Susan Livingston.
Frightening thoughts of merciless gym teachers, mysterious cafeteria food and mean kids will be amplified by actors playing slasher-movie monsters such as Freddy Krueger.
The haunted house, scheduled for after dark tonight, is a fundraiser for the Piedra Learning Community, which is dedicated to students with learning disabilities. Piedra is the daytime occupant of the old school.
“We struggle to keep our doors open because we want to keep our services affordable,” Livingston said. “We’re always scrambling for something that makes money. We were successful last year. So we ramped (the haunted house) up. We think we’ve gotten it even better this year.
“We’re hoping for another financial success so we can make payroll,” said Livingston, whose regular job is director of Piedra’s parent organization called Skills for Living and Learning.
“We made $1,500 to $2,000 (last year), which for us is a big fundraiser,” she said.
It’s also pretty successful considering local Halloween activities have a history of going awry like Frankenstein’s monster.
Last year’s zombie march down Main Avenue, for example, turned into a YouTube spectacle of zombies clashing with police, obstructing traffic and almost overturning a car. The street melee resulted in 22 arrests.
Durango Police Lt. Ray Shupe considers the zombie march to be “an unlawful, unsanctioned event. We’re trying to discourage it.”
No one has approached the city for a permit, but Shupe is “anticipating it will happen again.”
The march usually takes place after midnight.
Police have learned from last year’s Halloween and will be “prepared to take enforcement action,” Shupe said. “If they step on the street, they will be subject to arrest.”
Fort Lewis College will be offering alternatives to going downtown by hosting a haunted house, a costume contest and a double movie showing of the “Blair Witch Project” and “The Addams Family.”
There apparently have been other Halloween disasters, too.
When Robert Stapleton moved to Durango in 2003 from the Stephen King land of small-town New England, he noticed there were no organized Halloween activities for the downtown, a disappointment for a father with small kids.
He was told that a past Halloween party got to be too much, becoming “like Snowdown,” the rowdy winter carnival.
To fill the void, Stapleton organized a trick-or-tricking for kids 10 and younger on Main Avenue between 4-6 p.m. on Halloween.
Participating merchants put up posters of pumpkins to indicate whether they have candy to give out.
Stapleton, owner of Southwest Sound, likes to get into the spirit by dressing up as the ultimate slacker, “The Dude,” from the Coen brothers’ cult classic, “The Big Lebowski.”
Stapleton bears a certain resemblance to Jeff Bridges, the actor who portrayed the Dude.
By acting like the Dude, Stapleton gets to “wear my bathrobe all day long.”
He imbibes milk in homage to the Dude’s favorite drink, White Russians.
Stapleton wants the trick-or-treating on Main to retain its Dude-inspired casualness.
“Some want to take it to the next step and close the street down and have carnival stuff.” Stapleton said. “Not that it’s too much work, but I want to keep it simple. There’s no need to have a face-painting booth or pumpkin carving. I think a lot of parents and kids have that stuff going on already.”
He likes the simple pleasure of checking out the costumes.
His all-time favorite was a father-and-son team dressed in matching white suits as Mr. Roarke and Tattoo from “Fantasy Island.”
“That was awesome,” he said. “I just loved it.”