Saranac Lake High School hosts biggest ever Haunted School

SARANAC LAKE – Zombies, vampires, ghosts, werewolves and other creatures of the night are expected to take over the halls and classrooms of Saranac Lake High School Friday night when the school’s Art Club hosts its annual Haunted School.

The event, which last year drew more than 500 fright seekers, takes place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and costs $5 to get in, with all the proceeds going to support the Art Club.

“It’s been a long tradition of Saranac Lake High School to do this,” said art teacher John “Doc” Ward, the club’s advisor. “I don’t know any other high school that does such a thing. It’s a great fundraiser, and it’s kind of become a thing where the kids just expect it.”

Visitors to the Haunted School will begin their tour near the cafeteria entrance to the building, according to Rachel Dalton, a senior who is co-president of the Art Club with fellow senior Sydney Schmidt.

“You get your ticket, and you’re put with a group,” Dalton said. “Then you go through the school and the different scenes with guides, and you get scared.”

“It’s a place where we have fun and try to scare people and surprise them with different things,” said Schmidt.

Although the Enterprise pressed for details on what kinds of grisly scenes people could expect, none of the organizers would talk, saying they wanted to keep them a secret. However, they said they’ve got a big contingent of students, teachers, administrators and local residents involved and have been working hard to get ready for Friday night.

“We’ve been planning who’s going to be certain creatures or monsters in the Haunted School and what role they’ll be playing,” Schmidt said.

“We’ve put up a lot of signs and posters, and we’ve made stuff for our scenes and everything,” Dalton said.

Ward said he thinks the Haunted School has been an annual event for at least a dozen years, maybe 15.

“It was originally the Haunted Mountain,” he said. “We were on Dewey Mountain. We had a rainy, snowy evening, and the kids were frozen, and nobody came because the weather was so bad. So we moved it indoors and since then we’ve been building it up.

“This year’s will be the largest one we’ve ever done,” Ward added. “We’re using more space in the school and more actors and actresses.”

Sheri Fobare, a professional makeup artist, will do the makeup for the students. Ward said he also reached out this year to a company called Distortions Unlimited that creates animatronic monsters and creatures for haunted houses and was featured on the Travel Channel show “Making Monsters.”

“I contacted them and said, ‘I have a lot of actors and actresses who are high school kids, and we have a building we can’t touch and have to clean up in 15 minutes,'” Ward said. “They wrote back to me and started giving us ideas, and that’s been pretty cool.”

While the students look forward to the Haunted School each year and have plenty of fun, Ward also said there’s a big educational component to it, too.

“They do all kinds of art, two-dimensional and three-dimensional art, we do a lot of sculpting and painting, and that all fits into the curriculum,” he said. “Then we also venture into crazy things like makeup and how you do special effects with makeup using corn flakes, Rice Krispies, Vaseline and things like that. The other part is the acting, where we work our scenes out, and it’s all done with just the energy of the kids.”

Ward said the Haunted School doesn’t cost much because most of the work is done in house by students and staff. That means more of the proceeds can go to support the Art Club.

“The Art Club uses the money that they raise for our end-of-the-year art show at the Harrietstown Town Hall, and we also try to take a trip,” he said. “This year we’ve been invited to Detroit by Erin Schuler (a 1995 SLHS graduate), who is a lead designer for General Motors. She invited the kids to Detroit to see how cars are designed and produced, and to meet all the artists that work on cars.”

Ward said he hopes the Haunted School will go off without a hitch this year. The only complication could be a volleyball game that’s happening in the building at the same time.

“We’ll have to work out how we’re going to handle the loud speaker,” he said. “Otherwise our growling and monster noises will be played in the gym while they’re playing. So that’s a little dilemma.”

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or