Walk Into A Nightmare At The Haunted Mall

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Ready to have your skin really crawl? Want a spine-tingling evening that you'll feel all the way to the soles of your feet? Are you brave enough to handle a first class scare and waking nightmare?

Then the Diamond Star Fire Department and its Auxiliary have created just the place to spend a memorable autumn night -- the Haunted Mall.

Even without any eerie sounds, smoke or special effects the twists and turns can make a stomach churn.

This is no place for the faint of heart, but there will be paramedics on stand-by if needed.

In fact, coordinators Angie Lecher, administrative assistant for the DSFD, and Gary Hatch, the department's chief, say they are recommending no one under 10 go through the 18-room ghoulish guided tour.

Hatch said, "Some parents might think their 6-year-old can handle it. No they can't. But if they insist, they're the ones who are going to be staying up nights with the kid."

Lecher said, "Even knowing what's going on, some of it scares me."

The volunteers creating the Haunted Mall have put in countless hours to concoct a brilliant brew of terror. If you need proof -- during the dress rehearsal Tuesday night, four people went through one of the walls in fright, according to Hatch.

Guests to the Haunted Mall will be guided through 18 rooms of the gruesome, wild and weird. There are at least 30 people operating all the special effects.

One of the 18 rooms features a 40-foot hull of a ship that is 12 feet tall at the highest point, not including the masts. The attraction took two-and-a-half weeks to construct, Hatch said.

Lecher said the DSFD decided to do the Halloween fund-raiser five months ago in order to make the money needed to buy self-contained breathing apparatus and turnouts for the firefighters.

"We learned we won a FEMA award last week," Hatch said, "The money will be our match."

With the award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the funds from the Haunted Mall will now go further.

The project has been in the planning for five months and has taken almost two months to construct, with at least four people putting in eight-hour days, seven days a week, plus help from too many volunteers to name.

The DSFD has experience with fanning the flames of fear, in the late 1990s the personnel and volunteers turned the second floor of the fire station into such a spectacular spook house, people kept coming back for more even after they stopped holding the event.

Hatch has an even longer history with haunted houses. When he was a boy in Utah his father bought a turn-of-the-century, three-story house where seven murders were supposed to have happened. Before the family remodeled the place, they opened it for their friends and neighbors, calling it a spook alley.

This is no paper and tape project either. About $6,500 in materials have been used in its construction and its takes up 8,000 square feet in the Rim Country Mall -- space donated by the building's owner, George Harrison. Assisting with funding the project is Chapman's of Payson Chevrolet/ Dodge/Jeep. Also contributing are Roy Haught Excavating/Star Valley Granite, Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Co., Lumbermen's Supply of Star Valley, Payson Concrete and Materials, and Lowe's Building Materials of North Phoenix.

Admission is $5 per person and tours will be made with groups of at least three people, but no more than six. The Haunted Mall is open from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 15-18; Oct. 22-25; and Oct. 29-Nov. 1. The Payson Perk will be open to provide refreshments.

So, gather up your friends and family and plan to take a tour -- but beware, you're in for a scare.

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