Looking back, 17 years of CMC’s annual haunted house fundraiser | SteamboatToday.com

Looking back, 17 years of CMC’s annual haunted house fundraiser





Those who enter the Colorado Mountain College SKY Club's "SCREAMBOAT Chamber of Horror" haunted house fundraiser will need to beware of vampires, like this one, played by Bri Davidson, as they make their way through a maze of rooms. The Chamber of Horror, a long-running Steamboat Springs tradition, will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31, in the Allbright Family Auditorium on the CMC Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

— In the twilight hours, ideas for mysterious labyrinths, haunted graveyards and a reality-bending vortices, begin to materialize.

Upon entering the "Elevator of Hell" at Colorado Mountain College's SCREAMBOAT Chamber of Horror, courageous patrons are guided to the first room, in which a skit will unfold into a skewed reality exposing phobias in all their hair-raising forms.

The cast of Colorado Mountain College SKY Club's "SCREAMBOAT Chamber of Horror" haunted house fundraiser surrounds longtime organizer Jimmy Westlake. The haunted house will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Allbright Family Auditorium on the CMC Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs.John F. RussellZombie groom Brandon Johnson learns there is no saying “no” to his zombie bride, Kat Kearney, even if he has the support of Rev. Butternuts, portrayed by Daniel Highfield. The trio will be part of this year’s Colorado Mountain College SKY Club's "SCREAMBOAT Chamber of Horror" haunted house fundraiser. The Chamber of Horror, a long-running Steamboat Springs tradition, will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Allbright Family Auditorium on the CMC Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs.John F. Russell

If You Go…

What: Colorado Mountain College SKY Club presents their 17th Annual "Screamboat Chamber of Horror"

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31

Recommended Stories For You

Where: Allbright Family Auditorium, CMC Campus, 1275 Crawford Ave.

Tickets: $15 per person and $5 for children under 12 and CMC students with a current CMC ID card. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Not recommend for children under six.

"Sometimes it's best to leave it up to their imagination," said Jimmy Westlake, the creative mastermind behind the SCREAMBOAT Chamber of Horror and also the college’s astronomy and physics professor. "It's something that makes people feel alive with goosebumps, and they feel the adrenaline flowing."

This year marks CMC's 17th annual SCREAMBOAT Chamber of Horror, which takes place for two weekends in October as a fundraiser for CMC’s SKY Club. This year, proceeds will help fund a spring trip for 27 students to an observatory in Hawaii. This weekend, the haunted house will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. in the Allbright Family Auditorium.

This weekend will also mark Westlake's last year overseeing the event. He is set to officially retire from CMC in May 2017.

"He has an energy that I don't think is matched by anybody here," said Steve Craig, a math and engineering professor who has helped Westlake organize the event since the beginning. "It's depressing to think about him leaving, and I try not to think about it a lot. The driving force behind this event is Jimmy, and it's evolved because he has helped it evolve. I've learned a lot from him over the years."

Westlake's haunted house days began in 1983 at Young Harris College in Georgia, where he was the director of the school's planetarium star theater at which the astronomy club held "cosmic concerts." These eventually morphed into Halloween-themed concerts and finally, a haunted house. Ten years later, Westlake brought the idea with him to Steamboat Springs. and the first SCREAMBOAT was held in 1999.

That first year, 12 cast members haunted the now-demolished Monson Hall dorms, where a mere 120 people came through the door at the cost of a dollar per person and 50 cents for children.

In 2011, the event was moved to the auditorium, and one of Westlake's "twilight" ideas — using five-gallon buckets partially filled with concrete and a PVC pipe to hang black, fire-retardant plastic and create separate rooms for each of the skits — came to fruition.

Now, the full production of SCREAMBOAT entails a cast and crew of 60 people, ranging from Westlake's students, SKY Club members and Craig’s engineering students, who help construct a part of the set as a project for class.

"He puts his heart and soul into this completely, and you can tell he really cares," said Rupert Michell, one of Westlake's students from Australia. "He will come through our skits a few times each night to see how they are going, give suggestions and tell us what he thinks we are doing well. Jimmy is a really fun, quirky dude, and it's just been a blast to be able to learn and work with him on something like this."

During the initial planning phases of SCREAMBOAT, Westlake said he tells students to create something from their own fears, then act that out for the audience.

Through the years, Westlake has seen it all — including the classic Bob and Dave's haunted dorm room scene, deranged surgeons, exorcists, vampires, aliens, clowns and zombies.

"The best thing for me about this whole event is the bonding that takes place with the students outside the classroom," Westlake said. "We become a spooky family together, which is kinda cool. I will miss that for sure."

More than 500 hours of work goes into the process of creating the chamber of horror, which will be overseen by Craig after this year. During the transition, Westlake plans to stay on as an advisor but will not have an active role in organizing the event.

"There is some kind of magic that happens whenever we have opening night," Westlake said. "It all just comes together, and no one forces it to happen. Everything and everyone is in the right spot, and it all just gels together. I love sitting back and watching that happen, to see it transform and come alive.

"We've had a lot of challenges and meeting those challenges is part of the reward. So thanks Steamboat. Thank you for supporting us for the past 17 years. It blows me away that people come every year or bring friends and support us. I'm very thankful and proud of all of these students."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

If You Go…

What: Colorado Mountain College SKY Club presents their 17th Annual “Screamboat Chamber of Horror”

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31

Where: Allbright Family Auditorium, CMC Campus, 1275 Crawford Ave.

Tickets: $15 per person and $5 for children under 12 and CMC students with a current CMC ID card. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Not recommend for children under six.

Go back to article