Step into the darkness

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It was a month before Halloween, and Colorado Mountain College astronomy professor Jimmy Westlake was about to give up. Since Halloween 2004, he had been searching for a new location for the SKY Club's annual fundraiser, the "Screamboat Chamber of Horrors."

At one time, the fundraiser was called the "Monson Chamber of Horrors" because it was held in the empty Monson Hall on the CMC campus. When the college found a use for the building -- filling its classrooms with things such as a new art department -- the astronomy club's haunted house was homeless.

No sooner had Westlake given up than he received a call from Paul Yonokawa, CMC's EMT instructor, and Tommy Larson, whose band has a practice space in Monson Hall.

Both men offered to vacate their rooms so the SKY Club could haunt them.

After Halloween comes and goes, Westlake will return to the mission of finding a permanent home for the science scholarship fundraiser, but that is a worry for later.

The seventh annual Screamboat Chamber of Horrors begins tonight in its old home.

"I'm glad it's going to happen," Westlake said. "It's a great bonding event for the members of the SKY Club. We have a blast."

This year, the SKY Club decided to donate half of the proceeds from the haunted house to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The other half will go toward the SKY Club Science Scholarship. Last year, the fund's total reached $10,000, and the scholarship became an endowed, permanent fixture at the school. The club reached its goal with the help of Alpine Bank, which contributed matching funds.

Now, interest from the fund provides money for the scholarships.

"The more we have in there, the more we can give," Westlake said. The scholarship is given to an incoming science or engineering major at CMC's Alpine Campus.

This year's Chamber of Horrors will see the return of many scary favorites. The Grim Reaper will greet guests at the door. Inside, people will get reacquainted with Ms. Johnson, the retired English teacher who has been living in Monson Hall for 30 years, and Bob and Dave, the students who have haunted their old dorm room since 1966. They also will get to see "Dr., No!" who performs operations on a screaming patient in plain view of whoever wants to watch.

Visitors can follow the signs to Monson Hall when they get to the CMC campus off Bob Adams Drive. Twenty-five people have volunteered to help this year, Westlake said. "We'll give them a good show. As always, our theme is 'Come one, come all, but don't come alone.'"

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