Under a full moon during the lead-up to Halloween, zombies, killer clowns and a bloody bride mill around in a defunct furniture store in Longmont’s Twin Peaks mall, snacking on burritos and corn chips while they trade scare tactics and reminisce about their former victims.
“Were you in the room with me when we made that football player scream like a girl?” a ghoul asks.
“I don’t think so,” another bemoans before recounting a story of his own.
These monsters are actors — mostly high schoolers — readying themselves for opening night at the Longmont Purgatory haunted house. Now in its second year, Purgatory is starting to find its groove after working out the kinks.
“The rooms are a lot more put together this year,” says student actress Mandie Vigil, while sister Sosha Vigil helps smear her face with ghostly white paint.
“And it’s a lot more unexpected,” Sosha adds. “Last year, it had more of a theme. This year, it’s just a haunted house, so you don’t know what to expect.”
Louie Lopez is the man responsible for the divergence. Though staff members have no official titles, he is in essence Purgatory’s creative director (“He’s an artist,” one volunteer organizer offers). In the hours leading up to the house’s first guests, he’s scurrying around Purgatory’s 10-odd rooms, making sure the traps are set and all safety precautions are in order. Though Lopez is the only staff member out of costume, the radio headset he issues directives into lends him the air of a professional football coach.
I find Lopez in the first room, tweaking Purgatory’s introductory set piece: an eye-level spotlight that hits customers right after they read a list of safety guidelines. He asks me to help him test it out and I oblige. The concentrated light flicks on for a few seconds and back off. In the sudden darkness, I’m all but blind.
“Now try and walk forward in the dark,” Lopez says mischievously. “Kinda crazy, right?”
For all their work, Lopez and his crew are humble, preferring to focus on the volunteers’ effort rather than their own. Longmont’s Children and Youth Resources and friends built the majority of Purgatory, they tell me.
"All these walls were put up by staff members — well, husbands and others, really," Lopez says, laughing. "There´s a lot of different partners involved."
In addition, a portion of the proceeds from the haunted house will aid children affected by the recent flooding in the area.
As showtime approaches, I say goodbye and head out front to get in line for the first walkthrough. The maiden tour would not be without its bumps — at one point, a tossed bucket grazes the noggin of a little girl in my group — but it makes good on the requisite thrills. Afterward, bucket girl isn’t fazed in the slightest; she’s too caught up reliving her favorite Purgatory moments.
“When the guy [came] out with the chainsaw, we both dropped to the floor,” she says breathlessly of her and a friend. The girl’s father agrees with a chuckle.
“You know the guy doesn’t have a chainsaw,” he says, “but it’s fun to suspend disbelief.”
Four Mile Scare Home Haunt
Where: 3980 Bosque Court, Boulder
When: Oct. 31, 5-10 p.m.
Cost: Free, but donations appreciated
For one night only, the Four Mile Scare Home Haunt features a 20-foot tall mausoleum and a claustrophobic “squeeze room” along with other spooky installations. The house was created by Lafayette resident Mike Armstrong and his family as well as Boulder local Von Bortz. Though admission is free, all donations will help Armstrong’s daughter Kayla fight cancer.
Boulder High haunted house
Where: 1604 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
When: Oct 25, 26 and 31, 7–10 p.m.
Cost: $5 for students, $8 for adults
Come to Boulder High and meet the Smiths, a seemingly normal 1930s family with a dark secret. The student-produced haunted house serves as the major fundraiser for the school’s theater department, which lost the majority of its props in the floods.
Where: 10798 Yukon St., Westminster
When: Through Nov 2. 7-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 7 p.m.–12 a.m. Fri and Sat.
Cost: $22 GA, $32 VIP
Rated 9.75 out of 10 by Spooky Colorado. In a haunted barn, “encounter flesh-starved zombies and blood-sucking creatures in the cornfields and swamplands. Travel through the authentic haunted barn to experience both the supernatural and the unnatural.”
Field of Corpses
Where: 13251 W. 64th Ave., Arvada
When: Through Nov 2. 7-10 p.m. Sun to Thurs; 7-12 a.m. Fri and Sat.
Cost: $17 GA, $27 VIP
“For 200 years the citizens of Arvada have wondered what happened during the Fall Harvest of 1801. What did the White family find out in their field? Why did members of the family begin disappearing? Discover the mystery behind the disappearance of the White family and what lies in the Field of Corpses.”