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Lions Club’s raises haunted money

With a successful eighth season under their wings, Lions Club members Shawn Walker and Rusty Mittendorf are planning bigger and better scary sights for next year’s Haunted Tunnel.

Sunday, November 14, 1999

With a successful eighth season under their wings, Lions Club members Shawn Walker and Rusty Mittendorf are planning bigger and better scary sights for next year’s Haunted Tunnel.

However the only hint they will give is "the bus is back."

The Haunted Tunnel, which is sponsored by the Lions Club every year, began under the premise that a high school bus, carrying its ghoulish cargo, had been trapped in the tunnel for years, Mittendorf said.

Supposedly, in 1959, an Oak Hill bus was returning home from a game when it ran into a gas truck while going through the tunnel, Walker said.

The fire was extinguished by closing off the end of the tunnel. The tunnel wasn’t reopened because of the horrible carnage until 1990, one year before the first Haunted Tunnel, Walker said.

Of course, while the veracity of the Oak Hill bus story is questionable, it is a fact that each year the Haunted Tunnel continues to grow with the help of volunteers and a supportive community, Walker said.

"I think we did better this year than last," he said. "It was a great success. We had some wonderful people working with us, and some who stood in line to support us."

In fact more than 5,000 people came out to support the Lions Club during the 10-day Haunted Tunnel activity, Walker said.

"And some people came through two to three times," he said.

Next year, the club hopes to expand its tunnel from 13 to 16 booths of frightening mayhem, Walker said.

And thoughts of how to make the exhibit more horrifying are constantly churning inside Walker’s and Mittendorf’s minds.

"We’ve already started planning for next year," Walker said. "We get our best ideas when we are building the tunnel, but it’s too late to do those until the next year."

Proceeds from the Haunted Tunnel go to support the many Lions Club charities, which include providing eyeglasses to needy children locally and nationally and training Seeing Eye dogs.

Tunnel response has grown to such an extent, however, that Lions Club members are looking for new ways to spend excess funds, Mittendorf said.

"Last week we talked about it," he said. "Because we did better, we need to start discussing more things we can use the money for. As of now, we haven’t earmarked all the money."

Spending tunnel proceeds locally is always better than sending money out of the county, Walker added.

"We want to thank all the people who worked out there and the volunteers," he said. "If not for the volunteers, the Haunted Tunnel would not happen. We sponsor it and pull it together, but it’s the community that does it."