Haunted Tunnel set to scare up thrills, chills

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 3, 2005

It looks innocuous enough any other time of the year, but when the leaves start to change color, one local landmark undergoes a little transformation of its own.

And like the

changing landscape, this transformation gets a lot of attention.

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Lions Club volunteers put final touches on this year's Haunted Tunnel Saturday.

Each year since 1991, the look of old highway tunnel at State Route 93 and U.S. 52 has gone from historic to horrific. The Haunted Tunnel draws an estimated 5,000 people during its four weekend, eight-night run.

"They come from Wheelersburg, from Jackson. They come from over in Kentucky and West Virginia. A year or two ago we had a couple of tour buses from some place down in Kentucky," Lions Club member Bob Blankenship said.

Although the Lions Club is involved in a number of community functions, the Haunted Tunnel is perhaps its best known undertaking and probably the one that takes the most effort.

Lions Club members usually start in September putting in place all the props that make up their maze of frights.

"In the past we've started in June or July," Blankenship said. "This summer we rewired all the electric."

Some members spent 16 hours last week alone putting finishing touches on the tunnel.

Once the tours begin, the number of participants swells.

"I'd say we have anywhere from 45 to 50 people that come out each night to help," Blankenship said.

New this year: The witch's room, complete with a boiling pot and an unfortunate body posed over top of it. A hissing, coiled snake bares its fangs from a few inches away.

In the "graveyard," club members Dean Clark and Brent Pyles tested the fog machine as Joe Jenkins made arrangements on props overhead.

"We just enjoy doing it," Pyles said. "The end is what I like the best, the money generated by this. The Lions Club can donate money back to the community, to causes for the blind."

In addition to various local projects, the Lions Club International is a long-time supporter of causes that involve eyesight, be it providing eyeglasses for needy children or providing guide dogs for the blind.

The haunted Tunnel will be open for tours at 7 p.m. Oct. 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29. The cost is $5 per person.

What brings club members together each year to sponsor the event?

"It's fun, it's a good time," Blankenship said. "You get to meet a lot of people."

And people enjoy coming.

"I feel this is one of the best things that has ever happened to Ironton," said Marcia Schwede, who will be a guide this year. "I did this last year and I loved it."