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Haunted Tunnel opens Saturday

It’s time to get scared out of your shoes again.

The Ironton Lions Club is preparing the old Route 75 tunnel to become another spooktacular spectacle of ghosts, goblins and other things that go bump in the night.

Saturday is the first night of the Haunted Tunnel and runs from 7-11 p.m. After that it goes to every Friday and Saturday during those hours with Halloween night being the final tour.

This is the 18th year for the event and volunteer Lou Pyles said that some of new additions to the tunnel include nightly hangings and an insane asylum featuring Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lechter from “Silence of the Lambs.”

“Hopefully, people will find it very spooky,” Pyles said. “And bring their friends every night.”

Ironton Lions Club president Dave Swartzwelder said the decorating and set up is going well as they approach the Saturday night opening.

“We’ve about got it together, the tunnel is almost ready to go and we got the concession stand set up,” he said, adding crews doing community service for Judge Clark Collins were out cleaning up the outside of the tunnel. “And we have about 24 Lions Club volunteers signed up and we have student volunteers from Ohio University Southern.”

The Haunted Tunnel, the only Halloween tour of its kind in Ohio, attracts thrill seekers from Jackson, Morehead, Ky. and all over the Tri-State.

“We get church youth groups and we’ve had repeat customers from as far away as Cincinnati and Columbus,” Pyles said. And what exactly brings people back year after year? “It is really a frightening experience being in that tunnel. Once we turn out the lights, I won’t go through the tunnel until after its over. People love scary things and our volunteers do an excellent job of scary people.”

Last year, 4,007 people took the tour, sometimes getting so scared enough they bolt and leave stuff behind.

“We do go back in and find people’s shoes, earrings and cell phones for them,” Pyles said. “We do that all the time. It’s not unusual at to find it laying around.”

Tickets are $5 and the money from the Haunted Tunnel goes towards the Lions Club’s service projects.

“It’s a good money maker,” Swartzwelder said. “It all goes back into the community. Like the City Welfare Mission, we give them money at Christmas and Thanksgiving. We have sponsored three seeing-eye dogs over the years.”

To sponsor a dog costs the club more than $7,000.

The tunnel is across from the Ironton Hills center at the U.S. 52 and Ohio 93 intersection.