What began 10 years ago as one Scotts Valley High School student’s attempt to scare up some fun has become a local Halloween-time tradition.
On Thursday, Oct. 26, the student union building at Scotts Valley High School will open its doors to fright-seeking guests, an event that was the brainchild of then-sophomore Chris Mylrea, a 2006 Scotts Valley High grad.
But what began as a labor of love between Mylrea and a group of his friends is now a massive, spooky event.
This year — spearheaded by junior Lizzie Torrez and faculty member Erik Wyner — the tour will lead guests through 20 rooms of student-designed thrills at the fictitious “Valley History Museum.”
Within the museum, Wyner said, guests will explore three haunted “exhibits” — featuring early civilizations, art and a long-past war between Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley.
More than 200 students worked since Oct. 12, volunteering their afternoons to round up supplies and put together the elaborate house.
During the three evenings the haunted house will be open, students in full makeup and costumes will be situated throughout the labyrinth, waiting to dish out the screams.
Proceeds from the event have gone to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since 2010, when Wyner said students decided to honor a fellow student who’d been diagnosed with leukemia.
Wyner said the annual shows are also self-perpetuating, as a portion of the profits each year are stashed away to buy supplies for the next year’s show.
Though now a massive undertaking with an equally massive workforce, the event’s inaugural 2002 event consisted of Mylrea and a handful of his friends.
“There were six rooms the first year,” remembered Mylrea, who spoke from his home in Hollywood this month. “I thought of what would scare me and put it into a haunted house.”
Mylrea said that he was a freshman serving on the student government when he suggested hosting a haunted house the following fall as a fundraiser, and was summarily voted down.
That didn’t deter him.
“I thought, ‘All right, if you’re not going to do it, then I’m going to do it as my (International Baccalaureate) project,’” Mylrea said.
Funding was hard to come by, he said, as no one knew what to make of a 15-year-old kid and his buddies trying to put on a show.
“Nobody would fund it,” Mylrea said.
Finally, his parents offered $1,200 to help him get the project off the ground.
“It was definitely a collective effort,” he said. “There were so many things I didn’t know.”
With Wyner signed on as the faculty adviser, Mylrea and company began setting up for a planned two-day event on the tennis courts of the high school, using tents borrowed from the local Kiwanis club.
On the afternoon the house was to debut, however, disaster struck.
“A huge gust of wind came through and destroyed the entire haunted house,” Mylrea said. “We’d spent a week setting this thing up — people were in makeup and in wardrobe.”
Mylrea and his friends worked through the night, until 4 a.m., rebuilding the haunted house inside the student union after the principal granted permission to move it indoors — but only for one night.
“I had one night to make back all this money,” he said, adding that the repair costs for the Kiwanis’ damaged tents made the challenge even more daunting.
The next night, the initial turnout was sparse, Mylrea said, until a group of kids gave the house a try and were terrified.
“First two went in and told the others,” he said. “Then they were texting everyone they knew.”
The one-night event brought in more than $2,000, Mylrea said. It was enough to cover costs, donate $800 to charity, and generate enough good will for there to be an event the next year.
Mylrea headed up two more haunted houses before handing over the reins when he graduated in 2006.
Since then, the event has been passed down as an heirloom of sorts between classes, getting larger and more sophisticated each year.
For Mylrea, who now lives in Hollywood, where he works as an art director for film and television productions, the haunted houses were a first taste of what his future would hold.
“The haunted house was my first take at running an amusement thing,” the University of California, Irvine, graduate said. “It definitely helped me to get to this decision.”
Mylrea said he was pleased to hear the project he started 10 years ago has taken on a life of its own and become a tradition, adding that it provides students who might not be into sports or other extracurricular activities an opportunity to be creative.
“I’m really glad these guys are working on it,” he said. “It really helps kids have something that they can really grasp onto.”
AT A GLANCE
What: Scotts Valley Haunted House
Where: Scotts Valley High School, 555 Glenwood Drive, in Scotts Valley
When: 7 to 11 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 25, through Saturday, Oct. 27
Details: Student-produced haunted house to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Not recommended for children under the age of 10.
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