More than 200 people were treated to a Halloween scare at Columbia College on Friday, Oct. 27, and Saturday, Oct. 28, during a spooky haunted house in Banks Hall hosted by the college’s Forensic Science Club.
Club President Tana Mistler developed the concept this summer and led fellow students in the effort.
“It feels so great to just watch it all come together, from a big idea to reality,” Mistler said.
Students from the Forensic Science Club, First Year Mentors, Campus Activities Board and the Art Club collaborated to make the two-evening event an experience to remember – both for the people behind the scenes and for those who dared to enter the eerie display.
“The collaboration has been amazing,” said Emily Nunan, a sophomore and First Year Mentor. “Everybody has been very willing to do the work that’s necessary to make this the best haunted house possible.”
Set up on the first floor of Banks Hall, a dormitory that is being refreshed, the haunted house included hospital room props, skeletons, fake blood and a team of scare actors ready to get a rise out of guests.
A fog machine set up near the end of the exhibit led into a jump scare by a member of the team.
“I know it’s scary, right?” Mistler said during a final walk-through. “And we’re not even acting yet.”
Mistler was joined in the project by fellow leaders and members of the Forensic Science Club, including Vice President Nicholas Pouk, Treasurer Gigi Jackson and Secretary Jake Anderson.
There are more than 30 students in the club, and their focus so far this year has been the haunted house.
“We hope to keep doing stuff like this because it’s really fun,” said Mistler, who is majoring in Forensic Science and working toward a crime scene certificate. “And it’s a chance for people who maybe aren’t necessarily interested in forensics to still get something out of Forensic Science Club.”
Mistler began planning the event several months ago, originally bringing the idea to Senior Coordinator of Campus Life Michelle Tharenos. Mistler created a PowerPoint that she presented to Division of Student Affairs staff members. She got in touch with Campus Safety and Maintenance.
Clearing a major hurdle, she worked with Residential Life Director Jerone Lester to secure approval for the use of Banks Hall, which the student organizers were allowed to access at the beginning of October.
“We started working on things outside of Banks in September and then we got into Banks on Oct. 1,” Mistler said. “We went right to work.”
The organizers were in the building every day during the final week of preparations.
“We definitely have bonded a lot over decorating the bloody sheets and things like that,” Mistler said.
For Mistler, who is from Centerview, Missouri, the inspiration behind the haunted house was rooted in a family tradition she wanted to replicate with friends.
“When I was growing up, my family always had a haunted house at our home,” she says. “It was like our annual thing and a popular thing in our small town. People loved it and ate it up.
“I just really wanted to bring that to CC and thought it would be a really cool opportunity.”
Throughout the process, Mistler said she grew in her leadership qualities and learned the importance of delegating tasks as she managed the group of volunteers.
Her career goal is to become a crime scene investigator.
“I’m a very hands-on person,” she said. “I can’t stand the idea of sitting at a desk. I love being around and on the move.”
Nunan, from Mexico, Missouri, said the haunted house served as a de-stressor from the semester for students who spent their free time assisting with the project.
From Campus Activities Board members checking in guests at the main entrance to Art Club members helping with make-up for the actors, the teamwork of students across campus was on full display.
Nunan said several First Year Mentors participated in supporting Mistler and the holiday event.
“It feels like a whole bunch of friends doing something super fun together,” Nunan said.