The Halloween season has arrived in Cheyenne, and there is no shortage of community events being held to satisfy any resident’s haunted hankerings. Here’s a look at four events that each take a different approach to spooking their patrons throughout the month of October.
Knights of Pythias “Nightmare on 17th Street” Haunted House
The Knights of Pythias start preparing for their annual haunted house back in May.
That’s what has to happen for an operation that requires up to 75 volunteers who have to coordinate 20 unique rooms, all with different themes, decorations and characters, all while keeping every year as fresh as possible.
“We were able to really get in there and change the theme of many [rooms] that have been the same for years,” Hartwig said. “I think anybody and everybody that’s ever went through there knows we have clowns, and at some point we have a dark maze. We’ve decided we’re gonna change some stuff and do more of a surprise, something a little different this year.”
It’s not a simple task for Hartwig. Clearing permits for the building, getting volunteers signed up and ensuring that guests are safe at all times can get difficult. What makes it all worth it is seeing the looks on their faces before they enter and after they exit the haunted house.
“It’s kind of funny to watch, to meet everybody beforehand and to see how they react when they’re scared,” Hartwig said. “Sometimes is not the same. You know, the tough guys in the beginning are often the ones that scream the most.”
The event is organized and operated entirely by volunteers. There are no animatronics, only actors who, night after night, do their best to frighten those who bravely make their way through.
COVID-19 put the attraction out of commission last year. resulting in Hartwig receiving call after call from residents asking if they were open. Understandable, considering the attraction has been the longest-running and largest haunted house presented in Cheyenne for many years.
Now that it’s set to return, the anticipation and support from the community has built to where the majority of Hartwig’s interactions are over residents’ anticipation to experience “Nightmare on 17th Street.”
“Support in the community comes in all shapes and sizes,” Hartwig said. “It’s not just patrons that come through there, but random people that call me and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know how to explain it, but I got a coffin. Do you want it?’”
Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley “Frightseeing Tours”
For a historical angle to the “spiritual” side of Cheyenne, those in search of Halloween events can turn to Visit Cheyenne’s after-hour trolley tours of the city’s haunted locations.
This year, the tours are starting a weekend earlier, with an added tour on Halloween night. Throughout the tour, riders will see supposedly haunted locations like the historic Cheyenne train depot, Deming Elementary School, the Atlas Theatre and the Wyoming State Capitol.
“Cheyenne is very – how do I say it – full of spirit,” said Sue Jones, transportation manager for Cheyenne Street Railway. “There are a lot of spirits here in Cheyenne, so we actually do our tour of where people have actually felt or seen spirits. We talk a lot about the history of Cheyenne and perhaps why the spirit still exists.”
Visit Cheyenne has overhauled last year’s system with new scripts and routes for tours, making it a point to focus on the historical aspect of the creepier events in Cheyenne’s history. In previous years, they used to have people in costume attempt to scare passengers throughout the night.
Though next year they are considering adding something like a headless horseman to the tour, they are keeping the experience factual and informative this time around. Even so, the event is meant to be enjoyed by all ages.
“It’s more ‘spooky Halloween,’” Jones said, “We don’t do jokes. It’s very much talking about the spirits that have been seen or felt in Cheyenne.”
Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum Paranormal Tours
Marty Perez, founder of Haunting Across America, doesn’t believe in ghosts. He does, however, believe in the possibility of the paranormal.
Haunting Across America, a paranormal research group founded by Perez and his wife, will be coming to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum to host paranormal tours with a scientific, evidence-based focus.
“Most people will look at the paranormal as, ‘Oh, we’re gonna go hunting ghosts,’” Perez said. “We don’t look at paranormal research as hunting ghosts, we look at it as, ‘if there are really ghosts, they were once people themselves, and we want to tell their story.’”
This will be Haunting Across America’s second year working with the CFD Old West Museum, but this time around, Perez will be elevating the experience with more tests, evidence, history and more interaction with guests.
“We’re taking the evidence that we caught last year, and we’re going to present it to this year’s guests,” Perez said. “This year, there is going to be a more hands-on approach with the guests so they actually get to come in and try to experience what we experienced.”
The tour will be structured as a walkthrough of the museum, with stops along the way for the research and evidence-based presentations set up by Perez.
Examples of such tests can be found on the YouTube channel named after their organization. Most recently, Perez posted a clip from one of their tests at the Cheyenne Depot Museum, where a flashlight flickered on and off while moving slightly on its own.
They bring paranormal equipment with them to their research, Electronic Voice Phenomena and Electromagnetic Field detectors, but even those can be affected by simple magnets. At the end of the day, nothing makes an example of the paranormal activity in Cheyenne like one of Perez’s flashlights, or other everyday items that he uses for demonstrations.
They ultimately want to bring more credibility to the field, particularly in their hometown.
“Cheyenne has a lot of history, a lot of stories,” Perez said. “As a group, not just as Haunting Across America, but in prior evolutions of this, we’ve investigated the Atlas Theatre, we’ve investigated the Knights of Pythias, we’ve investigated the Masonic Temple. We’ve investigated a number of places in Cheyenne, and generally, for the most part, we’ve gotten something in about all those locations.”
“The Nightmare on Arapaho Street” Haunted House
What began as a small community haunted house 13 years ago has grown into something much bigger.
“Nightmare on Arapaho Street” was originally erected from Brian Allen’s sheer love for the Halloween season.
“I love it, it’s a rush,” Allen said. “Especially when you get the folks that come up and say ‘this was better than Nightmare on 17th Street,’ which is amazing because that thing’s huge.”
In its initial years, the house led trick-or-treaters through a setup constructed solely in front of Allen’s garage. Since then, Allen has added the entirety of his garage, a frame on the side of his house, as well as a carport he built to ward off hail during the winter months.
Allen builds 80% of the props for the event, from designing giant spiders to repurposing plastic skeletons for a much more ghoulish look. He starts building Labor Day weekend, sometimes working until 3 a.m. on weekdays.
“This year, it’s kind of a maze, where you go in one door and you loop through the whole entire thing, and then it backtracks you,” Allen said. “When you get to the front of the haunt, you actually have to go out an exit door, so I can send another group in pretty quickly.”
The result of Allen’s hard work is anything but a small community haunted house. Allen said that last year they had about 650 guests come through the house, and with that kind of demand, he is hurting for volunteers.
He usually has four or five of the neighborhood teenagers come to help him out, but now, all of his haunters have grown up on him, he said.
The house won’t operate until the last two weekends of the month, but Allen has been spreading the word about “Arapaho Street” in multiple ways since before October began. Besides word of mouth, his website and flyers, up to 200 business cards he left at the local Spirit of Halloween store rapidly disappeared.
Interest has even grown outside the state.
“I get some that come up from Colorado,” Allen said. “I actually got a phone call about a week ago that his family lives up here, and he’s coming from California to way up here to see it.”