The haunting in Palouse; community members team up to make Palouse spooky

Left: Fortuneteller Heather Walker interprets tarot cards for attendees of the 2012 Haunted Palouse in downtown Palouse. Top Right: Smiles the Clown crafts balloon creations for children. Bottom Right: A zombie mother waits with her undead daughter for a haunted hay ride through Palouse.

HANNAH STREET | Evergreen managing editor

A time-honored tradition in Pullman and its surrounding communities, one cannot call their Washington State University tenure complete without visiting Haunted Palouse.

“You can’t miss it,” Haunted Palouse volunteer Paula Echanove said. “You’ve got to do it once.”

Volunteers exclusively make up the “haunters” in the city of Palouse’s annual Halloween tradition. Some have been volunteers for the entirety of Haunted Palouse’s existence.

“I’ve been there almost every year,” said Mike Milano, who has volunteered at the event for 13 years.

Taking place in downtown Palouse this Friday, Saturday and Oct. 30 and 31, the event caters to the college-aged. The two haunted houses and haunted trail ride are so scary, the event’s coordinators say, that children under 12 aren’t allowed in past the ticket line.

“We want to scare the big kids,” Echanove said.

Some people try to bring young children, which never ends well, said Janet Barstow, another Haunted Palouse volunteer.

“We have the means to get them out, but it means stopping the whole thing,” she said.

The haunted trail ride goes to Shady Lane, Echanove said, and is so frightening, it’s a ride even she, a veteran volunteer of 13 years, can’t handle.

The river by Shady Lane, possibly so-called for its history of shady activity, joked Milano, is the perfect backdrop for the spooky trail ride. “It is said that there used to be some brothels on the other side of the river,” he said.

Tradition is what keeps many visitors coming back each year, but the novelty of attractions is ever-changing. Between zombies, street entertainers and one year a headless horseman sighting, as Milano said, “You never know what might show up.”

Attendees can look forward to eatery options ranging from wood-fired pizza on Main Street, to a burger stand in the community center, to cider and cocoa, to the Palouse Caboose and the Green Frog.

Haunted Palouse started as a fundraiser for the Palouse Museum after it was forced to close from flood damage in 1996, Barstow said.

Since then, the event has grown in workforce and profit. It now raises funds for many Palouse nonprofit groups. This year’s beneficiaries include the Palouse Chamber, the Palouse Museum, the Palouse Area Robotics Team, Palouse Skate Park, the Palouse Lion’s Club and the Garfield High School Future Farmers of America chapter, among others.

Barstow said the beneficiaries change year by year, but some groups are staples. The Xenodican Club of Palouse sells baked goods every year, and school groups sell treats like popcorn, she said.

The first year Haunted Palouse ran, it raised $3,000. “We thought we were just amazing,” Barstow said.

Fast forward a few seasons of haunting, and Haunted Palouse has raised a total of just more than $415,000. Their most profitable year, 2013, raised $57,000, Barstow said.

“It’s been so incredible, the response we’ve had,” Echanove said.

The benefitting parties are put to work at Haunted Palouse. For about a month, they contribute to the building of the haunted houses, are committed both weekends to scaring eventgoers as haunters in the haunted houses and on the haunted trail ride.

This year, haunted house construction began the last week of September, Barstow said.

WSU’s Sigma Chi fraternity volunteers its time and manpower at Haunted Palouse, including setup and, just as importantly, cleanup. “It’s really hard work,” Barstow said.

“We help with the construction of the haunted house, building the maze from scrap wood on site,” said Isaiah Evans, Sigma Chi community service and philanthropy chairman.

Evans said he sent six to eight Sigma Chi members to volunteer for several days during setup, with a total of 15 volunteers this semester.

The fraternity’s members head to Haunted Palouse during its second weekend every year so they can experience what it looks like on the other side of things, he said.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” Barstow said of the Sigma Chi volunteers.

To be more available to WSU students and the Pullman community, College Cabs is providing a new shuttle service from Pullman to Palouse. The cost of a round trip is $10 and three cans of food, which will be donated to the Palouse Food Bank. Without a donation, rides cost $20.

The shuttle will leave every 30 – 60 minutes from the North Grand Village parking lot located across from Dissmore’s IGA grocery store, according to the Haunted Palouse’s official Facebook page. A full shuttle schedule and more shuttle details can be found on the Facebook page.

With this new service, students can enjoy Palouse’s tavern without the worry of finding a ride, Barstow said.

Volunteers have sage advice for newcomers: Dress warmly, Barstow said, and come early.

Costumes are encouraged, but this is not an occasion for high heels, Echanove said.

On Friday nights, there is a 20 percent off discount for groups of 20 guests or more, a great option for larger groups, like sororities and fraternities, Barstow said.

“Go to Haunted Palouse, hold hands and scream,” she said.