Something ghoulish was happening at the old hospital in Bowman Saturday evening.
And it was loud, with wailing, screams and groans, spooky operating rooms..... and even a chainsaw.
According to the Bowman Lions Club officials who organized the Haunted Hospital event, it could happen again in 2021 on All Hallows Eve.
More than 300 people went through the old hospital building, which had undergone a transformation into a medical themed House of Horrors by the time the building close after 10 p.m.
Each had brought a non-perishable food and or money to be allowed to enter.
The early show from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. was designed for the younger visitors up to the eighth grade level, while the older teens and adults started visiting at 8 p.m., giving the volunteers a chance to make some changes for the older group, according to Tressa Dodge, one of the people organizing the event.
“I think it was a huge hit,” Dodge said afterwards. “Because of COVID, we didn’t really know how it would pan out, but we had more than 300 people come through.
“It was $10 if you didn’t bring food items and it cost $5 if you did. We are going to distribute the food to the local community cupboards, in Bowman and Slope County,” she said.
She added that she could hear how successful the event was. “I heard a lot of screaming coming from every room that people went in. It was a good thing. That was what we wanted.
“The clown (Pennywise) was really scary when people saw it... and the operating room,” Dodge said.
The transformation of the former hospital started Wednesday, she explained, with a group of about 20 volunteers. “It took a lot of bodies and hours to try to get everything set up. It takes a lot less to take it down,” she added with a chuckle.
The layout of the Haunted Hospital was designed so people couldn’t see much when they were going through, she explained. “You could hear the screams, but you couldn’t see it. We hung up plastic sheets and did it opposite of each other... we put up bloody hands and ‘help me’ written on it and stuff,” she added.
“We had smoke machines going so that you couldn’t see what was happening.”
The Haunted Hospital was a first for the Bowman Lions, but Dodge said she didn’t think it would be the last time.
She said they decided to do it because with the pandemic, there wasn’t really anything happening locally.
“We felt like the community needed something. The hospital was not being utilized right now, so the guy who purchased it, he said yep, go ahead and use it,” she explained. “Then, we just came up with a bunch of ideas for different rooms.
“Everyone I talked to said they had a lot of fun. So hopefully, it can be kind of an annual event,” she said.
Dodge admitted they already are coming up with more ideas for the next one. “You always come up with more ideas when it is over with. “It is like; we could have done this instead. We didn’t use every room in the hospital. So, now we have more ideas for next year. We know what works and what doesn’t work.”
In addition to Pennywise, the clown character from Stephen King’s “It” book and movies, they also had a guest appearance by Chucky. “We had the red balloons and everything...”
For Dodge, most of the evening was spent as the zombie in the bathtub. “What I liked was when I was lying in there waiting for the next group of people to come … I loved hearing the screaming.
“I was kind of halfway down the hallway, so I could hear them as they were coming to me … and as they were on the other end,” she explained.
“We were doing something right if the people were screaming. After they would get initially scared, they were laughing... they were laughing at themselves.
“We were providing good entertainment,” she added. “And you could do it as a family.”
The hospital was set up so if there was anyone younger than the ninth grade level who wanted to come to the evening showing, they had to have a parent sign off on it, Dodge explained. “Or they (parents) had to come with the kids themselves.”
She said that in the future, the Haunted Hospital might have more characters from famous horror movies in the mix.
“There is all kinds of stuff that we can do,” she added. “It is just a matter of … well, we didn’t have much of a budget. It actually turned out pretty well.
“Maybe next year, we’ll make it bigger and better,” she said.
According to Dodge, the Lions finished the evening with about three or four large totes filled with the food brought for admission.
“The money (from admissions) goes to a good cause because it goes to our medical funds that we give to people who are undergoing cancer treatments or any kind of medical treatment,” she said.
“The foodstuffs go to our community cupboard.... and given what our economy is going through right now with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, I think there is going to be more people utilizing the food pantries. I think it is kind of a win-win for everybody,” she added.