BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A local business woman got a nod from the Old Fort Commission to propose holding a haunted house on the Old Fort property for the last three weeks in October.
Jadi Zioui, owner for Fort Mad Emporium and the new co-owner of the Parthenon Steakhouse, said she had been talking with volunteers and city Tourism Director Jean Peiton about putting together the haunted house. She said Peiton suggested she approach the Old Fort Commission.
Old Fort Director Dr. Eugene Watkins asked that no vintage costumes be used due to possible damage.
“Are they providing their own costumes?” Watkins asked. “A lot of times that stuff doesn’t wash out and these are very expensive to replace.”
Zioui said the group would bring in their own costumes.
“Jean sent me, and me and her have been talking about Halloween and what we can do to make it more awesome than normal, but not cost any money to anyone,” Zioui said.
“We’re talking about doing a haunted house and using the Old Fort. Not a whole lot would need to be done. The fort at night is probably pretty scary as it is and we would already have the story with dead soldiers and such.”
Plans would include holding the event the on the 14th, 21st and 28th of October preliminarily. Zioui said she was hoping to also hold a party at the fort on the night of Halloween, Tuesday, Oct. 31 to piggy back off the other events going on in town.
“Halloween is on a Tuesday this year and people will want to get their kids to bed because it’s a school night, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to come back out.”
Several commissioners asked Zioui what organization she was working with and she said it was a group of interested people.
“I’ve got a small army of volunteers so it wouldn’t cost a lot of money. I’ve got to turn people down. You don’t know how that gets people in if they get to get bloody and dressed up,” she said.
Andy Andrews said he ran haunted houses in years past and said a good time frame is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Zioui originally had suggested 8:30 p.m. to midnight.
“Most haunted houses we’ve had, you get a lot of kids through and it’s dark earlier, you usually can do a 6 to 8 or on Saturday 6-9,” he said. City Management Analyst John Luna said the park closes at 11 p.m. so things would have to be wrapped up before then.
Zioui said another event will add more to the holiday in town and could bring more people into the area.
“If we’ve got more than one event going on, they will go from one event to the other if they’re having a good time.”
Watkins discouraged those attending from going up the stairs and said lighting would have to be sufficient or staffing sufficient to keep people from tripping or falling down the stairs.
“Almost all of those buildings have stairs in them and if it’s dark that could be a problem,” Watkins said. “I don’t know that I’d use the upstairs and even on the main floors most of the rooms out there have two or three steps so you’re going to have to do something there. How crazy are we about scaring the hell out of someone and then having them run down the stairs.”
“It would have to be endorsed by the Old Fort Commission or the Tourism board to show that it’s a city run project,” Andrews said.
Zioui said she’d like to make it a fundraiser for the fort. The board approved accepting a proposal for the project from Zioui to evaluate the validity of the project.
In other action, the commission heard from Andrews regarding applications to put the Battlefield Park on the National Historical Register. Andrews also updated the board on the status of the historic chimney across from the park. The chimney is owned by the city so Andrews said they will have to coordinate with the city on working with the chimney.
Andrews said he hoped to have grass seeding in the park done before the fall.