By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Though it was days before miniature armies of ghosts, vampires and witches take to the streets and embark upon the annual quest for more candy, the sights and sounds of Halloween filled the balmy air Friday evening.
Friday marked the opening day for a pair of area events that annually fall on or near Oct. 31, but the two couldn't be more different. One is designed in a theme-park variety to scare you stiff while the other is designed to scare you straight with dramatic depictions of heaven, hell and every step in between.
Central Texas College opened its annual Haunted House and Autumn Carnival at the student center on campus with its first of two nights of haunting and games for families. The event concludes tonight as the haunted house goes from 6 to 11 p.m. and features activities for the family, including hayrides, games, costume contests and food. Built by members of CTC student clubs and organizations, the haunted house was a prime attraction Friday night as a line stretched the entire length of the front of the student center for the majority of the evening as hundreds of people went in and out.
Joseph Parker, 7, emerged from the end of the haunted house in tears, escorted by his parents, but was soon back in line to go through the sights and sounds all over again.
"It's really scary ... and I screamed a lot at first," the boy said, "but it's still really fun. I'm going again."
While the candy and entertainment of CTC's haunted house functions as an escape from the trials of daily life, the folks at Skyline Baptist Church take a different approach.
Designed as an alternative to the common festive atmosphere of fictitious characters and fun-minded atmosphere, the church holds Judgment House, a walk-through drama depicting tragedy and loss, said one of the event's organizers, John Ricciardi. It functions as a reminder that the choices people make have real consequences.
Ricciardi said the dramatic presentation, which is acted out by church members, takes about three months of preparation.
"This year's theme is 'Web of Lies,'" Ricciardi said. "We choose to do this as an alternative to Halloween. It gives people, especially those who haven't made any big life decisions, a chance to see what can happen. We show what really happens in real life. In scene three, it shows a very dysfunctional family. In public and at church, they put on a smiley face, but at home, they are very dysfunctional."
The story of this year's presentation revolves around the father's illicit activities of enticing underage girls through the Internet to meet him in an effort to seduce them. The production's opening scene depicts the end, where the father, imprisoned and condemned, shows no remorse for his acts and is ultimately put to death amid the tearful screams of his daughter, who watches him die by lethal injection.
Ricciardi said the purpose of the event is to urge people to get started on a path toward God.
"However your time is meant to end, you have to be prepared for where you're going to go," Ricciardi said. "It goes to the decisions we make in life and how that affects the afterlife."
He said the benefits of putting on the program are often not immediate, but it brings the church community together and fosters a sense of belonging.
"It takes about a hundred people to set this up," he said. "Everybody takes a part in this. It's definitely worth it because of the salvations we get out of it, the rededications. If nothing else, it plants a seed in the mind. They may not make a decision tonight, it may be something that happens down the road."
The event starts at 7 p.m. nightly, today through Wednesday. A tour begins every 15 minutes and lasts about 35 minutes. Skyline Baptist Church is at 906 Trimmier Road in Killeen. To make reservations or for more information, call the church office at 699-4479.
The event is not recommended for children under 10 years of age.
At CTC, a tour of the haunted house costs $3 per person, and the hayride is $1 per person. The games, which are run by CTC clubs, organizations, faculty and staff members, start at 50 cents.
The Mayborn Planetarium and Space Theater also will be holding special presentations of the Halloween laser light show, "Fright Light." The show will air each night of the haunted house on the hour from 7 until 11 p.m.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568