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1918 flu victims haunt Clarkdale
Written by Staff Reporter   
Saturday, 23 October 2010 00:00

Scrawled on one dark wall of a decrepit, abandoned schoolhouse in Clarkdale is the message, “It was green when it came out of us.”

Spooky decorating devoid of blood and gore touches visitors to the Sharlot Hall Museum-sponsored haunted house Saturday, Oct. 16. The cryptic message is one of several that hint at the tragedy behind the spooky fun at “It Started in Jerome: The Haunting of Clarkdale,” a haunted house to raise funds for a consortium of Yavapai County museums.

The project is both frightening and educational, Sharlot Hall Museum’s Education Curator Jody Drake said.

“It illustrates the horrors of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918,” Drake said. “It took out 10 percent of the population. The scariest thing about the disease was it didn’t just kill the old and aging. It took out the strong and the young too.”

According to Drake, the flu pandemic caused local officials to try to prevent the spread of the disease by quarantining thousands of miners and their families in Jerome, but it didn’t work. The disease spread throughout the Verde Valley, killing scores of residents.

While nobody chases visitors with chainsaws and blood is noticeably absent from any of the 10 rooms where the spirits creep, there are plenty of thrills and chills around every corner.Some people believed the flu could be eradicated by heat. Others believed they could smell the disease on the air. Still others believed the flu leached out of the ground.

“It was really bad by the time it spread to Clarkdale,” she said. “They didn’t know what to do.”

Stepping around the debris inside the aging building at 600 First North Street, visitors endure the jeering laughter of children, screams of the dying, and startling visitations from monsters every Friday and Saturday through Halloween weekend.

Visitors can tour the haunted house from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. It is not open on Sundays.

While nobody chases visitors with chainsaws and blood is noticeably absent from any of the 10 rooms where the spirits creep, there are plenty of thrills and chills around every corner, Drake said.

The 100-year-old Clarkdale School was abandoned long before federal laws required schools to provide access for people with disabilities. Consequently, the haunted house does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Children under the age of 10 are also discouraged from attending.

This haunted house brings to life the fear involved in the 1918 outbreak of Spanish Influenza.Haunted Tours of Jerome and Sharlot Hall Museum are sponsoring the project under the creative direction of Drake and a quartet of ghouls known as the Baker brothers who helped build and staff the place.

Dustin Baker said the interior design of the school was perfect for a haunted house because the rooms and hallways wrap around to form their own confusing maze.

He said he and his brothers wondered about one strange experience that might indicate more than costumed performers haunt the place.

He said workers, as a safety precaution, made sure to turn off every light in the building before locking up the place at the end of the night. Despite double-checking to see that no lights remained lit each night, certain lights would be back on when they returned the next day.

For more information, call 445-3122.


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