ALBION • The Halloween season has returned to Mini-Cassia.
The frightful holiday lurches forward, dragging a multitude of traditional activities suitable for all ages. From hay rides to pumpkin patches, fun-lovers and thrill-seekers are in for a treat.
One of the area’s most recent traditions can be found among the deserted buildings and residence halls of the old Albion College. The campus is home to an annual Halloween event — Haunted Mansions of Albion.
The old Albion College sits on the outskirts of Albion. Once a formal teacher’s college, the old campus now operates as a reminder of Idaho’s past and, during the Halloween season, a ghoulish taste of the macabre.
“We’ve added a lot of new stuff this year,” said Troy Mortensen, owner and operator of the mansions. “We spend a lot of time setting up and training our actors so that people can come up here and enjoy it.”
Albion College has been a stark landmark in Albion for many years. The first thing motorists see after coming over the mountain before descending into the small town of Albion is the old campus and its imposing buildings.
Once a place of learning, the campus takes on a sinister facade as the sun sets and the shadows begin to creep across the forbidding grounds.
The natural state of disrepair of the old buildings is a big part of what attracts visitors to the campus year after year.
Mortensen and his family take pride in keeping the campus looking old and spooky.
“We want it to seem haunted,” he said. “We want it to feel old and creepy. We’ve had a lot of talk of taking one of the buildings and cleaning it up, but when we start doing that it loses a lot of the charm.”
The work that goes into getting the buildings ready to go for opening night is no simple feat.
“We start prepping about three months beforehand,” Mortensen said. “We spend approximately $25,000 every year in props and rebuilding the paths through the buildings. It’s a lot of work. By the first of September, we’re into the full swing of getting it running.”
In addition to changing up the routes through the haunted mansions, Mortensen and his crew put a lot of work into ensuring the experience will be remembered by visitors.
“We want people to be able to walk through these old buildings and really get a feel for the atmosphere and kind of let them walk through the darkness and find out what scares them,” he said.
About 60 employees — including actors and effect artists — help elicit screams from visitors.
“We have a professional make-up person on hand and we spend the time to train our actors in way that they know and understand how to time their scares, as well as be aware of safety issues,” Mortensen said.
The campus is an inviting place with multiple fire barrels scattered around the area for warmth. Nightmarish creatures wander the grounds to spook visitors as they enjoy time with friends and family.
Food booths are available as well, offering soda, water and hot chocolate. A mini-donut stand vendor also works well into the night.
The Haunted Mansions of Albion opened last week, boasting new attractions and themes. The Corn Trail of Terror, House of Clowns, Zombie Academy, School of Chaos and the Paranormal Haunt make up the five events to visit on the Albion campus.
“It’s fun for us, we love it,” Mortensen said. “That’s why we continue to do it.”