I've written about the ghost town east of Colorado Springs named Eastonville. What I didn't know was that the U.S. government maintains facilities nationwide to keep and study a variety of rare creatures - and that Eastonville is home to such a facility, with an elite staff trained in combat and containment procedures. But even that may not be enough to control those creatures.
OK, so that isn't true - at least as far as I know - but it is the premise of Fright in Falcon, a Halloween attraction off Judge Orr Road. (And no, those creatures definitely don't remain contained.)
Fright in Falcon has been around for a decade, but this is the first time it has been a commercial enterprise. It's the brainchild of David and Cathy Vredeveld and started, David said, as "just a small maze, a couple of hundred feet on the side of our house, just to augment a Halloween party that we were hosting."
Over the years, the spooky maze has grown in size and complexity. It was opened first to friends and neighbors, then to the entire community.
"It outgrew our property," David said. "We actually have a homeowners association, and we kind of outgrew that too. There are some people that love us and some people that don't really appreciate all that traffic."
The growing maze was also a growing drain on the pocketbook since the Vredevelds didn't charge admission. So after last year's Fright in Falcon, the family had a decision to make: abandon the Halloween tradition or go in a different direction.
"We decided to go big or go home," David said, "and we turned it into a commercial haunted house." He's leasing the land at U.S. 24 and Judge Orr and bought six semitrailers that make up the "Eastonville Research and Containment Facility."
The family - which includes three sons, ages 26, 21 and 10 - came up with the premise together, David said. Fright in Falcon always has been a family effort.
"The 10-year-old has grown up knowing nothing other than working on the maze for Halloween season so he's done this his entire life," David said. "The older boys put in a lot of hours each year too."
He and Cathy always have shared a fondness for the holiday and its trappings.
"We decorated for Halloween parties and set up a small spook alley for unit functions when we were attached to the Army in Okinawa. And when we moved here, we just kept doing it," David said.
He's finding, though, that a commercial haunted house is a lot more work than a small spook alley or homemade maze. So he turned to a pro, consulting Vince Stites, owner of HellScream Haunted House in Colorado Springs.
"He's really helped me out a lot with information on what all is involved," David said. "It used to be just a hobby for me - I'd build props and scenery and stuff to put into our maze - but there's a lot more that goes into it when it's a business. You've got to worry about the advertising and the insurance and the lease and all kinds of stuff."
That work, he believes, is paying off. While the new Fright in Falcon still has a maze element, "it's just a lot bigger, a lot scarier and a lot more professional."
I wondered if the family ever grew tired of toiling on Fright in Falcon.
"It seems like a burden leading up to it - we sometimes wonder why we do all this work," David acknowledged. But that feeling goes away, he said, when Halloween arrives.
"The funnest part is when you finally open up and people go through it," he said. "You see them coming out of the exit and they're laughing, and you hear the screams inside and everybody's having fun - that's the payoff."