Friday, October 27, 2000

Down path of destruction

Drug House Odyssey wants to scare people straight

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BUTLER — Drug House Odyssey isn't the typical Halloween haunted house. Sponsored by Plum Creek Christian Church, its goal is not just to send a chill down one's spine, but to scare people straight.

[photo] Led by the Grim Reaper, (Dale Prebble of Grants Lick), visitors begin their odyssey through Drug House at Plum Creek Christian Church in Campbell County.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
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        “It is an alternative to the traditional haunted house,” said Brent Baker, associate pastor at the church. “We take real-life situations and dramatize them to impact young people so they don't give in to the temptation to try drugs and alcohol.”

        And for many visitors, it works. “This is my second time through the haunted house. I came last year. It scares me,” said Clinton Wilson, a ninth-grader at Pendleton County high school. “I've stopped smoking cigarettes.”

        This is a haunted house with a message, and it's more than “just say no to drugs.” Beyond the black lights, smoke and Grim Reapers, there is a religious theme. The program addresses one's moral obligation to help others in need.

    • What: Drug House Odyssey.
    • When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. today.
    • Where: Plum Creek Christian Church, 10 miles south of Alexandria on U.S. 27.
    • Tickets: One canned good donation for each person.
    • Information: (859) 635-9995.

        There was a two-hour wait Wednesday night to get into the haunted house. Groups came from two hours away. Students from as far away as Pendleton and Maysville arrived by the busload. Mr. Baker estimates 3,000 people will go through the haunted house this year.

        This is the ninth year the non-denominational church has staged the haunted house. Mr. Baker said the idea came from a program in Indianapolis, and he is aware of only eight similar events in the country.

        Church members started planning the haunted house in July, and it took about 150 people to stage. Area police, fire and ambulance departments assisted.

        The haunted house is a 45-minute program. Visitors walk from room to room following a central storyline of a character and his addiction to drugs and alcohol. There are scenes of a street mugging, domestic violence and a police shooting.

        “Drug House is very graphic in nature,” Mr. Baker said. “Some of the scenes this year will send cold chills down your spine as you understand the reality of the effects caused by the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol.”

[photo] In a scene of domestic violence, Alexandria police officer Jim Sticklen helps Marty Brown of Alexandria. Volunteers from the community have taken roles.
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        In one scene, police are called to the main character's home when he beats his wife in a drunkenrage. During a scuffle, three people are shot.

        “Quoting the numbers of people that go through the Drug House Odyssey doesn't show that it's a success,” Mr. Baker said. “But it does deter drug and alcohol abuse because it scares people.”

        Nancye Fritz, a drug and alcohol counselor at Mason County High School, believes teen-agers will identify with the program's central character. Like the main character, she said, when an adolescent is having social problems acquaintances often pull away and don't lend support.

        Sandi Penrod of Mason County High School brought 47 students to the program Wednesday night. She is working with Mr. Baker to start a Drug House Odyssey program in Maysville.

        “Seeing is believing,” Ms. Penrod said. “Teen-agers often don't think about the consequences of their actions. They don't think through what the result of something will be. This program works because it shows them the results in situations they identify with.”


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