Baumholder’s already haunted basement now a haunted house
Stars and Stripes October 24, 2012
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — There are rumors about the basement of the Rhinelander Community Club, a gleaming Nazi-era edifice set on a grassy knoll at the Army’s Smith Barracks.
Some say the maze of dank catacombs winding beneath the club served as a torture chamber in the Nazi days. Some say there are bodies buried in its musty, dirt-floored passageways.
“None of it’s true, as far as we know,” said Eric Danzeiser, the post’s entertainment director. But he admits “it’s just a creepy place,“ and there are things here he can’t explain.
“This mound of dirt,” he said, standing on a 4-foot-high pile of earth in one of the club’s subterranean, brick-walled galleries, “no idea why it’s here. So we’re, like, ‘OK, let’s use it.’ ”
For the third year in a row, Danzeiser and a dedicated team of volunteers are transforming the basement from a merely creepy space into a palpably frightening Halloween experience. Each year they’ve added to the terror of the Underworld Haunted House, which has served as the scene of a military medical experiment gone awry and the resting place for the souls of a World War II-era gypsy circus.
Some of those elements will survive into this year’s production, which has a more traditional Halloween theme centered on vampires and werewolves.
With Danzeiser in charge, it’s as much theater as a haunted house. He’s already held auditions, and players will take part in a dress rehearsal before the attraction’s Friday night debut.
“The volunteers love being a part of it. The people like going through it. We have an hour waiting line, usually, once it starts up and running.”
The volunteer’s enthusiasm persists in the face of previous years’ moments of havoc.
Last year, the haunted house’s tour guide was steamrolled by a frightened woman, while another lady bolted through a false wall before running into one of the basement’s real brick walls. The incidents resulted in only minor bumps, Danzeiser said.
One of last year’s more memorable moments involved the haunted house’s coup de grâce, a chainsaw-wielding maniac who would launch himself on the unsuspecting.
“We had four German kids last year, they got on the steps, the chainsaw started, they ran up the steps, knocked the guy down at the top of the steps; never stopped running,” Danzeiser said.
With the fright turned up to maximum, the haunted house is geared toward an adult audience. Because it is so scary, younger children have to be accompanied by an adult, Danzeiser said.
In the past, waits for entry to the event have typically lasted about an hour, Danzeiser said, especially after word of the haunted house spreads around post. A tour costs $4 a head, and the haunted house runs from 7-9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
“And unfortunately, it’s not refundable if you bail. You can’t go past the first room, sorry.”