COMMERCE - No charges were filed when three men fled the gruesome scene of a recent “homicide” in Commerce - of course the scene was staged as part of a fund-raiser for the city's Police and Fire departments.
The opening night of “Sweat Shop”, the county's only spook house, put 100 terrified customers in the hands of law enforcement officials, firefighters and high school students.
“When those guys hit that exit door they ran a block down the road before they quit running,” said officer Ernie Shelby who designed most of the spook house. “And they were big guys.”
The Commerce Police Department, assisted by the fire department, designed a 10,000-square-foot fright-fest to raise money for equipment for both departments.
“We want to get new winter coats for all the officers,” Shelby said.
The department is also in need of new badges, according to officer Rocky Ferdig.
“We are the only spook house in the area,” Shelby said. “The closest ones we can find are Joplin (Mo.) and Chetopa (Kan.). We are also the cheapest.”
Admission is $5 per person.
“We are trying to keep it as affordable as possible,” Shelby said. “So everyone can go.”
Inside, fright seekers will be introduced to the history of Commerce's former coffin factory. It is said that the factory's owners operated a “sweat shop” forcing laborers of all ages to put in long hours of unreasonable tasks in order to fulfill the demands of retailers.
The tour includes the former living quarters of laborers held hostage by their employer and the cemetery where employees were secretly buried.
Rumor has it that some of the former employees worked past exhaustion to the point of insanity and have forever remained locked inside the former factory.
“We enlisted the help of some Commerce High School students to help with the construction and operation of the spook house,” Ferdig said.
Ferdig said the spook house project is a chance for officers to mingle with the youth in Commerce in a non-professional way.
“They get to see that we do have a sense of humor and we can have fun,” Ferdig said.
On Halloween night, the lot south of the spook house will be converted to a trick or treat extravaganza.
“We have asked the businesses in town to set up booths and hand out candy in the lot,” Shelby said. “The area is completely fenced so it will be safe for the children. We will have uniformed officers on duty to keep the kids safe.”
In addition to traditional “trick or treating”, there will be a variety of children's games.
Mayor Michael Hart and the council members have volunteered to help supervise the event.
“If parents or older siblings want to go through the spook house they can bring the little ones over to the lot and leave them with the mayor or council members,” Ferdig said.
The spook house will be open on weeknights from dark to 10 p.m. through Oct. 31.
It will stay open on weekends until the last customer goes through.