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Jennings Sunday: Muscatatuck haunted house filled with ghostly thrills

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BUTLERVILLE — Ghost stories are whispered all year long about the buildings that once housed patients at Muscatatuck State Developmental Center.

For 85 years, Hoosiers with mental problems or challenges were housed on the expansive campus near the Muscatatuck River. At one time, there were more than a hundred buildings on the grounds that included not only the hospital but residences, dormitories, a school and a chapel.

The center, often simply called “the Hospital” by locals, was closed in 2004. In its place, the Indiana National Guard now operates the 600 acres as a mock town to train soldiers and civilians how to react during an urban disaster.

Now called the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, some buildings have been restored and are occupied by soldiers and staff. Other buildings sit empty, for now. Security guards patrol the grounds and check all the buildings.

“I’ve heard stories from some of the security guards,” said Dan Wright. “They say all kinds of things happened out there, and there are buildings they just hate to go into. Myself, I will say the place does seem eerie, and I am not sure just how much we will have to decorate to make a realistic haunted house.”

Wright is leading the North Vernon Kiwanis Club efforts to create a haunted house later this week. Located at Building 23 at MUTC, the event will be this Friday and Saturday, from 7 to 11 p.m.

During its debut last year, the attraction was referred to as the “Haunted Hospital.” However, the National Guard asked the club to rename the event “The Haunted House” to avoid offending sensitive spirits — living or dead.

“The National Guard has been really good to help us with the event so we will go along with that,” Wright said.

While the name has been changed, Wright added this year’s event promises to be as scary as last year.

Designed for maximum Halloween excitement, the Haunted House will be created on the first and second floors of the old hospital building. Local businesses and nonprofit organizations will participate by each sponsoring and operating individual rooms as a frightening experience.

“Everyone seems very enthusiastic, though I will have to say the Jennings County Orchestra is leading the charge,” Wright said. “They are doing all kinds of things.”

Visitors will pass through all of the rooms during their tour of the old hospital. Cash awards will be presented to sponsors whose room is judged the best presentation and the scariest.

Last year’s event raised more than $5,000 for charity. Profits are used to fund the Kiwanis youth projects as well as the organizations that set up individual rooms as sponsors.

Open to the public, tickets will cost $12 at the door. However, you can save $2 by purchasing coupons from one of the many sponsoring organizations throughout Jennings County.

When those coupons are presented at the door, each participating sponsor will receive $2 for their respective organizations.

For further details, call Wright at 592-1410.

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