Haunted Mansion gives students a scare

Career and Leadership Development holds first-ever event

By Kimberly Wethal

When Haley Tyrrell decided to attend the Haunted Mansion last Saturday night in the University Center, she was expecting a predictable college haunted house, one that wasn’t really all that scary.

She got the exact opposite instead.

“It was terrifying, actually,” Tyrrell said. “With these [haunted mansion actors], you don’t even know when they’re going to come out. There were ones that were hiding behind the walls that would just pound right into you, and when they screamed in your ear, they made you scream yourself.”

The Haunted Mansion, a first-year event, was hosted by Career and Leadership Development (CLD) and was started to be “fun and different for Halloween,” said junior Jessica Faust, one of the event’s organizers. 

A Second Salem Paranormal Investigation Team member lurks in the hallways of the haunted mansion.

A Second Salem Paranormal Investigation Team member lurks in the hallways of the haunted mansion. Photo by Kimberly Wethal.

The first hour of the four-hour event was PG, but the rest of the time, scarers were allowed to jump out at those in attendance. The idea behind having a PG version at the start of the event was so students could bring younger family members to let them have fun as well.

Faust said that anyone in attendance should have prepared to be frightened, seeing that she went through it before anyone else was in there and was terrified.

“They’re going to be scared,” Faust said at the beginning of the event. “For the PG [version], there’s no touching [of patrons by scarers] but there’s still some things hanging down, so it’s pretty scary.”

The setup of the haunted mansion was done by an outside entertainment company called Simplified Entertainment, which brings the haunted mansion to a location and only requires an event to have a minimum of ten of their own scarers.


Props such as demonic baby dolls could be just as terrifying as the human scarers. Photo by Kimberly Wethal.

The Second Salem Paranormal Investigation Team (SSPIT), formerly known as the Second Salem Spooks, assisted with the Haunted Mansion as the scarers inside the event.

For SSPIT team members, being on the other side of the scare for once gave them a different perspective than usual.

“We get scared sometimes, so I think it’s cool to in turn scare people,” said Libby Huggett, SSPIT member. “I think that’s really exciting.”

The structure of the haunted mansion itself consisted of a plastic tent-like structure, with walls inside that allowed those looking for a scare to weave their way through narrow corridors from room to room, where members of the SSPIT were waiting in costume.

“It’s cool, since I’ve never seen a travelling haunted house before,” Huggett said. “It was cool to see how effective it was. You don’t notice the vinyl walls.”


A scarer reaches out towards the camera through layers of white streamers. Photo by Kimberly Wethal.

Rooms consisted of a combination of a child’s nursery and a surgery room, rooms full of fake dead bodies wrapped up like mummies and plenty of rooms that doubled as hallways, with neon strings lit by black lights or thick layers of white streamers hanging down, making it sometimes hard to see while walking through.

When walking through, one could expect to meet their fair-share of SSPIT members disguised as clowns and characters in masks or heavy face paint with dark black cloaks.

The scarers from SSPIT inside the haunted mansion really got to freshman Samantha Polize.

“It was really scary,” she said. “Every time I went around a corner, I almost had a heart attack … I cannot handle that.”

‘Dig deep, tighten your belts’:Proposed 2016 budget cuts police, garbage services

*Note: this story is a class assignment, and is was staged in class for the purpose of the professor knowing the accuracy of the numbers and quotes in the story.

By Kimberly Wethal

Mayor Gustavus Petykiewicz unveiled the proposed budget for the City of Kittatinny on Tuesday “with a heavy heart.”

His proposed 2016 budget involves cuts to programs such as the police department and involves a tax increase for residents to help cover the loss of $100,000,000 in property value. The loss can be attributed to Susquehanna Steel Corporation, as the company shut down one of their two blast furnace units earlier in the year, taking 24 percent of the industrial property’s tax revenue and 600 local jobs with it.

Petykiewicz said the actions resulting from the budget cuts are “not ones I take lightly.”

“The situation at Susquehanna Steel Corporation is forcing us to make some very difficult choices,” Petykiewicz said. “Today I have set forth a budget that would be balanced, but would involve items that would be painful or controversial.”

That controversy includes the layoff of two police officers, the elimination of the police’s morning shift running from 4 a.m. to noon and garbage services for residents and the purchases of new equipment.

Pennsylvania state law requires the budget for the upcoming year to be signed and in place by Dec. 1, leaving the mayor and the city council less than two months to come up with a finalized version of the budget.

The city’s proposed tax budget for 2016 totals $3,189,740, down $114,600 from the year prior. This leaves the city with a xxx percent cut in tax levies, even with a proposed tax increase of .3 mills, a number Petykiewicz said is “negotiable.”

The current mill rate for the City is at 4 mills. If the proposed tax increase remained the same and is signed into law, a homeowner with a property value of $100,000 would see their property tax rise by $30.

New equipment purchases are also in store for the city, including a new police cruiser, a new riding lawn mower, a combination dump truck/snow plow for the streets department and a drivable weed removal vehicle for the beach at White Deer Lake.

The weed removal vehicle is slated to cost the city $100,000, Petykiewicz said.

With all of the cuts, Petykiewicz is willing to take one himself.

In the budget, he’s frozen his salary, along with the salaries of the other non-unionized department heads, and would take a 10 percent cut in pay if other city officials agree to do the same.

“I do need to step forward,” Petykiewicz said. “I will make that offer.”

By the numbers

Kittatinny had property value totaling $826,100,000 in 2015.

For 2016, however, that number has dropped to $741,800,000, due partially in part to Susquehanna’s lost blast furnace and a slight decrease in residential property, about $1.2 million’s worth.

Petykiewicz’s version of the budget would raise the tax levy to 4.3 mills, bringing in $3,189,740. That still leaves the city with $114,660 less to work with, a 3.5 percent decrease.

The total collection number is also just an estimate; with former Susquehanna employees still potentially out of work, Petykiewicz hopes to be able to collect all of the $3.1 million tax levy.

“I would encourage people to help us through this difficult time and to be good citizens, because taxes are part of citizenship,” he said. “Taxes are a price of citizenship. Dig deep, tighten your belts; I think we’re all going to have to do that.”

Residential property value decreased by 0.6 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, seeing as the City condemned 11 properties lining the east bank of Loyalsock Creek earlier in 2015. Other homes in the City did not have their property reassessed.

Existing commercial properties also did not see a change in their worth, but overall property value went up 9.7 percent to $232,300,000, thanks to the completion of Tohickon Creek Plaza, which houses Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Radio Shack and the Acme supermarket.

Additional income to the city is planned in the budget, as Petykiewicz expects to see $15,436 more in higher parking fees (rising from a dime to a quarter an hour for parking meters and from $65 to $75 for the two city parking lots) and a rise in parking tickets, along with more revenue from a higher number of police citations.

With all income combined, the budget would give the city $3,315,946 to work with, a decrease of $99,044 from last year’s $3,414,990 budget.


‘Taking danger, and compounding it’

Bjarne Westhoff, president of the Pennsylvania Police Association Local 34, said cutting the police force’s personnel and hours is the Petykiewicz’s way to take a jab at Police Chief Roman Hruska.

“The mayor and the police chief don’t get along,” Westhoff said. “You all know that; you all see the way they snarl at each other … personally, I think this is a really bad way to solve a personal dispute.”

Two police officers are being laid off, and pending city council approval, the budget would cut the 4 a.m. to noon morning shift for the department as well, leaving emergencies to be handled by Schuylkill County sheriff deputies.

The contract with the county would cost the city $35,332 for the 2016 fiscal year.

These proposals don’t make Kittatinny Police Chief Roman Hruska happy.

“I cannot stand idly by and watch a city of this size be deprived of their police protection for a third of each day,” he said. “I think it’s a terrible idea, and I have told the mayor as much.”

Hruska says that while the 8-hour span is the quietest shift of the day, that doesn’t mean nothing happens.

“You’re not likely to have a violent gang incident at 7 in the morning, but I’ll tell you what you could have at 7 in the morning,” he said. “You could have a domestic violence incident. For a police officer, there is nothing more dangerous than a domestic violence incident.

“You get a call that a man is holding his wife at knifepoint in an apartment, and you enter that hallway with your gun drawn because you know her life or your life could be in danger.”

Petykiewicz stated during the press conference that the cuts to the police department were purely due to the city’s high cost of personnel expenses.

“I did it simply because as you know, with a city government, our overwhelming cost is personnel, payroll and benefits,” Petykiewicz said. “By reducing the force by two officers, we’ll save a lot of money. This is a major item for cost-savings.”

In order to make these changes, contracts will be have to be renegotiated by the Pennsylvania Police Association. The contracts were originally scheduled to expire in June of 2017.

It would break Westhoff’s heart to see the two police officers go.

“I feel awful, on a couple of fronts,” he said. “First of all, they’re excellent officers; I consider them my friends and my comrades and my colleagues. We work together very well … if they’re career police, they’ll go somewhere else and leave town. On another front,  I think their absence would be a terrible loss for the city because it would put our citizens in jeopardy.”


New Equipment Purchases

While the police department might be losing two officers in the next budget, they might be gaining new equipment.

A new police cruiser is set to replace the decade-old Ford Fairlane, which has around 220,000 miles on it and is fitted with outdated technology.

Technology is the big cost of the vehicle – fitting it with the electronics costs $20,000 alone.

Squad cars are usually replaced when they reach the age of 5 years or climb past 175,000 miles, Petykiewicz said.

“The problem with that cruiser is that it is no longer reliable,” he said. “Which is to say it could be en route to an emergency and conk out on the street … we cannot let that happen. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to end up on the TV news up in Scranton.”

In the budget, there’s also money set aside for a new $12,000 industrial-grade riding lawn mower. The city usually depreciates for 15 years before being replaced. The current one is going on 20.

“Some people have said to me, ‘why don’t we just let the lawns grow up and be like natural prairie?’” Petykiewicz said. “The problem is, even though we are having trouble in Kittatinny, we simply can’t let things go to pot. We have to maintain our appearances.”

The last piece of equipment is the weed removal vehicle for White Deer Lake’s beachfront, a cost of $100,000. Petykiewicz did not comment on the weed removal vehicle during the press conference.


Changes in Garbage Services

For City of Kittatinny residents, garbage disposal services have only been visible to them for the few minutes the trucks are stopped outside their house.

Now, they’ll see it on their water bills as well.

Garbage services will add an additional $30 to their monthly bill, should residents choose to keep it.

The proposed budget cuts garbage disposal from the tax levy, forcing residents to pay for it themselves if they are interested in keeping the service.

The service will remain to be contracted through Tioga Sanitation Company for residential customers. The city is currently negotiating with Tioga to work through the fine details of the contract.

Commercial and industrial properties are not impacted by the removal of trash pick-up from the tax levy because businesses have already been handling their own disposal services.

“The services are being paid for specifically by the people who use them,” Petykiewicz said. “I know this will not be an easy item. There is some pain to be spread around here, and I think this spreads it around uniformly.


Andrew Eppen: The life of a student DJ

By Kimberly Wethal

Sept. 23, 2015

You know him on stage as “McCoy’s Boy.”

For now, that is.

Originally choosing a name based off a love for “Star Trek” and the show’s character Leonard McCoy, DJ and UW-Whitewater senior Andrew Eppen is looking to rebrand himself as a professional performer as he strives to reach new heights in an ideal music career.

Opening for Timeflies at UW-W’s second-annual Welcome Back concert on Sept. 1, Eppen achieved another milestone as he played for hundreds of peers: his biggest crowd, and his “best show yet.”

“I was so nervous to play before the show,” Eppen said. “Once I got on stage, I was in the zone.”

It’s a “big deal” to be a DJ in the United States, Eppen says, because most come from other countries. Most notably, The Netherlands.

Eppen’s appreciation for music started with school band and the Backstreet Boys.

“I was always someone who listened to music,” Eppen said. “That’s something that I got from my dad. He was in just a fun band in college, and he was a guy who really showed me a lot of music when I was a kid.”

He had a friend as a senior in high school who listened to Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and deadmau5. He wasn’t sure if he liked it.

EDM is dance music commonly played at raves, nightclubs and festivals.

At first, Eppen thought the genre was weird.

“The more I listened to it, the more I got into it,” he said.

That led him to go to Pandora Radio and search for more DJs who would eventually become his favorites and that convinced him to try his own hand at it.

Eppen started to play around with DJ software and EDM with friend Mark Jansky as a college freshman and found a passion in creating electronic dance music sets.

“During that first semester I started playing around with some DJ stuff, and Andrew joined in because he thought it looked cool,” Jansky said. “We just started with some programs on our computer without any external DJ gear, and we slowly bought bigger and bigger stuff, and now we have a pretty professional setup.”

Mixing music in a free DJ app led Eppen to play venues in Madison and Milwaukee clubs, most notably The Rave. He’s gone so far as to travel to Missouri to play with DJ S3RL, an internationally known artist.

“I road-tripped it out, and for one show I got to taste what it’s like to be a real DJ,” he said.

National and international DJ radio stations from California and England, respectively, were taking notice of him during his sophomore year of college.

“There’d be international DJs from around the world, and we’d have our set time for an hour to play all different kinds of EDM,” Eppen said. “It was a really good community and we’d have a chatbox … really support each other.”

Eppen also did monthly mixes for a record label before they decided to part ways due to artistic differences, among other things.

He describes opening for Timeflies as “euphoric.” He overcame any pre-show jitters once he was on the stage and was “in the zone.”

Once comfortable on stage, Eppen lets the music move him and reads the crowd, playing different music styles the audience likes and responds to.

“The reactions the audience had right away to my set … I was clapping, and then the whole crowd started doing it,” he said. “The whole experience is amazing. The feeling I get on stage is unlike anything else.”

On stage is where he wants to be for the rest of his life.

He recently started talking into the microphone, which he says breaks down barriers between the DJ and the crowd and makes a DJ look like an actual person. It’s one of his biggest pet peeves when a DJ isn’t doing all they can to interact with and engage with their audience.

“If they look bored, it’s like, ‘why are you up there?’” he said. “I want to be up there.”

Opening at the Welcome Back concert gave Eppen a chance to showcase his work to peers who’d only heard about his passion in the past, and show them what EDM is all about.

“I think Timeflies was a really cool experience for me, because going to school here, most people know me as a DJ and I would talk about the music and how awesome it was, but the thing is people didn’t know. They didn’t know the music, and they didn’t know what it was like to experience it,” Eppen said.

One thing Eppen says is “in the works” is learning to produce his own music and play new instruments to add to the music-mixing and set-creating skills he already has.

“DJing is all about knowing people, and I think I can do a better job of getting my name out there within the community.,” Eppen said. “Sometimes it’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone … that’s gotten easier for me because as I progress in my DJ career. I’ve gotten more confident.”