The Castle of Terror

Dark, confined spaces. Seemingly endless stairways. A maze of twists and turns with surprises more frightening with each step – The Castle of Terror beckons all who love a good scare.
The Fire Department training tower provides a perfect backdrop for this extremely popular haunted house, with low lighting and tight spaces, the options for petrifying surprises are endless. Planning for this event begins early each summer, including finding a perfectly horrifying theme and then taking the steps to make that vision come to life. This year, Castle Rock’s most frightening haunted house is a creepy Freak Show, featuring Werewolf Boy, the Bearded Lady, the Amazing Electric Man, and Medusa, just to name a few.

The puppet master of this frightening show is Castle Rock Fire Chief Art Morales, for whom the Castle of Terror is a labor of love. In his nearly 40 year career, Castle Rock Fire Department Chief Art Morales has seen many changes in the different departments he’s been a part of but one thing he doesn’t see changing is the support that the Castle Rock community shows each and every year. That small town character and comradery is one of the keys to the success and continued growth of the Castle of Terror each and every year.

“It’s a labor of love and it takes the time and commitment from a lot of people in the community to make it happen.” Morales affirmed.

As the following has grown, so has the need for volunteers to make the event come to life. Both teens and adult volunteers are needed for make-up assistants, special effects operators and actors. Those interested in making the Castle of Terror horrifyingly wonderful can sign up online at VolunteerConnectDC.org.

The Castle of Terror isn’t just a scary face; proceeds from the event, after the cost of costumes and make up, go to the Fire and Police Explorers programs, providing funds to outfit those enrolled with necessary gear needed as well as enable the groups to participate in competitions. The Fire Explorers Program, for teens ages 14-19, offers the opportunity to learn basic fire suppression and emergency medical services. Once the program is completed, Explorers have the opportunity to go on 911 calls, as an observer. The Police Explorer Post 401 allows participants (ages 14-21) the opportunity to learn all aspects of law enforcement while receiving community service credit towards high school or college graduation requirements. Both programs enforce leadership and education beyond high school. Many in the Explorer programs go on to college or pursue training in other careers, but not surprisingly, several find the Fire or Police Departments to be their true calling and pursue careers within the departments. Chief Morales has seen some self-described “gawky teens” come through the program, graduate the academy to become members of CRFD, marry and start families.

Working with youth is something Morales feels very passionate about and has developed programming to educate, particularly kids, about fire safety. Early in his career, Morales responded to what would tragically be a fatal call that claimed the lives of two young girls. Had they known how to open the window in the room they perished in, that call would have had a very different outcome. Seeing a preventable tragedy like this inspired Chief Morales to create programs to educate youth and that programming has saved lives. Two young girls who had been through one of these programs knew to get low and crawl, under the smoke, out of their burning home. Once they reached their family’s meeting spot, they realized their parents were still inside their home. Because they knew how to safely get out, they were able to save themselves, call for help, and save their parents.

Chief Morales’ commitment to the community is unquestionable. The Castle of Terror may be the signature event of the season, bringing in visitors from all over the area for a good scare, but the motivation behind the event and the commitment to the cause are what’s truly commendable.

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