Kristy Tremayne says the Orpheum Theatre can be “pretty darn scary” when the lights are turned off. Indeed, the dark hallways, old-style architecture and ornate setting certainly give off a “cursed mansion” vibe. So, naturally, it seems only right to transform the Sioux City opera house into a full-fledged haunted house.

Tremayne is just the right person for the job. In addition to her love for Halloween (she has the house decorations and craft witches to prove it), she has an extensive background in local theater, serving as the president of the South Sioux City-based theater troupe New Stage Players.

Using her resources in New Stage Players, Tremayne and her fellow actors and crew have outfitted the old vaudeville and movie palace into a multi-layered horror tour. Opened Friday and Saturday (Oct. 27 & 28), the Haunted Orpheum will guide guests through numerous floors of the theater before eventually making their way to the boiler room and a grand finale.

“It’s not going to be your average haunted house,” said Tremayne. “It’s going to be classier. We’re sending small groups in with a guide. The guide will be narrating as we go along.”

Groups of about 10 people will traverse specifically set floor of the Orpheum, all of which will have different themes. Inspired by Orpheum workers’ accounts of hearing children’s voices late at night, Tremayne will have one floor feature spooky children to help amplify the opera house’s haunted claims.

Tim Hynds, The Weekender
Dani Youngberg of Sioux City rehearses in a dressing room for her role as one of several bloody ballerina in the Haunted Orpheum.

Whether the Orpheum is actually haunted is of no real concern to Tremayne. “We’re going to make it haunted,” she said. “Surely, something happened. We’ll travel through floors three, four and five, and then we’ll take the elevator all the way down to the basement of the Orpheum – where nobody usually goes.”

Expect nods to horror franchises along with a bevy of creative and frightening set pieces paired with scary actors and actresses. Tremayne played off the Orpheum’s natural setting when devising ideas. For instance, you know what would go well with those dressing rooms full of mirrors and fancy light fixtures? Bloody ballerinas!

With so much space, Tremayne and her team can do just about anything they want. The boiler room in particular is so big, she said, it can be a haunted house just by itself. “It’s huge and mechanical and it’s set up perfectly,” she said.

After you’re already scared to death, Tremayne said there will be a grand finale by the end of the tour. The scares will not let up.

Before creating the Haunted Orpheum, Tremayne also helped set up South Sioux City’s Haunted Cove, a two-night outdoor hay rack ride around Crystal Cove Park, and the Haunted Lodge Party hosted by Camp High Hopes. She said it’s been a pleasure working on all three events and enjoys the atmosphere each place has to offer.

Whereas Crystal Cove offers a wide open landscape will plenty of trees for ghouls and demonic figures to hide behind, the Orpheum Theatre provides something a little more intimate and allows for actors in makeup to shine. With Tremayne’s extensive experience in theater, you can bet she’s happy about that.

Tim Hynds, The Weekender
Kristy Tremayne sets up "haunted" bottles in a third-floor bar while working  to set up decorations for the Sioux City Symphony's Haunted Orpheum. Rooms and hallways will be transformed into a haunted house for the fundraiser on Oct. 27 and 28. 

The Haunted Orpheum is Tremayne’s first attempt – other than the Haunted Cove and the Haunted Lodge – at creating a haunted house. “I’ve worked in haunted houses but I’ve never done one,” she said.

Approach by committee members at the Orpheum Theatre, Tremayne was given a few ideas. It was her job to find supplies and props – something she’s already used to when directing shows at local theaters (she once shipped a barber chair from overseas to use in Shot in the Dark Productions’ “Sweeney Todd” musical). She practically begged, borrowed and stole to get the items she wanted.

“And I went shopping like crazy!” she said. “I love the hunt. What can I find? And what can I find that I can make into something else? I had quite a bit of my own since I decorate so much.”

Tremayne is happy to see the fledgling troupe New Stage Players work alongside three separate nonprofit organizations – Camp High Hopes, New Stage Players and the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra – to create these “haunted” events, as well as share resources. The day of the Haunted Orpheum event, Tremayne said she’ll know she did her job well if folks walked away with a good time and come back more than once.

And if they were completely terrified of the creatures and ghosts lurking inside the theater.

The Haunted Orpheum tickets cost $15. Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult. The event begins at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Oct. 27 & 28) at the Orpheum Theatre. An early showing will be at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. 

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