Rich Duncan, whose company led the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” project at the Oregon School for the Deaf, on the job site. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon Zaitz)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Keizer volunteer David Sherman, in costume as a zombie, leaned still as an oak up against the wall leading into the Nightmare Factory.

The last group of the night had passed, but he’d been convincing enough that the girl at the tail end of the pack returned for a second look.

“She’d broken off from her friends and, as she got back to me, she pushed on my chest. As soon as I felt that pressure, I let her have it. She screamed, took off running and I ran after her,” Sherman said.

If there was any payment necessary for Sherman’s work at the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” build, that final scare covered the tab and tip. Sherman was one of many Keizerites to put their skills to work at he Oregon School for the Deaf (OSD) where the ABC program set to renovate and remodel the basement of the boys dorm for the annual Nightmare Factory haunted house as well as dormitories and a living area.

Sherman and fellow horror enthusiasts, Toby Wayne and Katie Larson, of Albany, were requested on the set at three different occasions during the build to provide zombie make-up for segments of the production.

Their make-up work was such a hit that producers filmed a separate a public service announcement with zombified actors in the background was filmed to highlight their work. As a partial reward for services rendered, Sherman and Toby were invited to take part in the unveiling of the new Nightmare Factory as part of the haunted house cast.

“It was a crazy schedule,” said Sherman. “But we’re hoping that the effort is evident when the show airs.”

Volunteers Stephanie Cooke and Sheba Dawn visited the build site as safety monitors after Keizerite Rich Duncan, of Rich Duncan Construction, specifically requested the services of Keizer’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

“We put out the call to include several area CERT teams and in three days we had all 24 shifts covered,” said Cooke, Keizer CERT coordinator.

Team members primarily took to reminding other volunteers that hard hats needed to be worn at all times, but there were a couple of instances when the team’s knowledge  sprung to the fore.

“It rained the first day of the build and we had some puddles forming around some of the electric cords so the members of the site team put together some sandbags to keep the water at bay,” Cooke said.

On another day, CERT members watched as other volunteers struggled with a makeshift cribbing, which happens to be one of the specialties of the CERT team members..

“Basically, they had this huge weight in the crib and they were sticking other objects underneath it as it was raised higher. The CERT members started to worry about the safety of the volunteers’ hands so they walked them through the right way to do it,” Cooke said.

Dawn credited the Makeover volunteers with 99 percent compliance during the two shifts she worked at the build.

“It was amazing to see the reality of the show compared to what’s on television,” said Dawn, who’s caught the show on several occasions and never managed to make it through with dry eyes. “I spent a few minutes watching a group of volunteers putting up siding and there was absolute certainty that everyone had a job to do and it was connected to the next person on the line.”

It was a 180-degree turn from the typical reality program that banks on personal conflict, she said.

“There was no conflict. Every task was just as important as the next and the only time volunteers weren’t working was when they were waiting for their next assignment,” Dawn said.

Araya Williams was also taken aback by both the quality of the volunteers and the actual logistics of the production.

“Everyone we worked with from the security folks to the people directing the work were wonderful,” said Williams, who set up a YoungLife program at OSD in 1997 and acted as an interpreter for deaf volunteers throughout the week. On a couple of occasions she was asked to help fill in as an extra on the set along with the volunteers she was assisting. “After being there for a while you sort of forgot it was a television show, but after you’ve walked back and forth in your tool belt five times while the camera guy tries to get the best shot.”

The OSD site is a special one for Keizer volunteer Annette Halsey, 20, who has a deaf brother and took American Sign Language classes there.

“Knowing what it was like before and seeing what they were turning it into was amazing and the fact that they did it so quickly and so well was awesome,” she said. Halsey spent her shift at the build site handing out food and water to other volunteers and picking up debris.

For Keizer artist Scott Lakey his time on the site left him weak in the knees.

“I feel like I can barely walk,” said Lakey who spent the better part of 72 hours on the site painting murals on 100 feet of walls that form the exit of the Nightmare Factory.

Lakey started out with the project designing graphic elements for signs and other props, but once the work started in earnest he was drafted to manage the mural installation.

Working alongside a team of three other artists and with entire stock of fluorescent paint from a McMinnville paint store, Lakey oversaw the painting of a graffiti-style “Nightmare Factory” on one wall and a selection of characters from the haunted house’s mythical origins on the other. At one point, musician, director, and EMHE special guest Rob Zombie stopped in paint with the team.

“It was really wild. We were all there working away when all the lights came on and Rob Zombie comes strolling down the hall with a camera in tow. He painted for a few minutes doing one of his trademark skulls with an “X” on the forehead and then they left and the lights went off like nothing had happened,” Lakey said.

Lakey and the art team worked right up to the big reveal.

“I was still painting when the first visitors started coming out of the haunted house,” Lakey said.

While the volunteers reveled in their moments in the spotlight all remained impressed with the overall quality of the people the met and the work accomplished.

“At the end of the day this was all about doing something for the OSD,” Sherman said. “But, man, I can’t wait until people start lining up for the new Nightmare Factory. It’s like something out of a southern California theme park.”

For Williams, the thrill came from seeing the turnout for members of the community who had already given a lot.

“The people who work at the deaf school give so much to their community. It was wonderful to see so many people turn out to give back to them,” Williams said.