whatzup2nite • Saturday, October 25

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Things To Do

Allen County SPCA CatWalk — Cocktail hour and live jazz, cash bar, silent auction, dinner, couture fashion show, CatWalk Masquerade to benefit Allen County SPCA, 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, Grand Wayne Center, Fort Wayne, $85, 744-0454

Dia de los Muertos Ninos Day and Family Celebration — Storytelling, hands on activities, music, dancing, margaritas and a community-centered exhibit of traditional Mexican alters, activities 3-5 p.m., music 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $1, 422-6467

Howl O’Ween — Horse drawn wagon rides, trick or treating, bonfire, sanctuary tours and refreshments, 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, $5, 636-7383

St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen Fundraiser — Music by Chris Worth & Company, food, dancing and a silent auction, 7:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Fort Wayne, $10, 705-1690

The Haunted Hotel Walk through the haunted Warwick Hotel’s 13th floor; every Thursday is Myctophobia night and a very small flashlight will be used to navigate through the hotel, 7-11 p.m. Saturday Oct. 25; 7-10 p.m. Thursday Oct. 30 and 7-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, The Haunted Hotel, Huntington, $12-$20, 888-932-1827

The Haunted Jail Haunted tour of jail where Charles Butler was hanged, 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25; 7-9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26; 7-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Oct. 27-30; 7-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Oct. 31-Nov. 1; 7-9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2; 7-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 7-8 and 7-9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9, The Haunted Jail, Columbia City, $13-$18,

Hysterium Haunted Asylum Haunted asylum, formerly the Haunted Cave, 7 p.m.-12 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 25; 7-9:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26; 7-9:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 29-30; 7 p.m.-12 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 4410 Arden Dr., Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 436-0213

Well-o-ween Costume Ball — DJ, games, tours of the Haunted Hall, cash bar, costume contest to benefit McMillen Center for Health Education, 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, Freemason’s Hall, Fort Wayne, $45, 456-4511

Les Misérables Auditions (performances Dec. 4-21) — Auditions for children with strong singing and acting skills to play the parts of Young Cosette, Young Eponine, and Gavroche,all roles are an age rage of 5-10 years old, by appointment only Saturday, Oct. 25, Different Stages Theatre, Huntington, 454-0603

National Shows

Natalie Hemby w/Tom Hemby — Variety at Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., free, 432-8176

Jason Russell w/Russ Williamson — Comedy at Snickerz, Fort Wayne, 7:30 & 9:45 p.m., $9.50, 486-0216

Music & Comedy

American Idol Karaoke w/Scott — Karaoke at Latch String, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526

Beautiful Disaster — Rock at Beamer's, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002

Big Caddy Daddy — Rock/variety at Martin's, Garrett, 10 p.m., no cover, 357-4290

FM90 — Rock at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 483-1311

Hip-O-Fonic — Rock at 4D's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 490-6488

Jason Russell w/Russ Williamson — Comedy at Snickerz, Fort Wayne, 7:30 & 9:45 p.m., $9.50, 486-0216

Joe Five — Rock at Alley Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421

Joe Justice — Variety at Fall Home Design Expo, Memorial Coliesum, Fort Wayne, 2-6 p.m., $10, 483-1111

Lexi Pifer, Jess Thrower & Dani House — Variety at Green Frog, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-1088

Natalie Hemby w/Tom Hemby — Variety at Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., free, 432-8176

Night to Remember — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 422-5055

Plush — at Babylon, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., ,

Taint'D — Rock at Checkerz, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 489-0286

Thunderhawk w/Streetlamps for Spotlights, Hardcore UFO's, Exterminate All Rational Thought — Guided by Voices tribute at C2G, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., $10, 426-6434

Todd Harrold Band — R&B/blues at Mad Anthony Brewing Company, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 426-2537

Karaoke & DJs

American Idol Karaoke w/Scott — Karaoke at Latch String, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526

Plush — at Babylon, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., ,

Stage & Dance

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Art & Artifacts

America’s Spirit: Evolution of a National Style — Collection drawn from FWMoA’s permanent collection chronicling American art from 1765-1900, Tuesday-Sunday thru Jan. 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Contemporary Realism Biennial — National invitational highlighting the strength and innovation of America’s current trends in realism, Tuesday-Sunday thru Nov. 30, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft — Arizona State University Art Museum and Ceramics Research Center in the Herberger Institute’s comprehensive collection of craft holdings and new international requisitions in wood, ceramic and fiber, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 21, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Photography Show — Annual photo exhibition, daily thru Nov. 5 (public reception, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5), Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102

Featured Events

Fort Wayne Dance Collective — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574

IPFW Community Arts AcademyArt, dance, music and theatre classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977,

Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, $100 per month, 432-8176 ext. 1961,


The Haunted Jail

Open 7-9 p.m. Thursdays & Sundays
7-11 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays thru Nov. 9
116 E. Market St., Columbia City

The Haunted Jail

Judge. Jury. Executioner.

There are haunted houses, and then there are haunted places. The difference? The former relies on special effects and cunning craft to scare the pants off of you for one month out of the year; the latter need only exist, with its history of part fact and part fiction – both equally nightmarish. A genuinely haunted place is volatile year-round, but it is especially active when people invite the darkness to come and play each Halloween.

The Haunted Jail in Columbia City is the real deal. You know it the moment you set eyes on the looming, old, empire-style building. The Grim Reaper and his pet vulture bid you ominous welcome from the perimeter of the property. Carved from a tree as old as the jail itself, they are harbingers of the rich history and sheer artistry that await those brave enough to enter. But Grim and his beaked companion aren’t the only gatekeepers you must pass to gain admittance.

  As we stood on the stoop of the jailhouse, fumbling around for our courage, a guide recounted the tale of Deimos and the damned soul of Charles Butler.

  “You are standing at the site of Charles Butler’s execution, an event that scarred this community forever,” our guide began. “Butler shot and killed his wife, Abbie, in a drunken rage one evening back in 1884. Abbie was simply trying to protect their son from Butler’s notorious beatings. She pushed the boy out the door, taking a bullet to the back. She died three days later in the hospital.”

A chill filled the air, carried by a somber wind. He went on to say that when police arrived, Butler surrendered without a fight and confessed to the crime but would later threaten to haunt the grounds forever. As the gallows were being erected for Butler’s execution by hanging, a curious figure known only as Deimos was seen about Columbia City. He had the air of a well-traveled aristocrat, someone who had seen a great deal of the world. But he had never witnessed a hanging, and he decided Charles Butler would be his first.

  “That warm June day, a remorseless Butler mounted the gallows,” our guide said. “As the executioners placed the noose around his neck and began reading last rites, the mysterious stranger pestered the guards with incessant questions. He was enraptured by this ritual. The guards did not take kindly to the onslaught of inquiries. They beat the stranger and placed him in a cell to resume Butler’s execution.”

As the gallows door dropped, the guilty man did not suffer the swift end of snapping his neck. No, Butler was too cunning, we were told. He would not go without a fight. He slowly slid down the trapdoor and began to strangle to death for the next 10 minutes. The crowd, horrified by this ghastly death, vowed never to have another execution by hanging again. But it was too late. Events were already set in motion that would change the town forever.

They brought Butler inside to discover the impossible: he still had a pulse. His heart beat faintly for another three minutes before he finally died. Make no mistake: this was not the end of Charles Butler. And as the sun went down, an even greater terror was growing in the depths of the jailhouse.

  “As Deimos’ anger grew, so did his power. The guards had no idea they had imprisoned a king of the Nosferato,” orated our guide. “Deimos was a king of the Le Masshar de la Nui, a very old and powerful clan of vampires. And the folks in Columbia City were about to find out that you never anger a vampire king – a lesson you are about to witness yourselves.”

  The doors creaked on their hinges as we were ushered inside. The air was thick with foreboding electricity. When you pass over the threshold, you’re immediately plunged into an immersive, interactive experience. You become part of the Deimos myth, like it or not. And there’s no turning back.

  The third floor is open as a VIP section, a first for the Haunted Jail. Previously forbidden, this is where the warden and his family spent much of their time (a jailhouse must include a house portion, after all). Among other perks, the VIP experience also includes a glow stick to help light your way. Keep it to use as a night light when you get home. You’ll need it.

For those familiar with the Haunted Jail, some favorite terrors are back this year: the snake pit, Giggles the Clown, Grinder’s Meat Market, Doctor James “The Cutter” Johnson, Chainsaw Larry and perpetually tortured Cain, to name a few. Of course, Butler has actively haunted the area for the last 130 years, but the real horror is Deimos himself, who may be lurking in the halls or waiting in his tomb. While it’s polite to knock before entering, you do so at your own risk. Your rap at the door echoes like a dinner bell.

  The jail cells and catacombs in what our guide called “the dungeon” are entirely authentic from the 1875 building. Prisoners were housed, beaten and even killed in these cells. 

“This is where we get a lot of activity. So many lonely and angry souls …” he said. “You’ll know when they’re around. You’ll feel it in the air with temperature changes. You’ll hear their whispers and screams. They might even follow you home.”

  As you travel deeper inside the jail, Deimos’s grip on your soul tightens. Your fear is with merit. The Nosferato king is infamously referred to as “The Soulkeeper,” and his appetite is never satiated. His minions track those who dare enter. They select the tastiest of humans based on the scent of their fear, delivering them into the clawed hands of Deimos, perhaps never to be seen again.

“You smell so much better when you’re awake,” a strange, arresting voice whispered in my ear. “Join our coven. Don’t fight it. We’ve been waiting for you …”

Ashley Motia

Alexandra Hall

Characters on Canvas

As a student schlepping drinks to earn her way through college, Alexandra Hall watched her patrons carefully as they slipped into topsy-turvy conversation and sometimes on to sloppy oblivion. Hall entertained herself by attaching a variety of cartoonish traits to hobbling drinkers. Anthropomorphic characters lived in her mind, each one a reflection of a customer. Most became images of juicy, high-society frogs, the first growing from a particularly well-dressed woman adorned with a hat, heels and pearls. Hall collected the images in her mind, then set to work on canvas where she released bold colors with broad brush strokes, capturing the energy of her characters with a sense of humor spiked with sarcasm. 

A self-taught artist, Hall studied Russian and biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She was all set to head to medical school when her own brother threw her a curve ball. Knowing Hall had been a “closet artist for a very long time,” Hall’s brother asked if he could purchase all the paintings she had ever produced. When she questioned his motives, she learned that her brother had booked a show for her work at the Dash-In on Calhoun Street. 

That was one year ago. Since that first surprise show which pushed Hall out of her closet, her hobby has turned into a full-time operation, and at least for now she has put med school on hold. It seems that when Hall commits, she commits 100 percent, and she has proven that – with thoughtful focus and drive – an artist can make it. 

Hall learned early on that building a network is key to making any business endeavor a success. She joined the Fort Wayne Artist League, a group known for more conservative and seasoned artists, and was quickly swooped up and supported. Hall gleans knowledge from the group’s experience and feels supported by them as she works to broaden her client base. In turn, they welcome her youthful spirit and enjoy the knowledge of technology that she shares.

“People from the guild always make a point to show up at my openings and artist meet-and-greets,” says Hall, who is appreciative of the relationships that have developed within the guild. 

By participating in local shows and art fairs, Hall quickly developed a reputable client base in Fort Wayne. Clients enjoy working with Hall on commissioned pieces that represent and capture the quirks of their own family members. Many ask for nods to college themes or a favorite food or drink. “People get a kick out of seeing their loved ones depicted as frogs,” says Hall. “People are looking for fun art that makes them smile.”

Hall’s head for business led her to reach beyond the local scene and into a broader market to include larger cities like Chicago and even places farther away such as Leesburg, Virginia. Breaking into the regional art fair circuit proved to be a challenge, as part of the process involves sending quality photos of an artist’s booth space – quite a task when no such booth exists. 

“I put all my energy into everything that I do,” says Hall, who set up her first booth in her backyard and filled it with nothing but drinking frogs in order to photograph the setup to send off with her inaugural juried show application. It was a longshot, but her efforts met with success and she now finds herself turning down invitations to art fairs. 

Hall credits her success to family. Five siblings provide a supportive network led by two parents who have coached her along the way. Her mother works in real estate, and since Hall’s childhood, has modeled successful business practices that the artist continues to follow today. Hall proudly claims that her mother taught her to set goals in order to move precisely and effectively forward.  

“My mom is a realtor, raised five kids and kept us all alive,” says Hall. “That required constant organization. When we were younger she made us keep planners for school and helped us make lists for each day. You achieve more when you have things listed.”

Hall has lists of where her pieces are and when to pick them up. 

“It’s a constant juggle when you have a show,” says Hall. “You have to shuffle pieces, make sure they will be available for specific shows and keep track of everything in between.” 

Hall relies heavily on social media to promote her work. Facebook and Twitter have helped her sell pieces. 

“To have so many avenues to use, it is difficult to keep track of them all,” says Hall who also keeps on top of regular mailings to clients. She claims she would have not thought to do those things if she hadn’t seen her mother gain success from them. 

While she has a head for business, Hall isn’t all work and no play. Her work clearly reflects her high-energy passion for life. She often paints while listening to music, which is evident in her guitar series that directly channels blues and classic rock. 

Hall limits her color palate to the primary colors: red, blue, yellow and white. She mixes all her colors as she goes along. 

“All my colors are very unique,” says Hall as she describes her style as “loose, fun and colorful.” Her drinking frog pieces have starry eyes and slack faces. Sizes are large, averaging 30 by 40 inches. Each piece has a personality which she constructed inside her own mind as she daydreamed while handing drinks to patrons. 

Whenever possible Hall hand-delivers her work to clients. She once presented a painting as a Fathers Day gift to a client,

“He cried,” says Hall. “People are somehow mystified by meeting the artist. I think it is funny.”

Drinking frogs are certainly beyond the traditional barn and sunset paintings that many have come to expect from this region. Luckily for artists, the market is expanding to include a broader range. Hall says there are young people in town who want more out of the art scene. 

“Young people want art from a local artist. They are part of what is making downtown different and they are turning things around. It is all very interesting to watch.”

Hall is proud to be part of the movement to bring more contemporary and unusual art to the city. She recently held her first solo show at Northside Galleries and plans to keep moving forward with the momentum she has gained. For now, med school is still on hold. 

“I took a year off to pursue the art thing,” she says. “I hit the ground running.” With a show schedule packed to capacity, Hall’s plans to attend med school may have been permanently derailed by singing guitars and drinking frogs.

Heather Miller

Blue Oyster Cult

'More Cowbell' For Doc

There is no better way to celebrate Doc West’s long tenure on Fort Wayne radio than with a classic rock show featuring a band that has been lighting up radio for as long as Doc has. With all the changes to radio over the years (the demise of WXKE, its eventual rebirth and its recent move across the dial), Doc West has remained the most popular guy on the air, coming to represent everything that Fort Wayne loves about great music. And great music demands a party – which is exactly what is planned to mark the 35th anniversary of Doc’s arrival in Fort Wayne. With Blue Oyster Cult taking the stage, it’s sure to be a memorable night and one that reflects the affection this city has for its adopted son.

“You know, it really just comes down to how much Doc has affected everyone’s lives,” says longtime colleague and friend J.J. Fabini who is also WXKE program director. “For me, personally, he’s been my second dad for 20 years, and I cannot begin to explain how I feel about him. But for everyone he has worked with, and for music lovers and rockers that he has formed relationships with, whether in person or just by being on the radio in Fort Wayne for 35 years, he has been a positive, nearly spiritual influence. Doc’s magic has touched this town in a way that I honestly believe no one else ever has.”  

Thirty-five years is a long time, but it’s been more than 40 years since Blue Oyster Cult came on strong in the music scene, taking over radio airwaves with the ubiquitous hit “Don’t Fear the Reaper” along with several other memorable tunes which made them one of the elite bands of the era. At no point in those four decades has the band disappeared, making it possible for BOC to continue to grow their fan base over the years and invite younger generations to the party. Not all of the original band members remain, with Allen Lanier a notable departure. But several additions, including Utopia’s Kasim Sulton, have kept the band rolling along.

Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser is among those who have chosen to stick around, giving the band its distinctive lead guitar. Roeser’s better known stage name has endured all these years, providing him an unusual alias within the band.

“During the formative period of development when we were first starting the band, we all considered having pseudonyms,” he now recalls. “We all came up with names, but I was the only one who liked mine so I decided to continue to be Buck Dharma. It gave me an alter ego. Now I answer to both names, depending on whether I’m wearing my Buck hat or my Don hat.”

Roeser admits that when the band first formed, he would never have believed that they’d still be performing together all these years later. He credits the changes in music and the openness of new generations for keeping their sound alive.

“I really credit the internet and the total destruction of the record business for keeping us going. One consequence of music being free and available on the internet is that young people have discovered us and have enjoyed our music. That’s really how the classic bands have stayed in business and can continue to play to large audiences. Popular music is so fragmented now, and the younger fans are listening to classic rock n’ roll along with new music which now bears no resemblance to our music. But they can have their music and still want to rock out in that manner. Kids will always have new music that their parents don’t like, which is pretty much a requirement for any generation, but they will also listen to their parents’ music.”

Years ago, young fans of rock were not as generous with their parents’ music, and Roeser admits that his generation wasn’t very accepting of the music his father, a jazz saxophonist, was playing. But he readily admits that it provides a strong influence in his own playing.

“Definitely as a musician I’ve been influenced. My dad is 91 now, and he still plays his sax. And growing up with that jazz and big band music has shaped my own style as a guitar soloist.”

  Aside from playing 50-70 shows each year, Blue Oyster Cult have taken the time in recent years to celebrate their longevity with a boxed set, complete with 16 CDs and one DVD covering their long history of radio hits and fan favorites. Roeser says they contributed to the effort, but they were also pleased with what Columbia Records put together, including lost live tracks and a few forgotten gems, to sum up the history of the many years together. He says it surprises even him that they have accomplished so much over the years.

“It’s not as if we planned to do it this long. When we signed our record contract, I thought we’d do one, two, maybe three records and be done with it. Then it stretched on to one decade, then two, then three. But if you have to work, this is the best kind of work you can do. The travel is the hard part, but the chance to play music is great.”

Roeser has also enjoyed some success on his own turf, notably with his web-based series The Dharmas, a witty takeoff on The Osbornes, a sitcom variation with a somewhat fictionalized version of his own family which he and his wife have enjoyed immensely. The tongue-in-cheek look at family life is just one way that Blue Oyster Cult have become part of popular culture outside of their own musical catalog. 

But perhaps the most famous of all BOC references remains the iconic skit on Saturday Night Live, one featuring Will Ferrell and guest host Christopher Walken. Does “more cowbell” ring a … well, you know?

“It was a total surprise. I wasn’t watching the show that night, but a friend of mine called so I turned on the TV and caught the last 30 seconds. Of course, I’ve seen it again in rerun, but we didn’t know it was coming. My first impression was that it was funny, and at least they didn’t savage us because I had seen something they did where they savaged Neil Diamond. It was really a ridiculous idea. I’ve never met Will Ferrell, but if I did I would love to ask how he conceived of that.”

And of course, they are now associated with Christopher Walken forever.

“Yes, well if ‘more cowbell’ is a burden for Blue Oyster Cult, imagine what it is for Christopher Walken!”

Michele DeVinney

The Haunted Hotel

Checkout at Never O’Clock

Time erodes all things. Well, except for the spirits of those who meet an untimely death. Time, it seems, only makes them more potent and volatile.

Such is the case of Huntington’s Haunted Hotel. Built in 1889 and clad in beautiful architectural details, the building was a sight to behold in its day. Damian Warwick, the owner and architect after whom the hotel was named, loaded the towering marvel with amenities like a heated swimming pool, telephones in every room and electric light bulbs. He even had a motion picture theater installed to attract guests.

And it worked. The Warwick Hotel was a huge success – albeit a bit of an unlikely one. You see, Warwick himself was known around Huntington for being a bit, well, “off.” Rumors swirled in the streets that Warwick and his wife Anastaise practiced the dark arts. Several townsfolk reported witnessing and/or hearing about bizarre secret rituals on the hotel’s 13th floor and odd occurrences around the hotel grounds. Several people went missing in the area, but an overwhelming lack of evidence left investigators puzzled and helpless. Huntington residents were convinced that something wicked festered in the heart of their beloved, otherwise quiet downtown.

It wasn’t long before Warwick’s own daughter Lilith became a victim to the evil lingering in the hotel. Police were alerted late one night that the young girl was missing. Upon arriving on the scene, they discovered Lilith’s nursery had been torn apart in a frenzy, but no evidence of the girl was found. Several days later, her shredded nightclothes and doll were discovered in an area now known as Devil’s Backbone. No other sign of Lilith was ever found.

Mrs. Warwick was beside herself over the loss of her daughter. Police said they were still investigating her disappearance, but Anastaise felt the case had gone cold. About a month after Lilith’s doll and clothes were discovered, the lady Warwick was found hanged to death in one of the hotel’s bathrooms. Her death was labeled a suicide, likely out of the immense grief she felt regarding her daughter’s death.

On October 13, 1904, tragedy again struck the Warwick Hotel. A fire erupted, seemingly out of nowhere, and quickly consumed the building. All 302 sorry souls inside perished: men, women, several children, members of the traveling circus lodging in the hotel, hotel staff – the fire destroyed indiscriminately. Some witnesses reported hearing their blood-curdling screams, even after the fire had been extinguished. 

  The raging inferno incinerated the hotel and everything in it. Few bodies were recovered. Among the missing bodies was that of hotel owner Damian Warwick who was suspected of starting the fire. Some say he went mad after losing his wife and daughter. Others claim it was part of the dark rituals they practiced deep within the confines of the hotel, that the devil himself commanded Warwick to do it. No one knows for sure. Legend grew that Warwick’s sinister activities kept his soul chained to the hotel’s location, eternally ravenous for other spirits to join him and those who perished in that terrible blaze of 1904.

For reasons not exactly known (and much to the chagrin of the town), the hotel was rebuilt on top of the old location. Today, it is a haunted house celebrating the infamous legend of Damian Warwick and his hotel.

Whispers continue of things going bump in the night at the hotel, especially during October, around the anniversary of the Warwick fire and all those lives lost. Some even say they’ve seen Warwick himself, in a hotel window or taking a stroll nearby in the downtown streets. Perhaps most disturbing of all are the unexplained disappearances. People who enter the hotel’s front doors sometimes vanish, never to leave or be seen again.

  “That place is a gateway disguised as a haunted house,” one long-time Huntington resident warned as we waited our turn to ascend the stairs. “Spend enough time in there, and you’ll see what I mean. Things happen that you can’t explain … and some of them, you’re not even sure you’d want to.”

  I felt a chill, blaming the October night air instead of my nerves.

“Don’t listen to him, friends,” a charming voice floated down from the stairs. “Come in, come in. Welcome to Warwick Hotel!”

Eldon, the hotel bellhop, offered an unassuming yet also creepy grin. His eyes seemed to look right through me.

“Good evening. I am Eldon, your host. Allow me to show you around,” he said while inching closer, seemingly without moving at all.

Our eager host explained that the hotel consists of approximately 30 rooms, some of them featuring the same amenities of the old hotel, like a theater screening room. Each year the staff upgrades the building and rearranges its furnishing to “keep things fresh for the guests.” For added enjoyment, patrons can purchase special glasses that really enhance the environment.

“Some of our residents and staff are rather sensitive to light,” Eldon said as we turned the corner into a dark corridor. “We accommodated them with black lights and coordinating paint. On Thursdays, we don’t even turn the lights on. Guests get around the hotel with a tiny flashlight to light their way. Oh, but do be careful. The walls, they move.”

“Don’t the guests get lost?” a member of my party inquired nervously.

Even in the almost pitch black of the hallway, you could see Eldon’s hungry grin. “Well, we haven’t had any complaints – yet.”

His unsettling tone hung about us, stunning our group into silence as we descended into the depths of the Haunted Hotel. That silence quickly turned into screams.

Ashley Motia


The Doctor Will See You Now

Oh, you mastered the Haunted Cave, did you? 

The creators have a new challenge for you. Located in the same sinister spot as the Haunted Cave, Hysterium Haunted Asylum is currently accepting new patients. And something sinister lurks deep inside the facility – something hungry for fresh souls.

The fun begins the moment you step into the waiting area. Unsettling elevator music pervades the air as you’re told that the doctor will be with you shortly. Patients and orderlies mingle with those waiting in line, whispering tales of what lurks beyond the lobby. There’s a strange sense of foreboding in the air. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea …

When it’s finally your turn to see the doctor, you board the elevator. There is no going back now. The elevator attendant mentions something about earthquakes, and you instinctively grab for the hand rails. “You might want to hold on,” she says with a sharp-toothed grin. “We wouldn’t want you to get … lost … now, would we?”

As you step out of the elevator, your feet shake with aftershocks. You find yourself in a sewer room of hand-carved bricks and running water. Follow the path, you tell yourself. Surely, this is the way out. A short tunnel leads to a biohazard area. It’s clear some of the sludge has escaped from the barrels, and you’re fresh out of hazmat suits. A downed power line crackles and pops in the distance. You must remain alert and on guard if you hope to survive.

You stumble into a long, dark corridor. As you peer into the darkness, you wonder what might be peering back. The corridor leads to a rustic doctor’s office, but the doctor doesn’t seem to be quite in at the moment. Some patients linger, waiting to be seen. They beg you to stay with them, but I wouldn’t advise it.

To further test your sanity and grit, you must pass through a claustrophobia-inducing fabric tunnel that leaves you nearly blind and incapacitated save for a few small steps at a time. With out-stretched hands you feel your way along; if you’re there with friends, holding hands might be a good idea. Strength in numbers, children. Haven’t you learned anything from the horror movies?

After being plunged into darkness, your eyes will need to adjust as you enter an optical illusion room with black lights. Don’t linger too long, though; the room comes alive, threatening to absorb you into the asylum forever. One member of our party exclaimed breathlessly, “I almost peed my pants!”

Do you still have your wits about you? Good. You’re going to need them to figure out the door maze and earn your freedom. (Note: if a door is marked “Emergency Exit Only,” it really is an emergency exit. It’s not a trick. Only use these doors if you can’t handle the maddening terror within the asylum or you have a medical emergency.) As your sanity slips away, it’s easy to get turned around. If you’re with a group, you may quibble about which direction you came from as you go in circles. Within the door maza there are guides, if you’d like to call them that. The choice is up to you whether you listen to them or not. They are, after all, patients in an asylum.

Once you find your way through the door maze, you come across a carnival, an all-new addition to the haunt. 

“What’s a circus doing down here?” you wonder. Hey, even patients in an asylum need some cheering up with balloon animals and clowns! Those who are afraid of clowns will have their mettle tested. And the clowns won’t tolerate misbehavior, so mind your manners.

You must board a second elevator to continue your journey out of the asylum. The elevator attendant latches the door behind you.

“There’s one person here who was admitted by the rest of you. Was it you? Someone will be staying here for rehabilitation,” he says as the lights go dark and the elevator rumbles with a jarring alarm. 

“Also, we apologize for the nuisance of the escaped patient. Security has assured me that he has been contained. The rest of you will proceed to the cafeteria to receive a complimentary meal for your troubles.” The elevator comes to a stop as everyone glances around to make sure their party is still intact.

Is it just your imagination or does Hysterium Haunted Asylum get more terrifying the deeper in you go? The cafeteria seems like a calm reprieve... until you hear the maniacal laughter on the other side of the kitchen door. And what is that smell? The filthy kitchen was one of the most original installations we had seen in a haunted house – one your eyes (and nose) definitely won’t forget.

If you make it out with your head intact, you run into a room of bloodied plastic curtains similar to a meat processing plant. You can’t really tell which way you’re going or, more importantly, which way is out. Wait, did something just move over there? You get the feeling you’re being followed, and you wonder if your head is the next one on the chopping block.

You wind around to what’s known as the “throwback room,” paying homage to the static room in the old Haunted Cave. It features a TV in the corner tuned to static and empty chairs waiting for asylum patients to return. If you have a fear of spiders, proceed with caution to the next room. The nice nurse will keep you safe, right? One look in her eyes tells you otherwise. “He bites!” she warns. Who bites? And what’s that growling noise?

The heart of the asylum holds an especially terrifying treat. But what would be the fun in spoiling it? This is your nightmare, after all. I’ll let you see for yourself.

To earn the right to leave, you must make it through the space-bending vortex room, a feature some may remember as the tunnel from the Haunted Cave. Be sure to hold on to the rails – and your sanity. You rush to the end of the tunnel, gasping the fresh air that surrounds you. You survived!

You made it out alive, but has Hysterium haunted asylum claimed a small bit of your sanity forever?

Ashley Motia

Nick D'Virgilio

From Genesis to The Fort

Tears for Fears. Genesis. Spock’s Beard. Giraffe. The Mike Keneally Band. Fate Warning. Amaran’s Plight. Mystery. Cosmograf. Strattman. Thud. Big Big Train. That’s just a short list of the bands Los Angeles native Nick D’Virgilio has played with during his more than two decades-long drumming career. And now the man friends affectionately call “NDV” has landed in Fort Wayne, working as a studio percussionist and web content writer for Sweetwater Sound. 

A move to the heartland has, admittedly, proved a major life change for D’Virgilio who, just prior to signing on with Sweetwater, was touring the world as part of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem show, but he said he and his family are glad to call Fort Wayne home.

“My kids are happy, my wife’s happy, we have land around us,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Plus, everyone is so kind and we’ve discovered some great restaurants and coffee shops. We realized a while ago that L.A. isn’t the only place to live, and Fort Wayne’s nice. It’s between a lot of big cities, so if we need that fix, we can get it. Overall, it’s turning out to be pretty comfortable.”

D’Virgilio started playing the drums at the tender age of four when his father, apparently tired of his son’s habit of pounding on pots and bands, brought him home a drum set and a pair of sticks. A few years later he picked up the guitar, thanks to his older brother, and he also taught himself how to sing. As a teenager he attended the Dick Grove School of Music in L.A. and, like many rockers before and after him, began playing out wherever he could – at weddings, events, clubs. 

“I hustled around for a few years,” he said. “Then in 1994 I got my big break. I met Kevin Gilbert, just randomly, and everything sort of fell into place from there.”

Gilbert was at the time fronting popular Southern California band Toy Matinee. He was also working as a musician, songwriter and composer and was dating Sheryl Crow. It was through Gilbert that D’Virgilio met the members of the songwriting collective Tuesday Night Music Club, as well as the dudes from Tears for Fears and Genesis. From 1995 to 2008, D’Virgilio worked as drummer for Tears for Fears, and in 1996 he took Phil Collins’s much-coveted spot behind the kit to help Genesis record their final studio album, Calling All Stations.

The Genesis gig was a dream come true for D’Virgilio who grew up idolizing Collins.

“That was totally surreal,” D’Virgilio said. “Phil Collins was my favorite drummer as a kid, so never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get a chance to work with Genesis. It was a trippy experience, to say the least, hanging out in the studio with the guys and all their Gold records. And they’re all so easy-going and mellow. It was just one of those once in a lifetime surprises you never expect to happen.” 

Around this same time, D’Virgilio joined the now legendary prog-rock band Spock’s Beard and toured and made albums with his mates – Dave and Alan Morse, Ryo Okumoto, Jimmy Keegan and Ted Leonard – for the better part of 20 years. It was a wild, successful and growth-filled ride that came to an end for D’Virgilio in 2010 when he joined Cirque du Soleil, working first as a drummer and later as a frontman and still later as band leader.

He said his four-and-a-half-year stint with Totem was an incredibly enriching cultural experience for him and his family. He got to take his wife Tiffany and children, Sophia and Anthony, on the road with him, and together they traveled all over the U.S., Canada and Europe.

“It turned out to be a wonderful gig. Cirque schooled my kids and provided us with apartments every time we moved. It was pretty amazing, playing this big rock show and going to work with my family nearby. 

“And there were people on the tour from 19 different countries, so my kids had the chance to meet people from very different walks of life and see parts of the world they might not otherwise get to see.”

You might think that the transition from L.A. musician and world traveler to resident of Fort Wayne would be a rough one, or at least one filled with culture shock, but D’Virgilio said he’s excited to be a part of the Sweetwater family and to throw himself into the recording of a new original album with friends Randy McStine and Jonas Reingold and an all-ukulele project with Bakithi Kumalo, Paul Simon’s former bassist and the man behind that now famous bass line on Simon’s hit “Call Me Al.”

“I’m really glad to be at Sweetwater and grateful to my friend Mark Hornsby for bringing me on board,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for me to grow here along with the company and be creative as well.” 

Deborah Kennedy

Darby LeClear

Preparing for Bigger Things

Fort Wayne’s community of actors continues to grow and excel with every year, thanks in part to the world-class education provided at IPFW Department of Theatre.

One of the university’s many star students is Darby LeClear.

Having overcome academic struggle, teenage insecurity and stage fright, LeClear embodies how the arts – both as a participant and an observer – can improve lives.

“I was a very enthusiastic child,” she says. “I loved things that were bright and filled with laughter. My mother would style my long hair into crowns of braids or curls. But I loved to run and play hard and I would come home with my hair an absolute mess.”

As much as she loved playing outdoors, she discovered she also loved performing onstage. Her first role was in an elementary school production written by the mother of a classmate. “I can’t recall what the show was about,” LeClear says, “but I believe it involved space and fairy tale characters.”

She enjoyed the attention she received onstage but she also recognized at that early age her own talent for performing.

But then she hit the ’tween years, and she became shy about being in front of people.

Still, determination to perform led her to her first audition early in her sophomore year at North Side High School. She tried out for the role of a feisty Italian woman in the play Lend Me a Tenor. 

“I have always had a knack for dialects,” she says, “so I read well and had a lot of fun doing it.” However, because the cast was small and there were plenty of experienced upperclassmen at auditions, she did not get the part. But even as a young teenager she had no regrets, and the experience gave her the confidence to audition for the school’s musical production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast later that year.

She auditioned for Belle, the lead role, and it marked one of the first times she had ever sung in front of other people. Nerves, coupled with illness that day, hampered her audition.

However, her innate talent and passion for character creation shone through, and the director asked her to read for Babette, the sexy French maid-turned-broom. 

“I instantly felt that was the part I should have,” she says. “Everything about it, from the dramatics to the French accent, was so much fun and so completely different from who I was at the time.”

Nevertheless, she was still suffering from shyness. “I had terrible stage fright,” she recalls. “But playing a character so over-the-top helped me begin pushing past it in a way I am thankful for every day.”

LeClear would do four more shows at North Side, and with each role she not only grew as an actor, but she grew in maturity as well.

She played the title role in Hello, Dolly! and calls it one of her most challenging so far. “Dolly is so smart and determined and comfortable with who she is, and at the time I felt the complete opposite,” she explains. “That role taught me how to be confident in many aspects of my life.”

By the time she was a junior she realized theater was her calling – “but I didn’t really know what to do about that,” she says. The following year she “began to panic” as she struggled to find the right path toward higher education. Her drama director, Michael Morris, encouraged her to look into IPFW scholarships with the advice that she work a little harder in her classes and get her attendance up. 

“He really pushed me,” she says. “I am so thankful he was there to help me, or I would have been completely lost.”

She graduated North Side in 2012 and won a scholarship to IPFW. But the old feeling of insecurity reared its head before classes even began. She worried about making friends, about getting cast in shows and about making a good impression on her professors, she says. “I had built it up so much in my head that when I got there and found out that everyone was warm and friendly and extremely welcoming, I felt absolutely silly [for having worried].”

She is now a junior and just completed her fifth role at IPFW. “The close-knit community of the IPFW theatre department has been incredible,” she says. “The department’s small size gives its students some unique advantages that bigger programs do not. I don’t think I could have found a better place to further my education.”

Her education has given her a good basis for audition prep work, including researching roles and choosing audition material. She chooses her songs or monologues well in advance so she has time to connect with the material, and then she constantly rehearses it. For vocal auditions she begins warming up the moment she wakes up in the morning and in the car she sings along to a playlist of songs in the same range as her audition piece to stretch her voice beyond the song’s requirements.

As prepared as she is, she still finds auditions to be nerve-wracking. “Positive thinking goes such a long way for me,” she says, “so I try to keep myself in that mind set, reminding myself that ‘I can do this.’”

Once cast, LeClear buys a small notebook that stays with her during the rehearsal process. “I write down things I have questions about or impressions I get of the character and their relationships with other people,” she says.

As a theater student she also enjoys the benefit of table work with the other cast members. “We all discuss our opinions and feelings about certain elements of the show,” she says. “I love figuring out what a character wants, what they dream of, what they’re afraid of, who they love, who they hate. Things like that make a character feel alive to me.”

She says she approaches her character study as if she were getting to know a new friend. “In that way, the characters stay with you for the rest of your life,” she says, “because you have invested so much of yourself in learning who they are.”

Her education at IPFW has also included a variety of different performance techniques. “They all influence the way I view rehearsal and performance,” she says, “but I’m not sure if my acting style falls neatly into one category or another. I believe it’s my job to take a character and tell her story, and I want to do that story as much justice as I can.”

She takes this responsibility more seriously than she did before college. “My interest in theatre has evolved into more of an interest in human emotion,” she says. “I am fascinated by the idea that an actor can tell a story in a way that moves an audience into feeling many different things.”

She understands that characters suffer the same difficulties and face the same obstacles that audience members themselves may be dealing with. “I want to make sure I tell that story correctly,” she says. “It’s important to me to find the truth behind a character and live in the moment of the scene. I work very hard to make connections to the audience.”

LeClear also loves the connection between actors onstage. “Creating relationships between characters on stage is one of my favorite aspects of acting,” she says. “Working with actors who are willing to open themselves up and allow your words and actions to affect them in a profound way is so rewarding. When you get two people on the stage together doing the thing they love the most in the world, there is nothing like it.”

While performing Hello Dolly! LeClear learned the power of characters to help her face her own struggles. A later role – Georgeanne in the IPFW production of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress – became almost a therapeutic role-playing session to finding inner strength. “Georgeanne allowed me the opportunity to be absolutely, unapologetically an emotional mess onstage,” she says. “She suffered from some of the same insecurities that I have, so it was nice to be able to sort of confront them through that character.”

Her most recent role was perhaps her most challenging – and most exhausting: Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. “She is such a complex, intricate and beautiful character,” says LeClear. “I had such a wonderful time developing her, but after every rehearsal, I was so tired. She is a physical and emotional hurricane, and she sweeps through the space with so many different emotions, either genuine or manipulative. Playing her is an incredible honor, and I worked my hardest to do the role justice. Our director, Jeff Casazza, told me before we began rehearsals that he was going to push me to dive deeper into this character – not just emotionally but physical – than I have other characters in the past. I’m grateful for that, because I’ve learned so much from this process.”

In addition to her acting and singing, LeClear has just completed writing her first play (a drama about dealing with mental illness), and she has plans to write others. And she is already making plans to begin the process of professional auditions after she graduates. 

“There are so many options for actors,” she says. “Ultimately, I would like to make it to Broadway and win a Tony Award, but I can also see myself continuing with playwriting or maybe even voice acting or dialect coaching.”

LeClear gives a great deal of credit to her family and friends for supporting her unconventional career goals. “Without them, I don’t know where I would be,” she says. “They push me to work hard and create a bright future for myself.”

Where does she see herself in five to 10 years? 

“I would like to see myself with a cat and a steady acting job in New York City,” she says. “In 10 years, I would honestly be happy with the same thing.”

Above all, she wants to keep connecting. “The journey a performer and an audience go on together,” she says, “is a beautiful thing.”

Jen Poiry-Prough


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