The Haunted Fort
Cloudland Drama Club spooks Fort Watauga

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Looking for a frightful good time?
   Get the Halloween season jumping this Saturday at Sycamore Shoals Historic Area where the Cloudland High School Drama Club presents "The Haunted Fort," a series of scary skits suitable for the whole family.
   "This year we are moving out to Sycamore Shoals," said Cheri Miller, drama teacher at Cloudland High School. "We have a little bit of a colonial theme since it is set at the Fort."
   The Haunted Fort will be presented from 3 until 6 p.m. Students will present skits, stories, and guided "ghostly" tours of the Fort and the surrounding area.
   Miller and Drama Club members have been writing and rehearsing their skits for over one month. Cloudland drama students wrote all 10 skits scheduled to be performed based on urban legends and the state's haunted folklore.
   "We have a colonial Adams Family," added Miller.
   The Haunted Fort is open to children of all ages with each performance tailored for the audience. Buzzing chainsaws and black-hooded figures with blood-stained cutlery are not part of the performances, said Miller.
   "It is not terribly scary; it is kind of funny-scary," she said. "It's really more funny than scary."
   Debora Winters and Deidre Stevens are two of 45 club members performing at the Haunted Fort.
   Stevens will perform in an original skit written by two fellow club members about Wataugans fighting off an assortment of goblins and monsters.
   "We are going to be playing the crazy people they wouldn't let into the Fort," said Stevens, a sophomore.
   Winters, a Cloudland junior, wrote a skit based on "The Bell Witch," the spooky legend of a witch that terrorized a Middle Tennessee family in the 1800s. She plays the title character made famous by local folklore writer Charles Edward Price.
   "The Bell Witch was known because she haunted the Bell family -- John Bell in particular," said Winters. "The legend said confederate soldiers came to the house and she told John Bell two of the soldiers were spies."
   The drama club previously staged the "Haunted Trail" in Roan Mountain State Park the previous four years before deciding to move the performance to Sycamore Shoals.
   "We had the ghost of Victoria Carter last year," said Miller, "but the legend has it she hangs around the Roan Mountain area."
   Miller and her students have had travel opportunities to enjoy Broadway plays in New York City and professional performances of live theater in New Orleans and Orlando. The drama club put on performances of "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Annie."
   "Both were a direct result of us going to New York and seeing Broadway shows," she said, "because we realized we can do that."
   The "Haunted Trail" drew approximately 500 visitors last year, Miller said. "We hope people will follow us to Elizabethton," she laughed.
   The drama club will also be serving "witches brew" and have treat bags for children.
   Halloween festival goers who are looking for a frightfully fun time are urged to come early. The Haunted Fort will get underway at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Performances will continue until 6 p.m.
   Patrons are asked to make a $1 donation to support the Cloudland High School Drama Club.