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On one evening each year, screams echoing from Dwight Chapel do not warrant a visit by Yale Security. Instead, this Saturday, the frightful squeals came from New Haven children enjoying a haunted house.

The haunted house, sponsored by Alpha Phi Omega, is the fraternity’s main charitable event of the fall, said Nicholas Miranda ’05, the chairman of the festivities. Drawing about 500 children from New Haven and the surrounding area, this year’s haunted house eclipsed previous years in its success, he said. Elementary school children showed up in throngs to listen to scary stories, have their faces painted, and take a tour of the haunted house.

Miranda said the haunted house, which is free for the children and their parents, connects Yale with the New Haven community.

“The goals of the haunted house are, number one, to foster a better relationship between Yale and New Haven; and number two — to provide a safe and fun time for the children of New Haven,” Miranda said.

While the children were excited to celebrate Halloween early, their parents appreciated that Alpha Phi Omega organized an alternative to their children’s normal evening activities.

“On the weekends there is nothing for the children to do but play outside, and most of the time it isn’t safe,” said Kiya Dupree, a mother from the Lincoln-Bassett school. “This is a safe environment for children.”

Members of Alpha Phi Omega working at the haunted house described the importance of creating a bond between New Haven and the community.

“At Yale we have a lot of resources and we need to be reaching out to the community and give back,” said Yoon-Jee Kim ’05 as she painted a pumpkin onto a little boy’s face.

Parents’ desire to find safe fun for their children coupled with their children’s excitement for Halloween drew many families into Dwight Hall Saturday. Geoffrey Smith DIV ’04 said people lined up to enter at 6:30 p.m. as if it were an opening night at the movies.

Preceding the event, Alpha Phi Omega distributed about 6,000 fliers to New Haven elementary schools, Miranda said.

“We’re a growing organization so we have more people to work and more funds,” he said.Ê”We learned from last year to make it bigger and better.”

The turnout was surprisingly large, with superheroes, witches and pumpkins swarming Old Campus awaiting entry into the haunted house.

“Some of them are excited to go in and run out screaming,” said Andrea Kanner ’04, president of Alpha Phi Omega. “It’s really adorable.”

While most of the children were frightened by the ghosts, witches and mad scientists lurking in the darkness of the Dwight Hall chapel, 10-year-old Shanice Wilson still felt the haunted house was appropriate for young children.

“I like scary things, and after all being scared you could find out who was scaring you and then it’s just a joke,” she said.

Others saw the event as a way to reconnect with holidays.

“Holidays are important and I think society needs to emphasize them more,” said Shannon Cozza, who brought her children and niece to the haunted house.

New Haven children and their parents were not the only ones who left the haunted house excited and thankful. Yale students also appreciated the opportunity to interact with the youngsters.

“What is kind of sad about being on a college campus is you only see the people your age or your professors’ age,” Caroline Lopez ’05 said. “It’s so great to see all the little kids dressed up [and] to get the New Haven community on Yale campus.”