What could be better place for a haunted house than a building unoccupied for about two decades?

Maybe an empty building that used to be a laboratory.

There weren’t mad scientists doing experiments when Hays Pathology Lab was in operation in a building at 1300 E. 13th, but that past has definitely given an extra creep factor to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church CYO annual haunted house.

The haunted house has been at Big Creek Crossing for many years, but this year, the owners of the former lab, Stephen and Brad Tebo, offered its use.

“We appreciate them and we want them to know that,” Rick Binder, IHM youth director said of their former hosts at the shopping mall.

“It’s just a different atmosphere,” Brian Feldt, an adult supervisor of the CYO said.

Since the former medical building already consists of hallways and rooms, the CYO has been able to save a lot of time and material in the haunted house construction, Binder said.

At Big Creek Crossing, “we had to haul trailers upon trailers for walls and stuff. This saved us a lot of work,” he said.

The lab closed in the late 1990s, so speculation about what went on there has fueled some extra interest in the haunted house, Brittani Park, a senior at Hays High school, said.

“People at my school have been freaking out about it,” she said.

“We don’t know for sure what they did here, but we’re not going to deny the possibility of anything that may or may not have happened,” Binder said with small grin. “If there’s rumors out there that maybe there’s some crazy goings on here that we can’t explain, we’re not going to deny that’s a possibility.”

Binder did say it was a little scary doing a walk-through of the building the very first time. He and Hays Fire Department Chief Ryan Hagans toured the building to make sure each room they used would have two exits for safety.

“We want it to be fun, we want it to be safe,” Binder said.

None of the crew will be allowed to touch those going through, and while part of the haunted house will be in the basement, there will still be plenty of frights on the main floor for those unable to use stairs.

All the planning, including the theme of each year’s haunted house is done by the CYO members. About 50 members have been working on the haunted house, whose theme this year is “phobias,” along with parents and other adult volunteers.

Mindi Veach and Avery Werth are freshmen at Hays High and Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, respectively, so this is their first year working behind the scenes.

“You don’t really realize how much work goes into it,” Werth said.

“I didn’t know they did this much and it took this much planning,” Veach said.

Seniors Ryan Hernandez and Park are old pros, having worked on the haunted house for four years.

“It’s definitely different being on this side. It’s kind of cool to see how the rooms come together,” Hernandez said.

The rooms will highlight different fears such as small spaces, clowns, dolls, blood and needles.

The money CYO raises at the haunted house helps pay for summer mission trips. Last year, the group traveled to Eagle Butte, S.D., on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. They helped prepare and serve lunches at a community center and care for children.

Next summer, the group will travel to Marvell, Ark., an area of high poverty where the schools have a 70 percent graduation rate. They’ll interact with youth there and help with house painting projects.