COMMUNITIES: Something for the Kids

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For several years parents and school officials of the little farming community of Utica, Kans. (pop. 300) have worried that youngsters might be injured in the boisterous yearly initiation of high school freshmen by the senior class. So Mrs. Betty Stevens, English teacher and sponsor of this year's senior class, decided to try something different. Instead of seeing her charges mill around all evening at a rough-house gymnasium party, she would get the seniors to lead the freshmen on a pre-Halloween trip through a haunted house. Principal William Hobert Sallee, 60, got into the spirit of the thing, thought the kids might get a kick out of finding him hanging in a dark room.

One day last week Mrs. Stevens and her seniors took over an abandoned farmhouse two miles outside town, scattered papier-mâché skulls, steer bones, toy rattlesnakes and other spooky bits and pieces in strategic places. Just before the party Principal Sallee daubed himself with black greasepaint, spattered catsup on his face and clothes and suspended himself, a rope strung beneath his arms, from the kitchen ceiling. His feet touched a floor littered with broken bottles, burlap sacks, fire chains.

One by one, the seniors led the freshmen through the dark house, amid weird groans and rattling chains. When they came to the kitchen they briefly flashed a light on the hideous but familiar form that hung limply and moaned softly. All the freshmen agreed that the hanging man was the scariest spook of all. Midway in the fun Mrs. Stevens slipped into the kitchen with her camera to get a picture. She called to Sallee. There was no answer. She turned on her flashlight. Somehow, as he had moved his feet on the littered floor, Principal Sallee had slipped; the noose had worked up from his armpits to his neck and he was dead of strangulation.