Rifle Heritage Center presents ‘Voices in the Dark’ fundraiser

Cecil Waldron during the 2021 Voices in the Dark event at Rifle Heritage Center.
Courtesy/Betty Waldron

There’s nothing spookier than walking through an old, creaky museum with the lights dimmed. Even spookier is seeing the museum’s figures come alive in the dark.

Many interesting characters called Rifle home before automobiles lined every street corner. These figures come back from the dead to breathe fresh air during the museum’s “Voices in the Dark” Halloween fundraiser.

Slated for 6-9 p.m. Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, anyone over 5 is welcome to visit the museum and be guided through a series of exhibits featuring some of Rifle’s historical figures being played by museum volunteers. Lights are to be dimmed to create an eerie atmosphere, tour guides navigate the museum using only lanterns.

“It’s kind of a ghost-walk effect,” Rifle Heritage Center Events Coordinator Betty Waldron said. “The museum is very dimly lit.”

Betty and Cecil Waldron help run the museum and Cecil also sits on the heritage center board. They’re set to play Ola and Fred Garrison, two well-known, early 20th-century photographers from around Rifle. The museum keeps over 6,000 glass-plate negatives from the Garrisons.

“They were very renowned people in their day and time,” Betty said.

Ola was a master of portraits. Fred was a master of capturing ranch life and farmers around Western Colorado. He’d transport heavy glass-plate negatives by horse-drawn carriage to simply snap photos from Grand Junction to Steamboat Springs.

This marks the second fundraiser of its kind. More than 100 visitors showed up to the inaugural Voices in the Dark in 2021, and this year none of the characters are the same, Betty said.

Other characters being played include Lyman Austin, an Iowa Cavalryman in the Civil War before moving to Rifle, and Patricia “Pat” Sullivan, a member of Women Airforce Pilots who was instrumental in making Rifle Garfield County Airport what it is today.

While resurrection in itself is spooky, the museum’s building came to existence under interesting circumstances. The original museum was operated out of a one-room schoolhouse that sat across the highway from the Rifle golf course clubhouse.

That schoolhouse was salvaged from a town that longer exists. Called Austin, the old farming community was essentially built at what’s now the base of Rifle Gap Reservoir. Everything else from that town was demolished and removed once they put in the reservoir, with only the schoolhouse being spared.

The museum moved into its current location, Rifle’s former city hall, after 1984. Its basement was used as a one-room jail. The schoolhouse is now on display at the Silt Historical Park. 

“It’s going to be fun,” Betty said. “Not a lot of people know this history of Rifle.”


What: Voices in the Dark

Where: Rifle Heritage Center, 337 East Ave.

When: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 15 and 22

How much: $15

Tickets: Can be purchased at the museum prior to the event or at the door


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