EAGLE — The Eagle County Assessor’s Office is a spooky place this time of year.
If you happen to wander past the main reception area of the Eagle County Building today, then you might stumble into something strange and find yourself in a scene from “The Blair Witch Project.” Not to worry, you’re just at the entrance to the assessor’s department, so don’t let the dead foliage, animal bones and cobwebs scare you away. Please, enter ...
“These guys like holidays and they work hard, so it’s a good release,” said county assessor Mark Chapin, who allows his 21-member staff to decorate the area during their free time.
“There used to be a costume contest between departments and then it developed into decorating,” Chapin said. “It’s been going on for about 20 years, before I got here. We’re the only department who seems to do it now. It pushed into the hallway this year with the leaves — that’s a new development, but otherwise it’s pretty much always to this degree.”
The staff picks a theme each year. Last year was aliens.
During the day of Halloween, groups of children come in to trick or treat.
“I think a few little kids might be too frightened to come in this year,” said data research specialist Alice Jaramillo.
It was Jaramillo’s idea to bring in the leaves and tree branches for the graveyard scene out front.
“Someone brought us bags of walnut leaves from Glenwood Springs,” she said.
Inside, Dracula sits at a table adorned with a ghoulish feast of “Bogus Brains” and a cup of eyeballs. Behind you, a green creature peeks out from beneath a cardboard staircase — it looks like it might grab you on the way to the copier. A fake bookcase gives you plenty of titles to consider.
“We all kind of build off each other,” said assessment technician Mandi Rosinski.
Chapin has found himself in the tradition of painting a scene on the front window to start things off.
“It took me about four hours total,” he said of the haunted mansion covering the glass wall.
So what’s the appraisal like on a haunted castle?
“Actually, I started doing research on haunted properties several years ago,” he said. “I found no correlation between property value and whether or not it was considered haunted, but there is an interest in those properties among buyers. I contacted other assessors to see if they were aware of any haunted properties and there are some in the county.”
Chapin said he found some good background on that topic in the books “Colorado Ghost Stories” and “Mysteries in Eagle County,” both by Eagle County Historical Society President Kathy Heicher.
“We decorate for the other holidays, too, but not quite like Halloween,” Jaramillo said. “We never start until (Chapin) paints the glass.”
Chapin had to crunch to get the painting finished this year because he had to go out of town for a week in the middle of the month. So with the boss out of town, is that when the leaves went in the hallway?
Jaramillo just laughed.
“Happy Halloween!” she said.