Photo's are of Sam DeBree.
One with scary make-up and one without.
By Diane Larson

From the time he was very young, Sam DeBree, special effects expert and haunted house aficionado, loved all things associated with monsters and haunted houses.

He was about 4 or 5 when his parents took him to see his first haunted house. “Of course I screamed and cried all the way through, yet I was fascinated.” Sam said, “I became hooked on horror movies and scary things.”

As he grew up Sam’s love of all things scary never wavered. He kept his interest in special effects, make-up. He continued to learn what he could, “I wanted to make monsters,” said Sam.

In college Sam specialized in film and video production with an emphasis on make-up. He continued his education by being an apprentice and with internships. He moved to California and worked with a special effects company for 3 years. But he missed Montana so he moved to Butte.

After his move to Butte, Sam did some seasonal work for an amusement park in Colorado in their haunted house. He would spend 2, to possibly 6 weeks or even more at the amusement park doing special effects and haunted house work. The park closed several years ago.

Sam still does some special effects work for theater and film occasionally as he receives requests for his expertise.

When Sam moved to Butte he decided to create a haunted house for Halloween out of his home. He ran that for about 5 or 6 years, but it got to big and needed to be moved. Five years ago, Sam approached Jim Jarvis who was the historic preservation officer at the time and asked, “Would the city be interested in letting me do a haunted house on some of their property.” Jarvis was enthusiastic and said that he felt it would be a great idea.

They looked at several properties around town and none of them were quite suited for what they had in mind as a proper venue; at least not until they looked at The Original Mineyard. The Original had everything they needed to create something big for this community.

Sam went to work with Mike Kujawa the Head of the Art Department at Butte High school on creating The Original Nightmare.

2016 marks the fifth year for this particular haunted experience. Sam promises that it will not disappoint. Each year, since the first Original Nightmare it has grown in every way; in participants, effects, and events. “We’ve gone from simple Halloween masks to high end silicone masks, the illusions change, develop and evolve,” says Sam.

The Original Nightmare is completely done with volunteers. The art club and other students from Butte High, as well as several adults from around Butte, come together to create a wonderful Halloween memory for everyone to experience.

It takes over 100 people to make it all happen from the time they begin to build everything to the three nights that it is open. Each night of the Nightmare there are anywhere from 60 to 70 actors who have to be put into costume and make-up applied. Besides the actors, on site there are also the make-up artists, chaperones, security, technicians and a light and sound company.

Sam said that the team, the kids, the teachers and other volunteers that come together are very creative. It is a labor of love for all involved. He said that a project such as The Original Nightmare could only happen here. “I could not do this in any other community, I’ve lived in Helena, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, and I’ve lived in Bozeman, Colorado Springs. What we do here could not be done in any of those places,” said Sam. When asked why Sam said, “Butte really embraces its community, and for these local events they really try to foster the growth of them.”

Montana Pro Audio provides light and sound. Lions Club will provide a food truck for refreshments.

Sam explained what last year’s event was like. The show begins while you are standing in line to buy your ticket with a beheading by guillotine on the Original stage. Kujawa has created a guillotine illusion that is the header (pun intended) of the show. One participant from last year exclaimed, “It was freaky.”

Once you acquired your ticket you entered a maze and were chased or followed by aliens to the first building that has various chills, thrills and scary things all in that first building. Next, you entered a second maze, this one bigger and a bit confusing with false exits and what not. In the second maze you ran into several creatures such as monsters, zombies and ghouls until you reached the second house. The second and bigger house was separated into several rooms, each room containing a new and unique chilling tale that is different from the last.

In 2015 3,000 people went through the haunted houses and expecting more this year. There is no singular theme determined as they like having a variety of themes. Sam did say they were bringing back the clowns.

The Original Nightmare is for all ages, however, Sam does warn that it is a haunted house and there will be blood and other scary images. It is a PG house.

It is a lengthy experie
nce and all for only $5.00. The price is kept intentionally low so that everyone can participate regardless of income.

To make The Original Nightmare happen, each year letters are sent out to local businesses asking for donations. Those donations are used to buy the equipment that in turn is used to create everything for the haunted houses. The money from ticket sales each year goes directly to a charity. Because of their huge commitment to the event and all their hard work and creativity the money will go to Butte High Art Club.  

This year’s event will be October 28, 29, and 31. (The 30th is a Sunday and will not be open) Each night the gates open at 7:00 pm and close at 11:00 pm.

Sam said that the community of Butte is amazing to work with, so generous with time, materials and money to make this happen. “I want to include that I’m very grateful to everybody that participates at every level whether its expertise, materials, and donations for the haunted house and to all the people that come.” 



Date: Friday, October 21

Location: Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch Chapel, 1732 South 72nd Street W.

Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, doors will open at 6:30 pm

Admission is free: Donations appreciated and will be taken at the door. All proceeds will benefit The Boys and Girls Ranch

Sponsored by: Yellowstone Bluegrass Association and Hansen Music

Featured bands:

Work "N" Progress

Song Dog Serenade

Almeda Bradshaw

Canyon Creek

Highway 302

Gwen's Boys


Few factors are as defining for our identities as language. 

Take part in a fascinating opportunity to examine in depth the experience of one group of Native American teens as they work to learn their ancestral language.  The Yellowstone Art Museum will screen The Young Ancestors, a prize-winning documentary selected for many film festivals.  Viewers have stated that this film is “beautiful and powerful; it made me cry” and that it is a “beautiful work and concept.” Documentarian Aimée Barry Broustra traces a group of Southwestern Native teens who, under the guidance of a mentor, undertook the difficult journey to revitalize their language and culture through language.  A film about courage and hope, and the triumph of honor and respect, The Young Ancestors promises a future rich in the kind of diversity that only language can provide.  More information about the film is available  “I Speak,” the YAM’s program combining the film screening and discussion, will take place on Thursday, October 20, 2016, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the YAM’s Murdock Gallery. 

The screening of this hour-long documentary will be followed by a discussion between the filmmaker Aimée Barry Broustra and Dr. Richard Littlebear, president of Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer on the Northern Cheyenne reservation.  Dr. Littlebear is also a member of the board of the Indigenous Language Institute.  Ms. Broustra, a Temple University graduate, is a producer, director, and writer with other documentary credits that include a film about horsemanship.

Other programming about Native American culture and issues will take place in October and November at MSU-Billings, including the opening of an exhibition of the work of Wendy Red Star.  At the YAM, art by regional Native American artists, including Kevin Red Star and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, will be on exhibit in the Boundless Visions exhibition.  The galleries will be open the evening of the “I Speak” program.  The program is a must-see for those passionate about language, cultural diversity, and Native American issues.  Thursday, October 20, 2016, is Educators Free Day.  Admission to the museum is free in honor of all educators, and this includes the “I Speak” evening program.  For more information, visit the museum’s website

by Diane Larson

All photos courtesy of Jacquie Kittson

In the heart of Billings is an oasis where small wonders happen on a continual basis. It’s a place where love heals rescued animals, and those rescued animals in turn shower that love on their visitors, and what happens during a visit borders on miraculous.

At the absolute height of her rodeo, movie and television career, Lynn “Jonnie” Jonckwoski left it all behind to return home so that she could help her father care for her ailing mother. Jonnie’s mom had been struck with Alzheimer’s and her family lovingly and willingly took on the roles of primary care givers.

This wasn’t an easy time for either of them. “My dad disappeared into nearly nothing because it was so hard,” says Jonnie. She goes on to say, “The challenges were beyond comprehension.” As she took care of her mom along-side her dad, father and daughter struggled through the illness together. They experienced what Alzheimer’s looks like and feels like from their perspective, and eventually Alzheimer’s took her from them both. Jonnie said her thoughts turned to her mom’s experience. “The biggest thing on my mind was, what was she thinking when she left me? What was she feeling? It was those things I didn’t have an answer to.” That would stay with Jonnie, and that experience would make her the absolute best candidate for what was about to happen.

Once her mom had passed, Jonnie needed a job. She decided to go to school and become a physical therapist. She got employment at a nursing home in Billings. It was a great fit for her. She loved and cared for her patients deeply. Jonnie trained her golden retriever, Tally Ho, to be a therapy dog. The patients responded well to Tally Ho. But not so much her boss.

During personnel evaluations Jonnie was told she cared too much for her patients. Eventually the other therapist couldn’t care for anyone because they all wanted “the girl with the dog,” her boss told her. Jonnie was ahead of her time. Animal therapy hadn’t quite caught on as a mainstay yet. However, Jonnie’s resolve was steadfast; she said to her boss, “I’m not going to stop talking to and caring for my patients.”

A few days later one of Jonnie’s patients, Ruby, was turning 99 years old. Jonnie asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Ruby said she wanted a Paint pony because she was not allowed to have one when she was young. She told Jonnie that they had other horses, but not a Paint pony. Jonnie, of course, went to the store and bought Ruby a little Paint pony. When she gave the present to her, Ruby said, I will name my pony “Happy.” Jonnie asked her if he made her happy and she told Jonnie, “He does, but a real horse would make me really happy.” The wheels began to turn.  

Jonnie thought, I have a Paint; we could make this happen. Working with the staff and prepping her horse for a visit Jonnie brought Ruby a visitor. Adorned with hospital booties on his feet the sound of clippity-clop through the hallways could be heard.

The 80 pound little Ruby was nearly blind, afflicted with osteoarthritis, had knurled fingers and needed a lift to even get out of bed, but soon she would be “really happy.”

The horse was guided right up to Ruby’s bed and as Jonnie handed Ruby the grain bucket so that Ruby could feed the horse, Ruby excitedly exclaimed, “I can smell him Jonnie, I can smell him.” Ruby’s hands slid down the pony’s nose, and she could feel that horse nuzzling right up to her. Watching the interaction between Ruby and her four-legged visitor, Jonnie exclaimed, “Now that is happy; that is happy.”

After the visit with Ruby, Jonnie and her Paint spent the afternoon letting the rest of the residents enjoy the unusual visitor.

Jonnie’s boss was less than thrilled at the visitor, and the next day Jonnie was relieved of her position.

But instead of letting it get her down, Jonnie went home and kept thinking to herself, “how easy was that to make so many people so very happy.” I had my dog and my horse and people responded so positively around them.

When Jonnie left her position as physical therapist she went on to become a personal trainer. But without realizing it, the seeds of an organization named Angel Horses had just been planted and were already taking off.

A few days after Jonnie left her physical therapy position a woman drove up to her house and knocked on Jonnie’s door. She asked Jonnie if
 her daughter could pet one of the horses. They had seen the horses from the road. The girl was a special needs child, at 16-years-of-age she had the mentality of a 2 year old. She had spinal meningitis as a toddler and the terrible disease had left its mark on her for life. Jonnie said of course, and the three of them spent some time with the horses. The woman asked Jonnie if she would work with her daughter, and Jonnie agreed. That was a tipping point.

That woman went on to tell others about her and her daughter’s experience with Jonnie and her horses. Soon others were telling their friends, and their friends were telling…well you get the drift. If just kept growing. Jonnie would come home from work and there would be a line of people waiting to see the horses and experience what others had.

What was happening was a real life example of “if you build it they will come.” Angel Horses was born.

Angel Horses takes place on Jonnie’s property of about 2 ½ acres. They have nine equines, horses, donkeys and ponies, everyone a rescue.

Angel Horses, is a unique human service organization that provides positive physical and emotional stimulus to the community. Most of those who come to Angel Horses are senior citizens, especially those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Others who use the facility are at-risk youth, special needs children, persons living with PTSD and families affected by cancer.

The animals at Angel Horses are all rescue animals. They have horses, dogs, cats and even donkeys. All of these animals are loved, cared for and used in a therapeutic environment.

A large percentage of the people that come to Angel Horses are Alzheimer’s patients. Jonnie said, “We just fell upon that.” An assisted living facility in Billings called and said that they would like to bring out a group. What they discovered was that Alzheimer’s patients, in particular, respond to the animals and environment in an incredible way.

These Alzheimer’s patients come to Angel Horses generally with their son or daughter. A light lunch is provided, usually hamburgers or hotdogs cooked outside. There will be a campfire, and often a donkey adorned with Mexican baskets that are filled with tortilla chips mingles with the visitors. The donkey, a miniature spotted ass by the name of Eeyore, was just created for this, Jonnie says. “He mingles with the seniors and they just love him, and he loves them,” she says. They will brush him, hang on to him and get their chips out of his baskets. It’s just a joy to watch, says Jonnie. 

“I don’t know what it is about the horses, the environment, or the campfire, but for 20 minutes or better they (Alzheimer’s patients) would lose that deer caught in the headlights look and have a conversation with their son or daughter,” said Jonnie. She goes on to say, “And let me tell ya, when their son or daughter hadn’t even heard their father or mother say their name in two years, you can’t imagine how powerful that is.” I mean we were all a wreck.” Jonnie went on to explain, “I don’t know if it’s the smell that triggers it, if it’s the sight that triggers it, but it happens every single time they come out here.”

They also provide entertainment. One local favorite that can be seen there often is the legendary Noreen Linderman, otherwise known as “Noreen, The Outlaw Queen.” Noreen performs old time country western music, and everyone just starts tapping their feet, and those that are able will get up and dance to the music.

The assisted living facilities will bus out 12 to 14 people at a time, and for that afternoon there is a return to the person that is hidden behind this terrible disease.

The men and women that are afflicted with PTSD will come here and they will bond with a horse. Jonnie explained that the horse can sense their insecurities, their inabilities, fears, and discomforts whatever they are, and the horse gets through all that just by spending time together. The PTSD patients don’t ride the horses they just spend time together and become so much more than friends.

Angel Horses began in 1998 as a small group of volunteers that worked in conjunction with their church. They incorporated in 2006 which meant they could then accept large donations, grants and it vgives them the ability to grow. They are a not-for-profit organization that truly relies on the kindness of not only strangers but anyone and everyone who can afford to donate. They are completely run by volunteers

Angel Horses is currently at a point where they really need to grow. They could be helping so many more people if they had a proper facility. Because of size and not having proper facilities for inclement weather they have to turn away 200 to 300 people every month. Their season runs from the May first to October first. Jonnie explained there is a real need in this community for a facility like this that can operate all year. She said that, according to the funeral homes in Billings, the highest mortality rate is during the long dark winter months, February to May. During this         time there are few less celebrated holidays, and weather hinders family visitations. The patients and residents get lonely, says Jonnie. These patients and residents begin to disappear into themselves. During these months especially, Angel Horses could be of immense value to these people and the community at large. During one winter season “we turn down up to 2,500 people,” said Jonnie.

The need to grow is immense. They have property picked out on the West End of Billings that would be ideal. They are currently in the process of obtaining the funds. “The vision we have is a one-stop resort,” says Jonnie.  The idea is to build a western town complete with a longbranch, Del Monaco’s, delivery stables, and general store, Jonnie explained. The town will be hooked onto the indoor facility so when they come inside visitors will have windows so they can see into the indoor wagon arena and they can watch the horses, or they can ride the horses. We will even have a chapel.

With a facility that can run all year round, the little wonders can happen all the time and so many more people can be helped by the great work of Angel Horses.  Weather is a major reason they cannot serve more people. They could go from serving 35 people a week to up to 140 people in that same amount of time.

Each year for the past nine years Angel Horses has hosted a fundraiser called Boot Scootin’ Barn Dance. This fundraiser has done extremely well every year and the hope was that this year they would raise enough money to place a down payment on the property. But, sadly, that didn’t happen. They fell short of their goal. However, they did make some great contacts, and those are being pursued.

James Herriot said that “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are a lot better off than most humans.” It is with this love and loyalty and gratitude that these animals at Angel Horses serve selflessly because they love in a way that we, as humans, have yet begun to understand. That is why the miracles happen in that place, that is why Angel Horses is so important.


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