No rest for the 'undead': Thomasboro woman survives Six Flags' Coffin Challenge

No rest for the 'undead': Thomasboro woman survives Six Flags' Coffin Challenge

ST. LOUIS — Rest in peace? There wasn't much chance of that for Stacey Wagner as the Thomasboro resident spent 30 hours in a coffin last weekend at Six Flags St. Louis.

Any thoughts Wagner and five other "undead" contestants in the Coffin Challenge would get much shut-eye were quickly dispelled. There were too many ghouls, goblins, even a monkey playing cymbals during the ordeal.

A funeral director, Wagner and the others each passed the test and stayed coffin-bound (except for short breaks) for the prescribed time. In exchange, they won season passes, $300 and other perks.

Wagner said she is glad she did it, but once was enough.

"I wouldn't do it again, even if I had the opportunity," she said. "I think we were all mainly there for the challenge."

Wagner and the others were among 45,000 people who applied to be part of the event. It appears the selectees were chosen based on their bios.

In addition to funeral director Wagner, the contestants included professional wrestler Brian Johnson of Arnold, Mo.; hearse-driving haunted-house operator Matt Daley of Topeka, Kan.; forensic-science student and aspiring medical examiner Olivia Crabtree of Naperville; vampire enthusiast Stevi Rogers of Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Navy veteran Keith Richter of Atoka, Tenn., who served on an "Iron Coffin" submarine.

The wood coffins weren't completely sealed. The coffin-dwellers could peer out the top. They could sit up and look out, which happened a lot because there was always somebody bothering them, Wagner said.

It all led to some sore ab muscles the next day. In fact, she said she was sore all over.

"By noon on Sunday, I was starting to hurt," Wagner said. "All of us were talking the next day when we woke up — 'Oh my gosh, we were so sore.'"

Wagner prepared to stay comfy. She bought an egg-crate pad to lie on. And she bundled up to stay warm.

"I had a sleeping bag that (kept a person warm) down to 40 degrees and a cuddle bed, a long-john shirt, a hoodie and scarves," Wagner said. "I've got to be honest, it was cozy."

Wagner and the others were "laid to rest" at 11 a.m. Saturday. The contest lasted until 7 p.m. the next day, when the six emerged during a "raising the dead" event.

During the ordeal, each contestant got a six-minute bathroom break every hour. Six Flags brought port-a-potties in for each one.

They also got to earn extra time out of the coffin by completing different challenges. One was to enter the Six Flags haunted house by themselves and take a selfie amid all of the freaks that were trying to scare them.

Another allowed them to get two minutes out of the coffin by putting their hands in a bucket of muck to find a ghost ring.

The theme park is open from noon to midnight.

"From midnight to 4 (a.m.) was the chaotic time," Wagner said. "All their freaks, the people who were (hired) to scare everyone, they held them over just to bother us. There was some hazing going on."

The creatures of the night — ranging from ghouls carrying chainsaws to a monkey with cymbals — did everything they could to bother the six and get them to emerge from their coffin before it was time.

"The last hour was the worst," Wagner said. "They were all circling us and putting dirt on top of our lids."

The contestants were separated from the public by a short fence. But only for a short distance. People were able to bother the six for much of the day.

Also adding to the distraction were numerous St. Louis-area news crews and one from HBO, which will air a segment on the contest.

"We were constantly being recorded by cameras, and the visitors could come up to the fence. It was like constant people taking pictures. It was nice when the park closed," Wagner said.

But time for a rest? Abandon all hope (of sleep), ye who lie here.

"We weren't really able to sleep," Wagner said. "You could attempt to sleep, but it wasn't going to happen."

The 31-year-old Wagner grew up in Thomasboro, graduated from Rantoul Township High School and worked for Lux Memorial Chapel for six years starting at age 16.

She attended Parkland College and mortuary school in Chicago. She now works for Memorial Traditions, which owns three funeral homes and nine cemeteries. That means there's plenty of work to be done.

The day after "rising from the dead?" She had to be in Dixon.

Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.

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