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SeaDawg
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I have been asked to help collaborate on a Haunted house project for this upcoming haunt season. I am looking for some suggested effects that people have done in Haunted houses that hit hard, play big but have minimal reset.

I have a couple of months to get the props ready for any routines. A key to this will be to prevent bottlenecks in the house...

In the bizarre realm I own Vudo magick, Hauntiques, Magic tales and Spirit theatre is on its way.

Any help would be greatly appreciated...
Crazy people take the psycho-path thru the forest...
udlose
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You might just be looking for a single effect, if so then disregard this idea for a whole room.

I have always said that when I acquire lots of disposable income, I was going to design a commercial haunted house. That day has not arrived.

I do enjoy thinking of spooky ideas and one that gives me chills just to think about is one that I named "Emily's Room." Imagine the room of an 8 year old girl... now imagine the room of a demented 8 year old girl.
Shelves full of porcelain faced dolls missing eyes and cracked faces. Those raggedy Anne dolls with creepy smiles slashed and drawn over the original faces. And of course lots of clowns. The walls would have twisted pictures drawn in crayon taped up all over. For ambiance, you could simply wind a jewelry box with spooky music - in a room full of evil dolls, however, any music box is going to sound eerie.

I have tried to envision what might deliver the signature fright in the room. This is the one that creeps me out the most:

In the center of the room there is a single doll laying on the floor. This doll has a particularly disturbing look on its face - a look that almost looks like it is just as terrified as you are. As the group walks into the room, A young girl charges from the darkness of the closet at the group. She is wearing a child's dress and has her hair curled. Her face is covered in a mask. The mask seems to be made of the faces of several dolls. Part of it is plastic part cloth all stitched together - totally creepy. After backing the crowd off, she snatches up the doll and returns to the dark closet.
Jim Magus
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One of the best books on the subject is How to Operate a Financially Successful Haunted House, by Philip Morris and Dennis Phillips. Leonard Pickel has some great material including The Pickel Theory of Haunted House Design (his "scare them forward" principle is why I always lead the group when I visit a haunt, looking like the brave one but knowing that the end of the group will be the ones taunted). Tim Harkleroad is a magician who wrote the Complete Haunted House Book, which is an excellent resource. Jerry Chavez' Haunted House Halloween Handbook, George Anderson's Haunted House Design, and Shawne Baines' Haunted House Handbooks are also quite good. Michael Cruz' Field of Screams is a great book on how to promote haunted attractions. J B Corn has some great ideas on how to build a portable, modular dark attraction, along with further marketing and promotion tips.
You will find creative ways to use your magic props. I used my magician's guillotine (I stripped the ridiculous sparkling blue magic prop paint job off it when I got it and stained it with wood stain so it actually resembles a guillotine), along with a severed head and head stump costume (that covers the head of your actor), to clear one room. The actor crouches behind the guillotine and holds the severed head in place through the stock until the executioner releases the blade, then the head is released, the actor stands up revealing the head stump and does a twitching body movement toward the group. Under a strobe light, the decapitation was one of the most powerful bits in my haunted house.
SeaDawg
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Jim , I have the morris book on order thru Amazon...

Great Idea with the guillotine....
Crazy people take the psycho-path thru the forest...
ptbeast
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Hey Dawg...

If you will answer a few questions, I will post a few ideas. Is this a commercial haunted house? What kind of throughput are you expecting? Are you looking for effects that you can do as line entertainment, as part of an interactive walk through attraction, or bigger illusions to make an impact inside the house?

I have been involved in the haunt industry for about 20 years and in bizarre magic for about 8. Taking magical principles and putting them to work is a passion of mine. My haunt for this year just went by the wayside (a long and depressing story that I won't go into here), so not what I am getting over my haunt depression a bit, maybe I am ready to brainstorm.

Dave
Bill Ligon
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Ptbeast, I am sorry to hear your haunt for this year will not happen!

Bill
Author of THE HOLY ART: Bizarre Magick From Naljorpa's Cave. NOW IN HARDCOVER! VIEW: <BR>www.lulu.com/content/1399405 ORDER: http://stores.lulu.com/naljorpa
<BR>A TASSEL ON THE LUNATIC FRINGE
ptbeast
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Thanks Bill. It is a major blow. I was (am?) hoping to make Halloween a major part of my income for the year. Not quite sure what I am going to be doing now.

Since I no longer have a location (or a business partner) I am looking for a way to combine two or more of my passions (Bizarre Magic, Haunted Attractions, Cooking, and Reptiles) to create something (hopefully a money making something) for this Halloween (starting late and on a shoestring budget). Not trying to hijack the thread, but I would love to hear anyone's ideas!

Dave
David Parr
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Dave, in the past I too have had the unpleasant shock of having a Halloween project fall apart, so I sympathize. I think the key to moving forward is to look at it as an opportunity to try something new, something that utilizes your skills and experience, but something that isn't a traditional walk-through haunted house. Are there ideas, effects or themes you wanted to pursue but couldn't in the format of a walk-through haunted house? Make a list of them. Imagine situations in which you COULD pursue those ideas. Try pressing forward into new territory; you may be surprised at what doors open up!
SeaDawg
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Dave,
the other gentlemen is in negotiations for the space at the moment. It would be a walk thru venue with 8 rooms....

I would likely wind up with one room as my "Parlour"...

As the details firm up I will post more. I like Jim's idea of the guillotine though... but the more I bring to the project the bigger my slice of pie will be...
Crazy people take the psycho-path thru the forest...
George Ledo
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One of the things I've never liked about Halloween haunted houses is that too often they are just a collection of rooms, each of which has a "boo," but the boos are not related to each other. In other words, there's no story, no logical reason to go from one room to another except that you get chased out of each one in turn. Therefore the experience becomes a momentary novelty instead of something you remember and tell others about.

I've read a couple of the books mentioned above, and keep finding that this "design individual rooms" approach seems to be the generally accepted way to go.

Yet, if we go to a good theme park, the haunted attractions actually do tell some kind of a story.

The other thing I don't like about these houses is the emphasis on physical fear versus supernatural fear, i.e., too many chainsaw killers, Freddy and Jason, torture devices, and so forth, instead of ghosts and other entities that scare you because you can't see them and don't know what they are. I would be far more scared (and entertained) by a shadow moving across a room and knocking something over (as long as I knew something about why the shadow was there in the first place) than by a guy in a mask jumping out of a dark corner and going "Boo!" in my face. A few years ago we went to a "haunted house" in Orlando that reminded me more of a Hollywood-stereotype insane asylum than of a haunted house.

Ah, aren't personal opinions great... Smile
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udlose
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I second that, George.

The best Haunted House I've ever been to was actually put on by one of these huge contemporary churches. It told the story of how sin leads you on a path to hell. They did a really good job with each room, tying it into the previous room. Eventually you ended up in Hell.

I'm not religious at all but it made for a genuinly disturbing experience that didn't feel choppy and cliched.

I was thinking maybe there could be a use for levitation in a room that someone hangs in.
George Ledo
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That sounds like a great idea... I can certainly relate to it, having gone to Catholic schools most of my life. Smile

A few years ago, around '03 or '04, I was working on a book about how to do a themed haunted house using professional theatre and movie techniques but on a household budget. I had written a few articles for Leonard Pickel's Haunted Attraction magazine, and was chatting with him about the book. I sent him a few chapters, and he liked the idea and offered to write the foreword, and things were moving along... and then we both got sidetracked on other stuff and the book ended up on the back burner. There's no way I can finish it for this season (I still need to write a couple of chapters and do a bunch of illustrations), but I thought maybe I could "drop" a couple of sections (like the parts on theming vs. decoration) into my column here in the Café if there's any interest.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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ptbeast
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I agree with George regarding a theme. The best haunts that I have either worked in or designed always had a coherent theme, a story that helped draw guests into what they were seeing. I always try to think of a haunt as interactive theatre.

That said, the reason that I asked if it was a commercial haunt is that high throughput, while great for the bottom line, really limits what you can do. While small haunts with low throughput can be very cool (if you have never read about Rick Maue's Haunted Chamber, check it out at http://www.deceptionsunlimited.com -- also check out http://www.castleblood.com for a good example of a middle ground).

I also agree with George's haunt pet peeves. I will say, however, that creating psychological fear rather than a "boo" scare is very difficult in a high throughput haunt. It can be done to a certain extent, but you have difficulties with the expectations of your guests (who have been trained to the boo scare) and the limited amount of time that they spend in each section. Not saying not to add psychological scares, you should, but if you want to be a success you will have to have plenty of the old distract and startle technique as well.

Okay, now that I have rambled on and on without answering your question, lets talk about your room. If there is a theme you will, of course, need to make whatever magic you decide to do fit it. For that reason, it is hard to suggest a specific illusion. Here are some things to keep in mind though. First the requirements of the illusion itself: it must be quick, visual, and shocking as possible. It can not have a long build up. It must be safe and comfortable for the actor(s) involved. It must have very quick reset. You must also consider your angles very carefully, as you will have to deal with people walking to all parts of the room that are not blocked off. It need not be a grand stage illusion (though they adapt very well to haunts, especially if built from scratch to not look like "magic boxes"). For example, Iron Garrote can be used very effectively in a haunt.

Well, I guess I have rambled on enough for now. I will add more as you get closer to deciding what you want to do. Oh and if you do decide to use a guillotine, let me know. I can let you know a few tricks that can really put that one over the top!

Good luck. I hope your project goes along better than mine. (sigh)

Dave
George Ledo
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Now that we're talking about theming... Smile

Many many years ago a friend talked me into helping him do a haunted house gig for his church. It was actually a haunted room: Dracula's coffin, a table with the remains of the Wolfman's most recent supper, and other stuff. It turned out to be a lot of fun, actually.

However, we did need to get that coffin. Somehow my friend arranged to borrow a coffin (a pine cremation box) from a mortuary right across the street from the church. So, on the night of the gig, we went over to the mortuary, picked up the coffin, and carried it (as in just the two of us) nonchalantly across the street into the church, jaywalking and stopping traffic in both directions. Then, of course, we had to return the box after the gig.

To this day I wonder what those people who saw us carrying the coffin across the street told their families when they got home that night.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Bill Ligon
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I probably won't sleep tonight, wondering the same thing!

Bill
Author of THE HOLY ART: Bizarre Magick From Naljorpa's Cave. NOW IN HARDCOVER! VIEW: <BR>www.lulu.com/content/1399405 ORDER: http://stores.lulu.com/naljorpa
<BR>A TASSEL ON THE LUNATIC FRINGE
Mystician
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This thread is especially of interest to me this year:
My wife and mother in law belong to some club or other that meets at the Catholic church/school were my wife used to teach, and also attended as a child.
This year, the school wants to do a haunt in their basement, which I am told is sorta creepy anyway, to raise money for charity. The club leaders asked if anyone knew of someone who could produce, direct, and manage the haunt, providing ideas, direction, and materials.
Heh. That one was in the bag. Naturally, my name came up and it was no contest, I got the "job", as I'm well known in the neighborhood for my unusual obsession(s) Smile
Of course, this is for charity, but I don't care about pay for this -it will my first semi-pro haunt I've ever directed, quite a nice something to put on a resume, since there will be an admission charge. I am so looking forward to doing this.
Even better, the gig is earlier in October so I can still use all my stuff (props and such) for my own house on Halloween itself.

Dave, I'm really sorry to hear about your haunt biz, I really don't mean to rub this in, bad timing there I guess. My last several Halloweens have absolutely sucked though, so I'm certainly due a break like this. I'm sure I could use your advice though! One thing I wanted to do, but will be a bear, is to inventory all my props and number or label them somehow, so I can keep track - I'm afraid of "losing" stuff, and Beelzebub knows I have a lotta stuff to keep track of!!

I love the idea of a consistent theme. I haven't had a chance yet to scope out the basement and see what I have to work with in terms of space, room, walls, etc.. hopefully, this week though.
I'm not sure if I want to incorporate magic into this though - but I'd love to do the "head drop" trick if I could. Thing is, I think I'll be busy enough directing the volunteer actors and keeping things running smoothly (or trying, anyway).
I guess this is the "birth" of Higginhaus Productions. Smile
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George Ledo
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You probably have a lot to work with already, given the stuff normally found in a church basement. Back when I was a kid, my church had a few old statues covered with dust cloths in places like the belfry, and they always creeped (crept?) me out. This one could be a lot of fun -- just keep your mind open and don't take anything for granted.

If I get a chance, I'll drop a few selections from my book on how to do a haunted house into my column here in the Café. I don't have a clue when I'll be able to finish writing the thing, but parts of the sections on theming and research might be useful to some members.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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ptbeast
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Congratulations Mystician. I'm glad to hear that you are back in the swing of things Halloween wise. I hope you have fun with this. Last year, after several years of working in big budget commercial haunts I co-directed a little fund raiser in the basement of the local high school. I have to tell you that I had a blast. A lot less pressure than a big time operation.

Anyway, I hope everyone doing haunts this year will keep this thread going. I know that there are quite a few of us here involved in haunted attractions and it is nice to hear what others are doing.

Dave
HauntingMagic
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I have wanted to make one to be up year 'round with a room like this (just spooked up a bit):

http://www.mysteryhill-nc.com/house.html

It is pretty cool, I have been there and it is a great illusion. Even knowing how it is done spoils nothing.
ptbeast
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Haunting --

There is a tourist attraction here in Oregon (the Oregon Vortex) based on the same principle. It was for sale a year or so ago. I wish I could have pulled it off.

Dave
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