Due to the recent destruction of our donated parking lot, our Haunted House design this year is much narrower than in previous years. We kicked out the façade a ways and are utilizing areas behind the church to give us the same square footage in the floorplan, but as a result, the layout is very different from previous years. We wanted to build on the confining feeling created by a narrower house, and really work to emphasize the additional length of the layout. So while a customer may walk the same number of steps as they would have in a previous house, the lack of front-to-back switch backs or the long hallways that reverse on themselves, combined with the emphasis on keeping the traffic always moving towards the front of the house really messes with your head and gives you the feeling that this one just goes on and on and on.
The first problem was how to create the boundary that was previously created naturally by the zombie cemetery and corner building. Luckily, our experience in building long, narrow hallways provided us with a solution, so it was back to Home Depot for a couple dozen nine inch nails so we could build a bunch of wall anchors.
Originally, we thought we could build out to the temporary construction fence, but the road graders and dump trucks drive through it quite often, so we decided to give it lots of room! We placed the wall anchors about 30’ back from the fence.
Although I always refer to this portion of the house as “the maze”, there’s never really been more than one path through it. A couple of dead ends have allowed us to place characters or maze runners with chainsaws, but there was only one successful path through the house. This year, we put in an actual maze, with four paths through the house as long as customers continue to move forward. We’ll see how it all works out as customers now have the ability to double back into the house rather than move out which may create some traffic bottlenecks, but then, that’s why we have maze runners.
Another area I’m excited about is The Dark Room. Our house tends to be very noisy – strobe lights, stereos blasting loud music and sound effects, smoke machines, and black lights. The Dark Room is a section of covered switchbacks with no interior lights and walls clad in sound proofed material. Customers enter via a low entryway, and their ability to see ends after the first turn. From there, they will need to feel their way through the room until they are led to the exit, all the while unable to see anyone that follows them through the room, or what else might be hiding in there with them. The sound proofing should also induce a slightly claustrophobic feeling as the pressure in the room will feel different without the hard walls to bounce sound back to customers.
We moved the zombie cemetery to a space up a small hill behind the church. While we just started building the “Psycho Path” that leads to it, we’re investigating what we can do with the overhead space now that we have trees and mount points above an area in the maze. As in all things, time and money will determine what we finally do when we open.
It’s dumped rain on and off as we’ve been building, so it’s really starting to feel like Haunted House season! I really like the completely different feel to the house this year, and while I’m sad at the prospect of this final year, I’m excited by the new design that resulted from the changes to our parking lot! With the maze built, the focus now turns to running powerlines, dressing out rooms and scenes, and finishing up the house before opening night!
Probably the most pleasure I get is the designing phase. I think that’s the fun part where you can see how you expect it’s going to work, and you can kind of have a giggle sometimes if it looks good. And then you have that horrible phase where you have to make it.
~ Blair Somerville
You always have to keep pushing to innovate.
~ Steve Jobs