Rooms

Even with the 2013 haunt behind us, I had a good idea as to what rooms I what rooms/areas I wanted to include this year. It all seemed to come together, somewhat slowly as the year progress and October rolled around. I vowed it would be “a prop a month” in order to save some money and improve on the overall aesthetics of the haunt. Were we successful? Maybe on a few levels, but I felt we lacked something, which began with a unifying theme of the haunt.

Once the construction was done, I had put together a spreadsheet of what we need in each area for the haunt to come together. I should have started this process much earlier in the year and not waited until the last minute to start buying props and items we needed in order to complete the haunt. Doing one thing per month for a year would provide enough time to make some pretty kick ass items to include.

Going room by room starting as you walked through the entrance, which remained relative unchanged, the first area you came to was the hall of faces. The centerpiece of our haunt was to be the drop window hallway. Leading out of this hall was a small ‘C’ shaped room, which went unassigned until nearly the last minute. It wasn’t very big, I didn’t have any props and actually debated about removing it completely. I decided to use the dot room a second year in a row, which was describe by one of the guides as “our pretty room.” Okay. From there some more dark hallway and you made the turn down the hanging head hallway, which was a late add this year after failing to secure the swimming noodles. Finally, before you exit this terror, you had to get past our resident clown, who seemed to have gone nameless, but we did have a good time coming up with names for him on Facebook.

Hall of Faces: Reading about this idea last year, I was excited to try it. It seemed cost effective and rather easy to pull off. I purchased 132 white face masks from Oriental Trading, a piece I failed to do last year resulting in 20 hockey masks, which made no impact in the haunt. In order to pull off this twisting, turning hallway I picked up two black lights from Spirit at $29.99. I guess you can never have enough black lights, but this gave use a total of 4 lights, three of which would in each piece of the hallway in order to give off a glowing effect on the masks.

For the masks I ended up using florescent paint I picked up last year from Lowe’s, yellow, green and orange. The nice part about using these masks, I didn’t need to fully cover the masks. A light, random spray to the mask provided a wonderfully scary effect. Of the 132 masks I hung 118, thinking I had lost 24 (2 packs) masks, little did I know they got stuck behind a prop box, which I failed to move. With the two hanging props we had, 118 masks ended up ample to cover the 7′ walls. I decided not to cover the top and bottom one foot on each wall.

This area  included two scarers. The scarers were 5th graders who signed up to help either as a guide or as a scarer. Mark cut two holes in the black plastic and the scarer would don the mask and place their head through the hole, resembling “just another mask.” Right after that they would open their eyes and scare the guests as they passed. From the screaming and comments I heard, I feel we pulled this first area off very well. It was vastly improved over last year and I feel it was probably the stronger part of the haunt, even though it was one of the simplest rooms we designed.

Drop Window Hallway: This hallway, complete with 2 drop windows was to be the centerpiece of our haunt this year. I watched countless minutes of Hellmouth Halloween on You Tube and loved the reactions of guests as they passed by these pictures, which in turn dropped revealing a ghoul who would scare them as they passed by.

The hallway and drop windows are top notch. Mark and I spared no expense at building and painting these walls (flat black) in order for them to be included this year. The drop windows were staggered by four feet in the hallway, on opposite sides. Logistically they were solid, in reality our problems were just beginning.

The walls went up quick and simple. The more walls we erected and connected the stronger the hallway got. The PVC of the surrounding areas were screwed into the 2×2 frame and we felt very good about the overall safety of the hallway. This was an early concern when it was in the design phase a few months back.

The other problem we encounter was mounting the TV monitor at the end of the hallway so guests could monitor themselves as they moved forward in the narrow hallway. That left a bit to be desired because we didn’t have enough light for the camera to make our individuals until they were nearly between the drop windows. We did add some low voltage, battery operated light blubs to the walls, which provided a bit of light but too away from the flickering blubs I purchased from Spirit that were hanging above the hallway.

At a few points while building the layout, we debated about even including the camera and TV due to safety reasons. We had no way to mount the TV to guarantee it would not fall. There was no wall to mount it to, there was no wood or PVC readily available. In the end, we did use the TV and put 2x2s in front and back of the TV so it could not tip forward or backward. Not sure how effective that would have been if someone came crashing into the PVC walls, but I did reassure myself the frame on which the TV sat was sturdy and secure.

Actors were placed behind both windows and were shown how to operate them. Unfortunately a design flaw was not being able to see the TV very well from behind the windows. This caused problems as I heard the windows dropping at different times, sometimes seconds apart. Still there was startled laughter and screaming, so we must have got part of it right. In order to correct the problem, mounting monitors (like Hellmouth did) or giving a clear view to the TV at the end of the hallway would resolve any future problem.

Insane Clown: At the end of the drop window hallways guests turned right and into a darkened room with a single flickering strobe light. We mounted a Frank-n-cuted prop (from Spirit) on the wall, but the sensor to active him was hit and miss. This was one of the only rooms I spent very little time, effort and money on. I had some great ideas, but was not able to implement them for various reasons. Along with the prop, I placed an actor who wore an insane clown mask with a mouth guard and straightjacket.

From all the screams I hear, Nate, our insane clown did a fine job wandering the small area scaring groups as they passed through. My original idea was to have him sitting in the middle of the room on a wood chair, rocking back and forth, mumbling and laughing to himself. Not once did I hear any laughing coming from him.

Dot Room: Groups were sometime chased by the insane clown down a narrow hallway into the dot room, which made its appearance for the second year. I don’t feel the impact was as good as last year, since many kids had already experienced it. The room was only 8’x8′ this year, a decrease in size from last year, but implemented better with the sheets hanging their full length. While the room was larger last year, I was able to round the corners of the room, which I read, helps the effect of the dots when guests entered the room.

Another change was the one piece, black spandex costume I wore, which had painted on dots to match the walls (Thanks Robyn!) This allowed me I was also able to push myself into the walls a bit more. Still with many knowing what this room offered I will still able to startle many guests

Not sure if this will return next year or not, but am thinking of how I could re-purpose these sheets in a hallway, which might have a unique effect depending on how we approach the haunt next year.

Hanging Head Hallway: This hallway was thrown together at the last minute, as I missed out on the opportunity to purchase the swimming noodles, which were to hang from the ceiling for guests to walk through, lit up by a black light. With this idea out of the window, we needed to come up with another idea for the hallway.

Last year I spent good money on a severed head hanging from a large hook. This year it acted as the centerpiece in the hallway, which was about 4′ wide. We littered the floor with bones and skulls that were lit with an LED candles. Black cloth and strobes were hung on every other rung we installed above the hallway that would of had the swimming noodles hanging from. Overall, not a very impressive hallway, but it helped round out the haunt.

Clowning Around: I never made it this far in the haunt and left the props and decoration up to Mark, since this would be his domain before guests exited the haunt. Dressed in a red, black and white clown suit, Mark would pop around a corner and scare the guests as they walked toward the exit. The floor was littered with a dead body, spiders and webbing clung to the walls. There was orange lights at the top of the halls and strobes accentuated the hallway.

These last two rooms didn’t really come off as I expected them to. I was hoping to bring out a stronger clown theme, but as late as a theme came to mind, it was not possible to implement it as expected. We still feel we succeed in the rooms we did have this year. It was a good combination, which allowed us to build a better haunt than last year.

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