Time to Haunt

I might have unfairly judged the haunt when I posted my thoughts and opinions for the 2014 6th Fright on Sunday. When I left the school after the event, I was discouraged and frustrated. A great deal of time had been invested in designing, building and readying the haunt for the Harvest Carnival. Anticipation was high and I believe I had set my expectation level even higher, especially after the success in 2013. Mark and I both knew we wanted to improve the haunt this year and hopefully the reputation from last year would bring more visitors and tickets (or money) in for the PTA to distribute to the teachers.

Even with the late start on building the haunt, we felt we were ready before Friday arrived. I had planned on getting to school early in order to set up a last minute details and make sure everything was in order before we set the first group of visitors through. While I didn’t lose track of time, there were moments of frustration because as it ticked closer to 6PM Mark and I realized we had no bodies to take tickets and process groups with guides through the haunt. I will take full responsibility for this disorganized mess. I still have vivid images of a full queue, a gaggle of 5th graders and here I am standing the doorway to the entrance saying, “We aren’t going to open until I get someone to take tickets. Sorry.” The last time I looked at my watch, we were at least 20 minutes late.

Once we had volunteers in place, the confusion continued as I was not able to fully brief the them as to their duties and responsibilities because my number one concern was to get in costume and open the doors. Thankfully Kim, from the office staff arrived and I quickly tasked her with leadership duties and gave her a quick and dirty explanation of what I needed. She did a wonderful job, Mark and I both agree that she went above and beyond to make this work as late as we were opening the doors.

It was my plan to send groups through about every 60 seconds. I tried to explain, “when you hear a loud thud (that was the drop windows), let another group enter.” Not sure that was a wise move on my part, as there were times it look guests longer to walk the entrance and hall of faces before even getting to the drop panel hallway. This created a further back up at the entrance and groups would then back up into each other.

When it came to the guides, I will need to create a master list next year. Screw the matrix and assigned times that just added to the confusion especially when someone didn’t show up or had to back out if their parents did not sign the permission slip. I am not sure even sure how they handled the guides and scarers at the door. Once I was in costume, standing in the dot room all I cared about was getting people processed. When we create a list next year you won’t be assigned a time. We will take individuals on a first come, first serve basis. The same goes for scarers. The vice principal even suggested the use of the 5th grade in leadership to participate. I didn’t tell her that all 5th graders had the opportunity to help, but she might have something.

With the stage lights off, the music on and actors in their position it was time to scare, but at this point all I wanted was the haunt to be over. I was discouraged at the rate at which guests were coming through and the fact that guides weren’t prepped and had no idea of the layout or what to expect walking through the haunt. Time after time, a guide would enter the dot room and shine the flashlight right at me, as if to say to their group, “there he is.” “WTF!” was the only thing I thought at those moments. Again, further frustration.

Even with all the negatives from my point of view, we heard considerably more screaming than last year. We posted two kids, who donned colored masks, like those in the hall of faces and poke their heads out of the wall. This startled many guests as the night went on. Initially I had planned to use 3 students but in my frustration I cut it by one, which probably ended up screwing 10 students out of being a scarer.

The drop panel hallway was set up great and we had high expectations for it to pull it’s weight as the centerpiece of the haunt. Guests would turn right out of the hall of faces and look down a hallways with pictures on the halls with flickering lights overhead. At the far end of the hallway was a video monitor. It was my hope that people would watch the monitor and not pay close attention to the windows. When guests stepped between the two staggered down panel, the actors would release the latches.

Part of the problem in the hallway was viewing the monitor from the haunting position. One actor could see it well, the other had to really stretch back to get a view of it. I don’t think I heard the windows slam down together once, all night. The other problem I had, one of the actors was singing when she dropped the panel. Much like the flashlight shining on me, all I could think of was, “WTF?” Still with actors operating the windows I wasn’t going to complain.

As the night wore on, one of the actors left their drop panel after it broke. I was informed the panel broke and it could not be closed with the latch. A 2″ screw had sheared off and without drilling a new hole, the actor would need to manually hold the window in the up position. I guess this got to be too much and the actor just left her position without as much as a goodbye. That frustrated me more as the night continued to crumb down around us.

Thankfully we had a bright spot with Nate, who the PTA President introduced to us. He was going to play the part of the insane clown. Dressed in a straightjacket with a white clown face and mouth guard, I gave him free reign in his room/hallway. I know for a fact he frightened quite a few guests as their exited the drop panel hallway delving deeper in the haunt. He was so good that some guests ended up running into the dot room to get away from him. At the end of the night he was very appreciative to have had a chance to work the haunt. So we thanked Nate for his involvement.

Guests weren’t as startled with the dot room as they were last year. I just wish I would have hung the sheets higher last year for the best desired effect. Yet that didn’t happen and this year the room was shortened, giving me less room to roam. Not sure that really mattered as the one piece, black, spandex suite painted with dots by Robyn was awesome! Not quite sure how goofy I looked walking around in it after the haunt, but during the haunt it worked well. I was able to sink into the walls much better than last year and was still able to startle many people and even made some kids cry.

Mark probably had a strongest impact on the kids, dressed up in a clown suite with a scary mask and his shoulder length, dark hair out of a pony tail. He and I were very close in terms of our positions in the haunt and were discuss the positive and negatives in the lulls we experienced during the 2 hours the Harvest Carnival was going on. There were many screams from that last corridor before guests exited the haunt. I can still hear kids saying, “I don’t want to go by him…” Those sort of comments were further evidence that we put together a good haunt this year.

Despite all the problems we faced in the moments just after 6PM; no volunteers, disorganization with the guides and scarers and not getting a full 2 hours in, it was still worth ever minute of work we put into the haunt the previous 3 weeks. While I wrote we would consider what to build next year, I have a GREAT idea with a full blown that appears initially to be very inexpensive to accomplish.

Thanks to all the parents and kids who went through the 6th Fright his year. I also want to thank those who ended up as our volunteers for the night and we would like to especially call out Kim for her much needed help. I need to apologize to the 5th graders for the confusion, but that’s what happens when I couldn’t be in two places at once and had to let something fall by the wayside, I will make it up next year, even though it will be a new group who will assist us in the haunted house.

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