2013 Haunted House: Post Mortem

The thrill and the excitement of the haunted house at Vintage Parkway Elementary School lasted about 3 hours and then it was over. Considering Mark and I put about 30 days of effort and time, materials and money into the project, we do believe it was highly successful for the Harvest Carnival sponsored by the school. Yet, like most haunts, there are improvements that will be made for 2014.

I felt we planned well prior to starting the project, we had a layout that required us to update it about 4 times, including one modification while we were building the PVC structure. Unfortunately, I incorrectly measured the dimension of the stage and had to remove 10′ to the overall length. In the end the revamped version of the layout still worked out by decreasing the width of many of the corridors, especially in the maze. I believe there could be better use of space in a few of the attractions in the house.

graveyardOne of the problem areas this year was the graveyard. This room was the second to last room of our scare and we used this room constantly to stage stuff in. It was also one we didn’t spend much time on decoration and looking back on it now was poorly laid out by us. In fact, I don’t think a graveyard will grace our haunt in 2014. The interior of a mausoleum might work better, it’s something we get to mull over for 10 months. One positive was the use of a 400w fogger using a fog chiller. The desired effect gave us rolling fog, which was incredible looking!

spiderlairExiting the graveyard you walked through a spider lair. I was fortunate enough to hang quite a few spider webs that looked good, low enough for kids, but required adults to duck down in order to walk through. Many different kids of spiders were present down the hallway and overlooking the exit. A black light would have made the webs look even better, but much like the graveyard, this room might disappear next year.

Another failure this year, the hall of faces, which was supposed to walls of hockey masks, multi-colored staring back at the unsuspecting guests who visited. I initially ordered 20 masks and then found plain, white masks, which I ordered. Unfortunately, those masks were all on back order for 4-6 weeks and would not arrive in time for the haunt. Mark did a good job with the mask/scare placement in this corridor. This was also the only area in which we nearly lost a wall due to exuberant teenagers acting stupid! We were able to repair the wall while the haunt was going on.

I never did receive any feedback on the maze, so I am not quite sure how well it went over. What was nice about the maze was it was tight, walking through 2′ corridors that twisted and turned in the darkness. We did have a few wrong turns that usually lead to a scarer. There were some ghouls and ghosts, along with a killer clown hung in corners looking down on the guests. We did end up with a very small, one foot alcove, which is where we hung the severed head, lighted by a strobe. The effect looked good, but the head got lost due to the small size of the alcove, better placement is needed for a strong effect.

dotroomWith all the work and effort put in by my wife, mother in law, Amy, Robin, Susan and myself the dot room came off better than I expected. I started painting sheets about 2 weeks prior to the haunt, which was a mistake. Apply Gesso, followed by fluorescent paint was a LONG process. Paint on the black sheets required you to completely white out of the black or the yellow and green would look nearly identical under a black light. The problem here was we had a few different shades of yellow, some darker, some lighter and a few with an orange tint. That was my wife’s idea to add some orange to the yellow, which really made them stand out, but due to time constraints we only did 1 sheet that way.

This was my primary room the entire evening. I was dressed in black sweats with dots over me as I disappeared into the walls. The black mask I had on was a fail because the colored dots were not on fabric, but white paper and under the black light looked different than the orange, yellow and green dots on the black sheets. Even with that shortcoming many people were impressed with the room and the desired effect. There were times I had unsuspecting people walk right by me without as much as a look or a nod. Many kids were frightened, especially when I started moving along the wall or towards them. Screams and crying meant the desired effect was achieved!

Ainkblotnother room I felt was successful was the ink blot hallway. This room got expensive quickly since I used FedEx Office to print out 20 inkblots I created using Photoshop. The inkblots came out very nice and I had thoughts of saving and reusing them next year. After I bloodied them up and used spray adhesive to place about 14 on the wall, my thoughts of reusing them faded. I ended up hanging 6 inkblots at various heights. We also had a prop that failed on us the day of the event, it was a deathly looking male who is shackled to a board, being electrified. With his failure we lost some of the excitement of this hallway, but the room still worked out.

We received many positive comments about the haunted house, not only from guests but staff and administrators. That alone made the effort with it. We are not even at Halloween and I am already planning how to improve on what we did this year. I am putting together a list of rooms and attractions for next year, not all will be included but we will plan on reusing some of the ideas we used last Friday.

A major failure this year was our planning when it came to guides, those 5th graders to lead a group through the haunt. Somehow we overlooked the fact we only had 2 flashlights, which was bumped to 3 sometime during the evening. This severely slowed the procession of guests through the haunt. I understand some people might have been turned away because the ticket line (not for the haunt, but the carnival in general) was very long. Chances are we could have pushed more people through the haunt if the ticket line flowed better.

All in all I had a great time putting on my first haunt. Thankfully I will be putting this together the next 3 years while my son is attendance at Vintage Parkway. The goal for next year, improve on what we created this year and raised the bar to be even better. Now the real fun begins, as we have to pull down all the props, plastic and PVC in order to have the stage cleaned up as soon a possible. Thanks to everyone involved and those who were guests to The 6th Fright. Scare you next year!