I remember my first haunted house as a child: my brother and I had to be ushered out in tears. My mother didn’t explain to us why such a thing existed. Why would people want to walk through a dark claustrophobic space where monsters scream at you and spooky sounds ooze from gory decor? Later, once the tradition was explained to me, I was eternally hooked. Halloween is essentially a time where everyone is allowed to cut loose, be extraordinarily creative and venture out of their comfort zones to frightening / awesome new places.
Every year as a kid, I would set up elaborate lawn displays with leaf stuffed dummies attacking each other with garden tools. One year I created a haunted house in my parents garage with disorienting smells, dark hallways and dummies hanging out of the attic. I also worked as a scare actor in a local haunted house in Central NY and created a terrifying scene for a haunted hayride.
Haunts are an escape from reality go hand in hand with the willing participation players surrender to in escape room game spaces.
My least favorite part of haunted houses is the conga line of people being forced to move too quickly through spaces. I want to stop and admire the bloody sets and details. When I play escape rooms, I know this was what I always wanted from haunted attractions - interacting with scene objects in meaningful ways. In a haunt, there are ample opportunities for participants to be drawn in closer to create lasting memorable experiences.
Interactive Haunts were spawned to break the “run through and miss the details” formula of old. They are a cross between the problem solving of an escape room and the horror maze of a haunt. With these types of more thoughtful interactions, we are brought deeper into the story world of the haunt. Just as the horror genre of film has morphed from classic slasher to psychological horror as audiences seek a deeper examination of the uneasy feelings we get, interactive haunts engage our exploration of the macabre.
Zombie paintball and haunted camping experiences may be cancelled for the year, but keep an eye out for drive through haunts, online haunts and other creative spooky experiences. People in the year 2020 are looking for a good reason to get out and do something extraordinary.