A Haunted Blueprint Pt 7: 2015 Zombie Outbreak

I knew I needed to grow from last year, add more props. Add more sophisticated props too. That first year all I had was a surround sound setup inside the mudroom. Sure there was sound inside the room but you couldn’t hear anything from the road. I wanted to Draw attention, the best way to do so was with loud sounds. Its a haunt so its always hard trying to get bright lights involved.

I tried a few different tactics this year. I opened the garage door and put my PA speakers up to it, started playing loud zomie-isk sounds. A unique thing that I did this year was I grabbed a bunch of old clothes in a garbage bag. I poured a TON of fake blood in the garbage bag. I ripped open the bottom of it at the end of my driveway, then I dragged It into my garage. It worked perfect, left a body-like trail of blood from the end of my driveway near the road/sidewalk to the haunt. You wouldn’t have been able to walk past it if you tried.

This was the first year I was actually afraid the cops might say something. It all looked so real…

Part of the haunt that year was body bags, and lots of them. Which I made oddly enough out of garbage bags and old cereal boxes/milk containers. You form a body, tape up a couple garbage bags and it looks great. Don’t touch it though, it wasn’t that great of a prop. Either way I made about 20 of them, some for in the mudroom, some for outside hanging out of my wheel barrel and the final one I made with some yarn, put a bit more thought into it as It was hanging from a tree.

Inside I setup a small “Control Center” including a computer, a few monitors, some assorted cylinders around it. I wanted it to look like the epicenter of a zombie outbreak. On the screens I had DNA Helix’s spinning, but the window that’s a view of inside of my house I had a great projection of zombies attempting to break out. Overall it was fairly Cheesy, and I knew I could do better, but it worked and added the effects I wanted.

I was able to use the white clothes all over in the haunt, covering up “Bodies” these can be used to hide actors or props. One of the first animatronics I bought ended up being a step pack activated zombie. God it was terrible but I didn’t have the time to redo it, and it still worked for the effect that I wanted.

The turnout was much more than the previous ear, word of mouth spreads quickly. Overall the haunt was a success. I was left feeling I wanted to do more on a much bigger scale. The end of that year marked the beginning of something much, much bigger.

As always stay scared my friends.

 Author: Kevin Butler

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A Haunted Blueprint Pt 6: A 2014 Ritual

The first year is always tough. I bought my house in 2013, so I had to gauge if doing a haunted house was even worth it. No reason to do up all your decorations if no one comes around trick or treating. What would be the point?

By 2014 I knew that due to my location I would have a hot spot of people walking by Halloween night and I was determined to have a decent setup.

As a kid I was always intimidated by that one house you would walk buy that had fog and a small walk-through, it was terrifying yet exhilarating at the same time. I wanted to be that house on my street. I wanted people to fear walking up to it, in a good way of course.

Getting back to 2014, it was the first year. No decorations to start (Remember I was 25 when I bought my house). So I had to pick and choose what decorations to buy and what to make that first year. There was virtually no help, I didn’t exactly need it just yet as I was only setting up my mudroom. My mudroom has a ton of space, high walls and windows all around, perfect for seeing from the road.

Being in bands all my life, again the best purchase I ever had was a PA system. that ALWAYS comes in handy. I also had some old fog machines laying around. I have a friend who has a huge roll of White Flag cloth. He was and has been generous enough to let me use some pieces every year for various projects. God bless you Dave, I have no idea what I’m going to do once you run out of it!

Lighting is always a purchase, whether you are buying gels or different colored bulbs. this first year I think I used every cliche in the book. I also bought a low powered projector with some ghost projection dvd’s (Look up atomosfear FX). Funny I still get tagged in these videos even years after this came out. Oh dude check this out! Yeah.. that’s old news for me now I’ve been using that effect for years.

Anyways, on to the setup. Some candles, some cheap head in jar stuff, some real hair (for those that didn’t know I use to have long hair, cut it and saved some for this project.) glow sticks added for some “candlelight” in the jars. Pentagrams, ghostly projections. and the best part was the wall to the right as you walked in. I had this whole story about an amateur coven of witches doing satanic rituals. Tune into Rob’s blog to see what happens in the story side of things.

I covered the wall with this long tapestry type sheets of the white cloth. I threw a fan behind them, bam, perfect eerie waving walls in which someone could hide.

There was on effect I wanted that eluded me. I always had this picture of fog rolling out of the room, down the stairs almost inviting you to come in off the road.

A basic fog machine didn’t do it… at all. Not even close.

I said it before, no one showed me how to do any of this, it was all trial and error, learning this, learning that. I knew the effect I wanted, now I had to figure out how to do it.

Fog chiller. yes there are fog machines which produce chilled fog. The idea is simple. if the fog is cooler than the air outside, it will stick to the ground. Simple concept really. usually fog machines spew out hotish fog, therefore in order to get it to stick to the ground like in a graveyard, you need to cool it.

There are plenty of videos on how to do this, so I am not going to go into detail here. However I will say that for my first prop. It came out amazing and did the job as I liked. I just wish the fog stayed cooler, for longer, because after it heats up. It rises and the effect is gone. But for the first 45/50 seconds the fog rolled across my mudroom floor, and cascaded down my steps toward the street. Win.

The first year wasn’t even close to being what I would see as successful nowadays. I had maybe 30 kids walk through for candy? It was Halloween night and that was it. Still the kids I did have go through, got the scare of their life. One kid ran inside my house to get away from me!

Just from that experience I knew that next year I needed to make it bigger, and better.

In the next Update I will go over the 2015 season and the changes I made.

As always stay scared my friends.

 Author: Kevin Butler

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A Haunted Blueprint Pt 5: With A little help from my Friends.

There are many things that can make a haunt successful. Especially year after year. I need to talk about dedication. Not only from you as the person who is putting it on year after year, but from anyone else who is helping you.

When this first started, I was putting in long hours trying to create something amazing. Christian Merchant, a close friend, was there when the idea first came to fruition. He saw the small room I did year after year and when I told him I wanted to expand he thought it was a fantastic idea. It was taking that idea and making it a reality that really threw both of us off. It was a very big project to take on especially for one person at the time. Then Christian realized how serious I was. I had the walls built and I started working on the first brain and creating some programs with my raspberry pi. I showed Christian and he was sold. He helped me completely finish and build that first year.

There were a lot of friends that showed interest initially but just like every thing else in life. ideas are fantastic on paper but no one will ever believe you until it is all in place. So I would have to say maybe half the people that were initially interested didn’t get fully on board until they saw some real progress from my side. I don’t blame them, people usually don’t follow through on stuff of this magnitude.

Let me make this clear: I wouldn’t have half of what I have without the help I receive. I am truly grateful to have such amazing friends that are willing to help push the project forward. Like many of you I have a day job. This is what I do after hours, or on the weekends. Its really the only time I can fully devote to it.

Now that you are aware that this isn’t the only thing I do, and I don’t have all the time in the world to devote to it you might be able to understand where I am coming from when I explain that there are certain projects I will always deem as necessary, and others I deem as secondary.

Directing a play/show/concert will always come with critical decision making. You have to decide when and were to put the effort in especially when working with deadlines. Every year I have 100 projects I would like to work on, or ideas I would like to have completed. You need to choose what is most important and assign logical realistic time tables to each project.

This past year I had more help then ever before. Starting from the 2016 year halfway through when everyone realized how serious I was, they started to get serious too. My friend Rob was fully on board (He is Aeternum Vale’s other author), but his brother Josh wanted nothing more than to help out but was working out of town. So in 2017 Josh ended up being my right hand guy helping coordinate a ton of efforts. He would ask which projects needed to get done or what we needed to work on.

One of the most memorable moments came when josh was asking me about some projects and I let him know we simply just didn’t have time for these things to get done we may have been weeks away at this point and we had some more important things to take care of. Well I wake up on a Sunday morning at 9 am and I hear someone outside in the garage. I head out there and see Josh.. working. Must have been for hours. EVERY project I told him we didn’t have time for was done. I was absolutely speechless, kudos to you josh I know your reading this, that shit was amazing.

The growth that I have seen every year and the amount of excitement is absolutely amazing. I would love for this to continue over the next few years as we continue to grow and expand. Always remember, surround yourself with like minded people and you can and will have success. This goes out to the whole Aeternum Vale Attractions Team. You are all amazing, and thank you all for everything that you do.

As always stay scared my friends.

 Author: Kevin Butler

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A Haunted Blueprint Pt 4: Reverse Feng Shui

What is Feng Shui? It is a system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy. That is the direct definition of it anyways. So what on earth does it mean and what does it have to do with a haunted house? Well, I am so glad that you asked. It literally has everything to do with a haunted house.

Most of the time when people think of feng shui, they think of arranging a room to make it look pleasant, or nice. this is the act of practicing feng shui. When it comes to haunted houses we want to reverse everything that feng shui teaches. This is because when someone walks into one of your rooms, you want them to feel uneasy, you want to feel like they don’t belong. When patrons have the uneasy feeling, they are much easier to scare.

Let’s take a moment to talk about poison arrow. First, let me give some credit where credit is due. I first heard the term and learned about it from Allen Hopps from Dark Hour. He is an incredibly gifted haunter and just by watching his videos and watching the lectures he gave has opened my eyes to the bigger picture. Anyways Poison arrow is a type of negative energy that is emitting from an object that is pointed directly at you. The worst feeling in the world is walking into a room to have a bunch of strangers just pointing at you. Well, little do we know that the same can happen with objects. such as cabinet doors pointing at you, knives on a table, even random markings on a wall. All of this affects us negatively and puts us in a state of unease.

I will let you know right now, I don’t claim to know everything, in fact, I am a firm believer that we are all still learning but applying simple concepts such as this can really improve a scare.

Things that we can do to negatively affect our sets. Well, we just talked about poison arrow, so that’s one part. Obscuring the exits (this is why a maze is perfect for a haunted house). Obscuring the exits gives a sense of being lost, heightening anxiety and increasing the fear response in humans. Even obscuring the entrance can provoke a heightened sense of anxiety. For all those wondering why they didn’t even want to go into the haunt the last few years, I got you ;). Clutter, dirty rooms, No one ever wants to spend more time in a dirty room. The smell, Yes we use the sense of smell in our haunt. there are even smell cans you can buy that smell of blood, trash or anything else unsettling that you are trying to accomplish. Remember you are creating a scene and you want to draw in the guest, it needs to be believable to get a good scare.

Its all about presentation and setup. You are creating a world, an alternate universe if you will. The patron that is going through needs to believe they are part of this now. The only way we can do that is with the detail. They need to believe that all props are real, and its even better if they feel they are actually in danger, even though they will never be. If you are already anxious before stepping foot into any of my rooms, I got you. If you are too scared to go through, I got you.

As always stay scared my friends.

 Author: Kevin Butler

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A Haunted Blueprint Pt 3: Tools Of the Trade

I mentioned the pic-a-boo and the boo-box in the first part of “A Haunted Blueprint”. I am willing to bet that not many of you know what these actually are. Simply put, they are a brain. These control everything from sounds to lights to animatronics. You attach a trigger to it (IE Motion sensor, tripwire, or pressure pad) and it plays the “Scene” that you dedicated to that trigger.

They come in many different sizes, usually the bigger the size, the more scenes you can do with one controller. Every respectable haunt will have some type of brain that is working behind the scenes. These are how you are able to cue up lighting sounds and lights (apart from lightning machines which they make). Some places use them for guns or cannon blast. It really only depends on what effect you are attempting to do. I used them last year to trigger Dr. Steele’s voice over the intercom, I also set up alarms and loud sounds timed with the air blaster. Really the way you use them is endless.

But the brain is only a small part of the production. I also like to use raspberry pi’s. For those of you that don’t know what these are, they are literally just a mini computer about the size of an over-sized credit card. One of my favorite uses is a looped video playback. Pick an Mp4 file, toss it on a USB, and put it in my raspberry pi which has been configured to just continually play any movie that the USB has on it. Great for picture scares/video blogs/people stuck in a tank.

Projectors, I figured this one went without saying, but the amount of fantastic effects you can do with a projector is almost endless. Always love the creepy crawlies coming out of the stone floor or wall, that’s a good one.

I almost don’t want to mention fog machines, only because there are many places that can’t even use them. It all comes down to if you are ventilated enough to disperse the fog when/if an emergency arises.

The sound is a big one. I have a leg up in this area only because I have been in bands since I was a young kid. The amount of pro audio I have is ridiculous. You need loud, clear sound. A lot of the effects you have rely on quick loud sounds to get jump scares, plus we always play some type of backdrop music that makes sense with the haunt. Last year we had rips right from fallout itself, not sure if anyone noticed but we thought it was a nice detail that we added.

Last but certainly not least is lighting. Lighting is a crucial part of any haunt. specifically the lack of. I have many different colors, for all sorts of occasions, it depends on what I am attempting to do in that set at any given time. Black lights are always super popular and allow for different effects. We had some great concoctions of Dr. Steele’s elixir last year. It glowed in the black light.

Ultimately your tools of the trade are going to be everything you can get your hands on. With enough ingenuity like we talked about in the previous blog, you should be able to create something that is not only fun but scary as well.

As always stay scared my friends.

 Author: Kevin Butler

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