A Haunted Blueprint Pt 2: Ingenuity

When I said I had a lot to learn, I wasn’t kidding. Even though I had been doing it for a few years, there is a right way and a wrong way. Do you want to get a scare? Or do you want to get a laugh? Most homeowners buy the store bought animatronics and call it a day. I wasn’t any different.

Let’s walk into any generic Halloween outlet and buy that cool animatronic that’s for sale for 300$. I’m going to stop you right there, any real haunter is going to laugh you out of the park. Let me tell you how I use stores like this now. I walk in with an idea, these stores are more like a home depot or a lowes to me, I look at what they have and what I can make it into.

Sometimes buying the animatronic, stripping it down, adding your own flair to it is more cost-effective than creating your own. I mean if that’s what you are going for that is. Some of the limited motion these devices have isn’t exactly the best. We are intuitive though, so you need to have an open mind and use it how you see fit.

One year I used an old animatronic to be triggered by a motion sensor that would pull a string and move a rocking chair. From where the patron was standing the rocking chair was moving by itself, but in fact, I just used the motor from an old animatronic. Which brings me to my next point, NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY.

I have this great philosophy, the worse it looks the better it is. One of the key components to having successful set design is the uneasy feeling that you get from a room. The use of reverse feng shui is something I am constantly going on about. I will go over this in more detail in another blog post but just know that when it comes to Horror design, I rely on this an absolute ton.

Getting back to my main point is, I feel everything can be used more than once, for more than one purpose. Most of the time your sets aren’t going for a super clean *new* look, so what does it matter if something is beaten an battered? It doesn’t. Most of the time we take time to stress a set to make it look old anyway.

Old paint, old props, old costumes, old blankets. All of this is something to be aware of when creating your sets. You must be creative, think outside the box. Find new ways to use old props. Every year I use the sign from previous years somewhere within my haunt. I try to make it so that if you look closely enough you can see it, as a throwback to the previous years. Can you find last years sign when you come this year?

As always stay scared my friends.

 Author: Kevin Butler

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A Haunted Blueprint Pt 1: Introduction

Let me first start out by introducing myself for those that do not know. My name is Kevin Butler. I have been doing a large scale haunted maze from my garage for the last few years. Plans are to continue to grow an rent out a place to do what we all love. The idea of this multi-part series is to give you a in depth look at me, my philosophies, and possibly even gear you up to create your own fantastic haunt.

Some guys have been doing this for years, some have had a mentor, and some maybe even worked in the industry. I haven’t had any of this. I have only been doing it by myself for myself for a few years now and I have learned a lot.

I am obsessed with research, learning techniques, figuring out different ways of doing the things that I want. When it comes to haunted houses this is no different. All these years I have had to wear many, many different hats. Carpenter one day, electrician the next, hell even sometimes a plumber. You need to have a good amount of knowledge or at least the will to learn it.

Every year the entire team is forced to do at least one thing out of their comfort zone, and you either do it or you risk losing it all. In this industry, as well as any other, its all about the customer. Our patrons don’t usually get to see what happens behind the scenes or exactly how crazy each of us go to get ready for opening night but it surely is a sight to behold. I have a lot of respect for those that help me every year, we are all in this together for one ultimate goal, to scare the living hell out of everyone that comes through our maze.

Everything starts with an idea. Some of which have been done countless times so there are fantastic tutorials online on how to do them, such as an air cannon, you can find so many different ways to make one its mind boggling. Other things there isn’t very much knowledge out there on and you have to become creative.

What draws me in every year is the technology. I love motion sensors, pic-a-boo/Boo-Box controllers, Raspberry Pi’s, DMX lighting, the list goes on. Every year I write programs which my controllers will run to do various things within my haunt. Just like every other program ever written its always if than. Mostly if this motion sensor gets tripped, then run this program.

Every year I have a vision, something I want to do. Is it out of the realm of possibility? Nah never! Is it too expensive for me to do? Yeah most likely, but I find a way to do something similar. Last year I had this vision for one of my rooms. The security room. You walk in, you’re faced with a wall of monitors, on each one of them a different room, the lower right, it’s your room! As you start to wave your hand to see if its a recording or live, someone sneaks out behind you scaring you to all hell.

Did it work as intended? Yes and no. I had a very old security system (Coax cable) it didn’t allow for me to have any more than 1 monitor… are you kidding me? Ok, let’s figure this out because I have 6 old monitors from a previous job. I got a splitter, great but the splitter only allowed for 4 monitors.. well that’s going to have to do. Guess what? All the monitors play the same video, and there was no way to split it up.. well shit. I had to put them all on a 5-second loop. Just long enough for people to stop in and watch and eventually get to the camera that is them, it had to be a sweet spot of time. Not to short because the scare wouldn’t work, no too long because they would get bored and walk by it. The ultimate question is did it work? Yes, we had some fantastic scares in that room. It was a unique idea that I haven’t seen elsewhere, although I have to be sure someone did something similar at some point.

The idea is we try to be original, we strive for the uniqueness that sets us apart from other haunts. We enjoy the detail that we are able to put into each and every project. Even if the patron isn’t going to see it. We understand its dark, some things go unnoticed. Some would call that wasted work, I don’t believe in that because even if one person goes through and see it, that’s worth it to us. Stay scared my friends.

 

                                                                                                                             Author: Kevin Butler

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Planning Begins!

2018, very big things in store for this years show. I say show because Aeternum Vale Attractions is more than just a haunted house, we are a story, a play. Its a short walk-through for now, but as anyone knows the more times you walk through, the more of the story you actually see. The biggest secret I can say is that Dr Steele will be back for another year. His antics were great last year teasing everyone and ultimately being one of the best villains in our small fallout history.

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I will not say what the overall theme is until we draw closer but the story has been written and the actors have been briefed, we are now looking at set design and marketing.

We attempt to add on every year, this year is no different. Plans to add to the entrance way and extend the walk time are already getting pushed forward. We know its early, but we take pride in the detail we are able to portray in such a small space. This is what sets us apart from some other local attractions. Quality not Quantity.

As you are very well aware, we have set up the website, this year our marketing efforts will be 10 times that of the previous years, and we hope that it shows in the turnout and the donation box. Speaking of which there is a gofundme on this website, even if you only want to donate a small amount, anything helps us in our continued effort of excellence. Stick with us as we continue to update the blog. Stay Scared my friends.