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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Timor Ignotum: A Dark Past – Part 2

Welcome back Readers,

…paralyzed by fear – I start trembling. With the hairs standing up on my arms and neck I feel a chilled breath hit the nape of my neck—That wasn’t my heartbeat…

The door slams shut.

I jump and turn in terror then fall over backward, dropping my flashlight on the ground; it rapidly spins as it slides across the floor giving a strobe-like ambiance. Each pass around as the light aims in the direction of the door, I see a brief glimpse of a translucent figure, seemingly female, appear closer with each pass of the light. I cower cringing my head to the side raising my forearm in front of my face, palm facing outward. I shut my eyes in an infantile manner as if the tightening of my eyelids even harder would make the apparition disappear and somehow bring me solace. A moment passes and nothing happens; I start to open my eyes slightly to see if whatever it was has gone away, however, the spinning of the flashlight has stopped and was not facing in the direction I was attempting to see. I strain my eyes attempting to adjust to the darkness when I hear a female voice whisper in my ear. I sit paralyzed and yet somehow, I am feeling a little safer and even more curious as I hear this singular word spoken from the apparition. What could it mean? I wonder. I cautiously scoot toward the dimmed light of the flashlight beam facing the wall to my back and slowly reach to grab it. I grasp the flashlight and vigilantly pan the beam to my front, aiming toward the door. Nothing… whatever it was it’s gone now. I comfort myself. I pick myself up and headed my way back toward my truck. I can’t help but have my mind plaguing the events that occurred and cannot seem to stop thinking about that word I heard whispered to me… Steal? Steal what? I wonder. I get to my truck and head home for the night not being able to think about anything else, trying to connect everything I have witnessed and what could have possibly been stolen and by whom.

Days had passed and still, I have not figured out what truly happened that night. It wasn’t until the following year when I had received the next curious case, that things began to start making some sense.

 

Author: Rob Breault

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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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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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Timor Ignotum: A Dark Past – Part 1

Welcome Readers,

How did I get to this point? What is going on here? What is the common factor behind all of this? Staring at my 4 by 8-foot wall-mounted tackboard covered in pictures, newspaper clippings, internet printouts, and sticky notes galore; all of which is linked together by an elaborate spider web semblance made of yarn and tacks. What am I missing? I couldn’t help but think. Maybe I just need to start again from the beginning. “Ok, Jack let’s do this”, bouncing back and forth from leg to leg, shaking my arms loose. “Let’s just run this again from the top. Alright, just need to start back from where it all began and I can piece it all together. You got this Jack!” I attempt to convince myself aloud. “Ok, so it all began a few years ago. I remember vividly, it was 2014 – the first of November – that’s when I first heard…”

November 1, 2014

“Hey, Jack! We got an anonymous tip. I need you to look into this case, go press on the cops and see what you can get out of them.” as the executive editor slaps a transcript file on my desk. “You got it, no problem”. Lifting and opening the file. What is this? I can’t help but wonder as I skim the transcript. Let’s see, appears to be 13 dead… circle… drawn in blood? …several additional presumed dead… not yet confirmed… appearing to be… sacrifices? Reports of strange eerie satanic chanting type sounds? and… inexplicable sights? What the fu… “Hey, boss, what is this all about? It seems a bit farfetched.” I call out as I rise from my desk chair to heard toward the executive editor’s office. “Does this seem legit enough to follow through with?” I ask. “Well Jack, I called up a contact I have on the force; one of which I just so happened to have acquired throughout the 27 years I have been in this line of work and he said… that unfortunately, this time he can’t help because he has been strictly forbidden from discussing this particular ‘ongoing investigation’. So yes Jack, I would say there is some substance to this story. Now, how about you remember your place, do whatever the hell I tell you to do, and go do your damn job!” After that, I shut my mouth, lowered my eyes, nodded, and walked out to go follow up on the case.

When I got to the police station, as predicted, they denied any knowledge and refused to give me anything about the case stating that, and I quote “We can neither confirm nor deny any knowledge, details, or speculations about any of the information of which you are inquiring about at this time. Thank you and have a good day.” So, I decided, being the investigative journalist that I am, I would go find out myself; lest I get snapped at by my boss again. I arrive just as dusk approaches. The crime scene appears to be located in a large room of an old abandoned mill of some sort with police-line taping off an open entrance from what I can see. I grab my flashlight from my glove box and slide it in the back pocket of my jeans then I walk over to get a closer look. I crouch under the tape and as soon as I cross over to the other side there’s a putrescent scent of copper, decay, and sulfur that hits me in the face—hard. As I look around, I immediately see an open-plan room with a few windows on my right and a clearing to my left housing a scattering of pallets and boxes stacked against the wall. In front of me, forward to the left, there is a rather wide looking platform and to the right of that platform is a long corridor stretching deeper into the building. More interesting and creepy than the general layout and feel of the poorly lit room but the content within. It seems as if there were countless bodies here not very long ago, judging by the ever-present blood all over the room. Still, I know I need to look around, so I do—carefully. The putrid smell is overwhelming causing me to gag every couple of seconds. There is melted candles, wax, and blood literally everywhere making it rather difficult to walk without stepping in it and contaminating the crime scene. I approach the before-mentioned platform which is a slightly elevated, roughly twelve-foot wide stage. As I step onto the stage I can see markings written in blood. It appears to be in the shape of a hand-drawn star encompassed by a circle, filled with odd runic looking scribbles within each space of the star and candles at every point. Clearly a pentacle. I thought. Must be some form of witch wannabe ritual, must not have gone so well. I crouch down to get a closer look at the drawing, and it appears that the blood has been scorched into the wood of the platform as if it was boiling or somehow combusted at one point. Aside from the obvious, I still haven’t found anything substantial yet.

It feels like I have been here for hours when I decide to head toward the back end of the platform furthest from the entry point and look behind finally finding something noteworthy. A blood-soaked, charred pentacle amulet, as well as a piece of parchment with a yellowish tinge underneath it. The edges appear singed so this must have been torn or burned from a what seems like an old book. I can see a few words transcribed on here. “see voh-car-ay dah-ee…. dah-ay… day… die-moan-ee-um…” (trying to phonetically pronounce the curiously familiar-looking words) “…si vocare daemonium?”. What is this, latin? Suddenly, I hear the mildly rhythmic creaking of something metal in the distance, most probably the wind blowing a loose chain somewhere. I start toward the exit when I notice something stuck to a curtain by the dim-lit open window far off to the side. I am not sure if this thing would be of any relevance, although inquiring minds want to know; so, I head over and grab the quarter-inch sticker paper and observe the reverse side it appears to be ripped from a name tag—handwritten, the remaining reads, “ELE”. A heavy wind abruptly picks up and blows its way through the window and down the corridor rustling the various pieces of light trash and leaves around. I follow the wind, trailing my eyes down toward the distant end of the corridor when I hear what sounds like a young girl whimpering softly. Hesitantly, I begin walking down the corridor and think reassuringly, maybe there’s someone here that… saw something? There could be a squatter here, perhaps a homeless person taking shelter? Maybe… hopefully? I start to head down the hall slowly and cautiously. Halfway down I can see something in the distance, barely, as the low-light from the windows begins to dim further until the only light left is a small glister the moon offers through the trees, hardly enough to see. I reach into my back pocket to grab my flashlight and shine it down the hall. The strong ray from my flashlight is more than enough to see where I am going safely. I pan my flashlight back and forth slowly, looking for what might’ve caused that eerie sound. Then I catch a glimpse, the light appears to refract straight through a small figure seeming to rush right by me—child-shaped. How? Wha…? What… was that? Did the crying I hear come from whatever that was? I frantically shift the angle of my flashlights glow back and forth in order to try to catch another glimpse, to no avail. At this point, my eyes are now being strained by the light of my flashlight in what now appears I have traveled into darkness. It is completely pitch black in this area other than what my flashlight touches. Still, I  slowly continue to venture forth and resume my search.

After a few moments, I see something shift out of my left peripheral. No, it’s nothing, I’m in complete darkness; I couldn’t possibly have seen anything, my mind must be playing tricks on me. It’s probably just a fear response. I thought, attempting to reassure myself. Although, just to be safe I aim the light in that direction anyway. What I see is merely a door leading to another room that is slightly ajar. I walk over and very slowly urge the door open, causing the door to groan gradually increasing in pitch that echoes all around me. At this point, I am dreadfully nervous; my heart is pounding so hard I can feel the arteries in my neck pulsating. I can no longer hear anything else around me, it is like I have entered into a complete vacuum. It is so dead quiet I can only hear the sound of my heartbeat. Bup-bup… bup-bup… bup-bup. I try to concentrate on my heartbeat to slow it down. Bup-bup… bup-bup… bup-bup. I take a slow meditative deep breath Bup-bup… bup-bup. There we go it’s slowing down now. I take a second deep breath as I take another small step to enter the room. Bup-bup-bup-bup…bup-bup-bup-bup. The heartbeat doubles, going from a 2-count to a 4-count. Wait, what? I slowed my heart rate, why do I hear double? I ponder this while taking the final step to fully enter the room. Once I fully clear the threshold the beam from my flashlight begins flickering and dimming, I smack it against my hand. Then, this moment of realization – paralyzed by fear – I start trembling. With the hairs standing up on my arms and neck I feel a chilled breath hit the nape of my neck—That wasn’t my heartbeat…

The door slams shut.

 

Stay tuned to find out what happens next!

 

Author: Rob Breault

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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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