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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Timor Ignotum: Preface

Hello Readers!

To begin this introduction, my name is Rob Breault. I am one of the several colleagues – minds, creators, writers, and actors – behind Aeternum Vale Attractions. I am also one of the bloggers here at Aeternum Vale. My personal story with Aeternum Vale Attractions and its founder is a long one. In brief, I have been close, brotherly friends with the founder Kevin Butler for well over a decade. I had moved away for a short stint and upon returning he had told me that he had started a themed haunted maze out of the garage of his house the prior year. Having heard this idea, I jumped to help out in any and every way I was able to and have been working alongside him on this attraction ever since.

I will be writing an episodic blog for Aeternum Vale. Sticking with the Latin element within the Aeternum Vale name, this story arc will be titled “Timor Ignotum”, which translates to “The fear unknown”. This blog, Timor Ignotum, will be compiled from the mind of the main character—Jake. Jake is an investigative journalist with various works on occult occurrences and paranormal phenomena. Jake is well known for his previous works – however interesting and fascinating they were to read – have been deemed “fiction, pseudoscience, and malarkey” by his publishers as well as many others who do not believe in what he has seen. Jake has investigated several occurrences throughout his career but this time he will have proof even if it kills him. This will be his year, this will be the big white whale. He will be investigating all that is Dr. Steele and the strange occurrences that surround this man and will not give up until he finds his proof. Jake will be recording all that he sees, hears, thinks, feels, says and experiences along the way for reference and for your reading pleasure.

Here is a little excerpt from a future post…

they’re everywhere. What is wrong with these people? It’s as if they’re all mindless. Why are they willingly walking into that room filled with screaming and horrifying sounds? Why would they volunteer for this? I need to get to the bottom of this. Suddenly from behind, a loud metallic crash echoes from the already paralyzing cacophony. Then the sound of what can only be described as metal slowly scraping against metal grows nearer. What the hell is that? I look down a long hall with an eerie red-hue lit, smoky ambiance and can see a right turn at the end where I might hide. I think to myself, I need to find a place to hide now or I’m going to die! I head off attempting to walk expeditiously yet silently down the metal hallway when a shadow appears on the wall in front; growing in size, it appears it will be turning the corner any second.Shit!” I say aloud, turning to run back the way I came, toward the people walking in line. My survival instincts and adrenaline spike and in order to stay alive, I get in line with the other clueless people as to conceal my identity as well as my true intentions. The line is moving rapidly and I am close to entering the next room. I slowly turn my head, peering back to see if I made it safely and unnoticed by whatever was making the shadow before it turned up the hall. Shit, Shit! What is that? I can’t help but think as the figure turns the corner and finally emerges from the darkness, stepping into the red-hued light revealing its true form. “Oh, F…!”…

Continue to tune in for more blogs and read along from the beginning in order to catch up to where this excerpt takes place which has been taken from a blog that will be posted in the distant future in order to find out what happens next.

Author: Rob Breault

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