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Louisville Halloween News and Stories

Louisville Halloween covers some of our favorite news and stories of the Halloween industry. We love Halloween and want to share that love with all of you!

These Haunts are Comin’ at Ya!: The Innovation and History of 3D in Horror and Haunted Attractions

History of 3D in horror and hauntsLouisville Halloween explores the history of horror in 3D and how it ultimately became part of the Haunted Attraction Industry.

Third Dimensional Murder
The concept of 3D has been with us since the dawn of photography and really took root with the invention of stereoscopic photography in the mid 1800’s, but it would be nearly one hundred years later when 3D became a trend in the upstart motion picture business. Horror and fantasy subjects made for irresistible subject matter almost from the very beginning as one of the first short films produced in red-and-blue anaglyph 3D, “Third Dimensional Murder” aka “Murder in 3-D”(1941), featured a haunted mansion full of witches, skeletons and a Frankenstein monster.

There are three very distinct 3D crazes in film history, all three driven primarily by horror and science-fiction movies. The first Golden Age of 3D took place in the 1950’s beginning with director Arch Oboler’sBwana Devil” (1952) about two man-eating lions terrorizing the first railroad under construction in Africa. Warner Brothers scored a major box-office hit the next year with Vincent Price’s horror film debut in “House of Wax” (1953) which led to Columbia Pictures casting Price in their own big 3D horror film, “The Mad Magician”, the following year. Unquestionably the most famous and arguably the most popular 3D films from the 1950’s were “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954) and it’s first sequel, “Revenge of the Creature” (1955). Although Universal Studios’ aquatic monster movies certainly captured the public’s attention, movie theaters were looking for a new gimmick by 1955 when half of all homes in the United States now had a television set to watch “moving pictures” at home.

As quickly as the 3D fad spread, it also quickly faded and Cinemascope

Friday the 13th 3 3D
became the new wonder of theater screens across the nation. The next 20 years saw very few 3D films released theatrically and audiences pretty much ignored what they were offered, the only box-office success coming from the underground world of soft-core porn in “The Stewardesses” in 1969, but it was the horror and exploitation genre that brought 3D back for the second big 3D movie craze in the early 1980’s. Jason Voorhees led the charge in 1982 with “Friday the 13th Part III in 3-D” followed in quick succession by “Jaws 3-D” and “Amityville 3-D” in 1983. Low production budgets and headache inducing 3D technology seen in films like “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn” and “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone”, all also released in 1983, soured audiences on the whole concept of 3D for another 20 years as just a cheap gimmick used to spit shine B-movies. During this time, 3D was seen primarily in amusement park rides and attractions like Michael Jackson’sCaptain EO”, Disney’s “Muppet Vision 3D” and Universal Studio’s “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”. There was one last hurrah for 3D horror, however, in 1991 when the gimmick was brought back to kill off Freddy Krueger in last ten minutes of “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare”.

It would be almost 30 years before astounding new 3D technology would start another 3D craze and again it was a genre film that lit the match. James Cameron used the box-office clout he had built over the years making movies like “The Terminator”, “Aliens” and “Titanic” to invest in a new virtual camera system that could deliver a completely immersive, digital 3D

My Bloody Valentine 3D
experience. To say “Avatar” was a huge gamble is to vastly understate the risk Cameron was taking. Not only was his alien-blue-cat science fiction epic the most expensive film ever produced, it actually required theaters to invest in expensive new, digital 3D projectors to even properly screen it. Cameron did the seemingly impossible, topping the box-office numbers of his own “Titanic” and creating the biggest Hollywood blockbuster of all time until it was only recently surpassed by “Avengers: Endgame”.

This unprecedented success of “Avatar” combined with the installation of new 3D projectors across the globe led the third and most recent 3D movie craze. In truth, only a handful of movies intended to be shown in Cameron’s new format were ever actually produced. Real 3D production is expensive and time consuming, and requires a particular style of photography and editing to give it the desired immersive effect. Most of the films released in 3D were actually shot in two dimensions and converted to 3D through a digital process. There were a couple of genuine 3D horror films released on the coattails of “Avatar”, including “The Final Destination” and “My Bloody Valentine 3-D”, but audiences quickly caught on to this artificial up-charge in ticket prices for a gimmick that failed to deliver an “Avatar”-like experience.

Recently we published an article attempting to pinpoint the Top 13 Haunt Innovations that shook up the industry, and we got quite a bit of feedback from haunt fans and industry insiders alike. One of most noted absences from our list was 3D haunted mazes. The truth is that 3D haunts nearly made the list, but were ultimately passed over for the exact same reason that 3D

3D haunted house
horror films have over and over again aroused audience curiosity only to quickly lose their novelty. To be fair, the combination of black-lights, fluorescent paint and 3D glasses did indeed make an enormous impact on the haunted attraction business. Within just a few years of their introduction, it seemed almost every other haunted house in the nation had installed a 3D maze as a secondary attraction in support of their feature haunt.

These attractions were often covered in wall-to-wall Chromadepth black-light art that literally popped off the walls when guests wore stereoscopic glasses that diffracts light and color through a holographic film fitted into the glasses. The first time I ever experienced a 3D haunt, I was astounded by the effect of the painted floors that made it appear as if you were standing in three feet of liquid color. The hallucinatory effect has mostly been used to serve carnival fun-house style attractions where creepy clowns are the ringmasters of the realm. It was in 3D haunts that the classic polka dot room found its ultimate purpose, where an actor wearing a black leotard covered in the same color polka dots could really deliver a shock. It was also in 3D haunts that the Vortex Tunnel (which did make our Top 13 Haunt Innovations) had its most dizzying impact. The bright, colorful visuals of a good 3D attraction make a great compliment to the dark halls of a standard haunted house.

To get a little insight on the history of 3D haunts, we spoke with the man who claims to have invented the concept in the first place, veteran haunter Glenn Lewis. Lewis was the original creator of Industrial Nightmare, a

Maniac Maze at Industrial Nightmare
50.000 square foot attraction in Jeffersonville, IN (Rest In Piece). Lewis was also a owner/partner of Bad Dream Productions, Nightmare Forest at Otter Creek Park, Haunted Hotel and Nightmare Run in Louisville, KY. Lewis’s Industrial Nightmare is where he came up with and installed the country’s first 3D haunted maze.

“The 3D attraction was by accident,” admits Lewis. “A sales rep had given me a pair of 3D glasses to sell to my haunt customers. I was wearing them one day just to see how the costumes and objects would appear to the customer. I noticed that the brighter colors seemed to float/separate from the darker colors, giving off the 3D effect.”

“It was pretty crazy looking,” relates Lewis. “We tested fluorescent colors painted on either black or deeper base colors. The effects were amazing.” The resulting attraction debuted in 1996 as The Carnival of Carnage and the name was changed the next season to the Maniac Maze. Industrial Nightmare proved to be a hugely innovative and influential attraction in the mid to late 1990’s and was renowned for its early use of the Claustrophobia Tunnel to create a scene that simulated costumers sinking up to their necks in a green laser bog.

Some of the most popular haunted attractions in the nation like The Darkness in St. Louis and Haunted Hoochie at Dead Acres in Pataskala, OH still maintain 3D haunts every season, but to get a better gauge on the phenomenon throughout the country we consulted with Scare Factor

Future of 3D
Haunted House Reviews and Directory, one of the largest haunt review websites in the nation with a web of connected haunt review teams spread across the country.

“After consulting with our review teams, it seems that the prevalence and the definition of 3D haunts (whether they offer 3D glasses or not) varies regionally,” says Scare Factor. “In the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions, we’re generally seeing a downward trend from 8 to 12% over the last three years. In contrast, New England seems to be staying consistent alongside consumer demand. The West Coast, Rocky Mountains and Great Plains teams report that 3D haunts are actually few and far between and our Florida team reported they’ve seen a sharp decline in their neck of the woods.”

Just like the roller coaster popularity trend in 3D horror films, it seems that the gimmick of 3D haunted attractions has run its current course with fickle audience interests, but it’s not hard to imagine that a new technology or innovation using the concept of 3D will someday soon reignite the spark of fascination in the third dimension. 

In the comments, be sure to tell us your opinion of 3D haunted attractions. What are the best ones you’ve ever experienced?

The Phantom of The Ville

Size Matters: The Top Ten Gigantic Haunt Props of the Halloween Industry

Giant Haunted House PropsLouisville Halloween’s The Phantom of the Ville highlights some of the biggest behemoths ever created for the Haunted Attraction Industry.

The nation’s best Haunted Attractions all want to give their customers as much fang for their buck as they can possibly squeeze into their haunted houses, haunted woods and escape rooms. Satisfying the craving for spectacle in a customer base accustomed to $100 million Hollywood blockbusters isn’t as easy as it used to be in the days when a few well-placed strobe lights and fog machines seemed like an impressive array of special effects. Today’s haunt costumers come for the scares, but they also expect to be wowed by the latest monstrous creations conjured up by the mad magicians behind-the-scenes at some of the biggest Halloween vendors’ sinister workshops.

Almost any nightmare you can imagine is now available at the fingertips of haunt owners across America and they come in all shapes and sizes. At some haunted attractions, bigger is definitely better. For today’s purposes, we’re going to be looking at some of the biggest monstrosities in the market. Join us as we highlight the Top Ten Gigantic Props in the Halloween Industry!

1) Unit 70 Studio’s Pennywise the Clown: When this prop hit the show floor at the TransWorld Halloween & Attractions Show in 2018, it instantly became the star of the show. No prop was more photographed, gawked at and sometimes purposefully avoided than this 12-foot animatronic spider-clown and it’s screaming toddler victim. Built on a steel armature by Unit 70 Studios, this eye-popping monstrosity was a custom-made scene stealer for Larry Kirchner’s The Darkness Haunted House in St. Louis, Missouri where it currently lures children to their deaths in The Darkness’ subterranean sewer scene.

2) Scare Factory’s Scarem Elder Dragon: This fire breathing mythical beast from Scare Factory is one of the most impressive animatronic beasties on the market. Perched atop a 10-foot entry gate, the Elder Dragon reaches a height of nearly 20-feet with a 15-foot wingspan. It growls at customers forced to pass beneath it and breaths a blast of LED lit compressed air/fog right in their faces. Also available in an actor-controlled version of just the six-foot long neck and head that allows the actor to interact directly with customers and control the snapping jaws, sound effects and fire blast. Locally, you can encounter an Elder Dragon at Grim Trails Haunted Attraction where it used to serve as a transformed Maleficent and now appears as the master vampire’s pet in Castle Dracula.

Giant Haunted House Props - Unit 70Giant Haunted House Props - Scare Factory

3) Haunted Overload at DeMeritt Hill Farm in Lee, NH: We’re making a special exception here by not picking a specific prop, but instead giving props to Eric Lowther and his incredibly talented build team at Haunted Overload. When it comes to shock and awe, Eric Lowther is the King of Kong-sized props. Haunted Overload’s 30 to 50-foot, larger-than-fright monoliths are all built by Lowther’s crew on site each season. Bathed in eerie lighting and enveloped in mystical fog, these incredibly photogenic structures are what has put Haunted Overload on the map as one the best Halloween attractions in America.

4) Rocky the Rock Monster by Creative Visions: Standing 10-feet tall and nearly as wide, this rocky behemoth rocked the industry when it debuted at Netherworld Haunted House’s original location in Atlanta, GA. This chained animatronic beast was created by Mark McDonough’s Creative Visions in Saint Louis, MO. Rocky played heavily into the ever-evolving story-line at Netherworld, where he was an elemental spirit in Netherworld’s menagerie of all original monsters.

Giant Haunted House Props - Haunted OverloadGiant Haunted House Props - Creative Visions

5) Distortions Unlimited Colossus: Ed Edmund’s fantasy troll sits at 8-feet tall and then rises to an intimating 12-feet tall as his booming voice prognosticates the doom of the foolish mortals at his feet. Colossus is the meaner, nastier brother of Distortion’s original Sleeping Giant, and another massive prop in a 30 plus year career of designing and building some of the biggest props in the industry including the 10-foot tall FrankenAlice monster that tours with shock rocker Alice Cooper.

6) Beastcraft’s Harvest Golem: One of the new kids on the monster making block, Beastcraft is debuting this pumpkin headed monstrosity this year and it clearly belongs on this list alongside some of most impressive large-scale haunt props on the market. The Harvest Golem rises up from the pumpkin patch to a height of 9-feet tall while the sound of cracking, twisting vines permeate the chilly fall air. Its’ jaws move menacingly to guttural howls that sound like they come from the very bowels of the earth.

Giant Haunted House Props - DistortionsGiant Haunted House Props - Beastcraft

7) Nevermore Productions’ Broken Dolls: Quite an innovation when they hit the market a few years ago, Nevermore’s human sized porcelain dolls give haunters a number of different scare possibilities when placed together in one set. Available as static props, animatronic versions that can lunge and attack and even a full-sized costume, when strategically placed in a set, customers can not tell the difference between the non-living dolls and an actor in costume waiting to pounce.

8) Gore Galore’s Swamp Hag: Kevin Alvey’s Gore Galore is renowned for its’ actormatronics and over-sized “grabbers”, but they also produce a line of over 30 different 9-foot tall costumes that can be puppeteered by a human actor inside the costume. They’re all amazing, but the Swamp Hag is one of our favorites. These huge walk-about characters are perfect attention grabbers for photo ops, line entertainment and parade characters.

Giant Haunted House Props - Nevermore ProductionsGiant Haunted House Props - Gore Galore

9) Midnight Studio FX’s Krampus: Midnight Studios is recognized as one of the most talented designers of detailed and realistic full body monster costumes, animatronics and gigantic, museum quality static props in the Halloween industry. Every year they are an eye-popping headliner at the TransWorld Halloween & Attractions Show in Saint Louis, MO. It’s really hard to pick one piece amid their staggering display, but their movie accurate Krampus animatronic stands an intimidating 9-feet of creepy Christmas carnage that’s hard to forget.

10) Ghost Ride Productions Yeti Photo Op: Best known for their hyper realistic victim corpses and molded rotting pumpkins, Ghost Ride also produces a line of gigantic static props built exclusively to provide guests with tantalizing selfie and group photo opportunities. There’s no better way than to get your attraction critical social media attention than to give your costumers something to tag on their social media profiles. This 8-foot tall, angry Yeti with outstretched arms makes the perfect photo backdrop that could also serve as scenic eye candy in a frozen cave scene.

Giant Haunted House Props - Midnight Studios FXGiant Haunted House Props - Ghostride Productions

The Phantom of The Ville

Cult Horror Obscurities New to Blu ray for Your Late-Night Social Distancing Monster Movie Marathons!

Monster Movie MarathonLouisville Halloween’s The Phantom of the Ville reviews five obscure, cult film monstrosities recently dug up from their cinematic graves!

Monster Movie Marathon
Greetings from lockdown, Halloween friends and fiends. I hope you’re all staying safe and physically healthy during these uncertain times. Staying mentally healthy is a whole other challenge we’re all facing, and most of us are looking for something to distract and entertain us while movie theaters are closed and we’re all cooped up in our haunted apartments, homes and castles. While there might be plenty of streaming channels and reruns of your favorite TV shows to purge out there in the cloud, I’m a specter that still loves physical media and probably always will.

You won’t find the good stuff on the shelves at Walmart or Target anymore. The really interesting and weird stuff is now in the domain of the boutique video labels dedicated to digging up cult obscurities and treating them like “Gone with the Wind” with extensive digital remasters and oodles of behind-the-scenes extra features. A couple of weeks ago we gave you a review of Warner Archives’ new “Two on a Guillotine” Blu ray, and this week we’ve got five more really obscure horror gems to tantalize your senses. We can’t guarantee you any of these were slighted at the Oscars, but we can promise you most of them will put a grin on your jack-o-lantern.

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972): Available exclusively on Charles B. Pierce’s  Official Legend of Boggy Creek web page (www.legendofboggycreek.com) this is the first time this legendary cult film has been restored and remastered in stunning 4K for Blu ray. My jaw literally dropped to my chest when I inserted this disc into my Blu ray player. The beauty of the film’s nature cinematography has never really been seen in its’

Monster Movie Marathon
original widescreen glory before as the film has historically been distributed in grainy, faded prints. For those who’ve never seen it, “The Legend of Boggy Creek” is basically the bible of Bigfoot movies. In a wraparound sequence, the film’s narrator is revisiting his rural childhood home where he had a life changing encounter with the legendary Fouke Monster and he recounts a number of other documented encounters that are presented in a series of vignettes that make up the body of the film. Directed by Charles B. Pierce (“The Town That Dreaded Sundown”) on location in Fouke, Arkansas and featuring mostly locals instead of professional actors in the cast, this regional independent release has a certain “documentary” authenticity about it that makes the terror feel somehow truly genuine, packing quite a punch for a G-rated film. The creature is presented as a lurking, slouchy figure in the misty woods just beyond clarity and its lonely, primal howl has the power to raise the neck hairs of the bravest of city boys.

The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983:) Available exclusively through Mondo Macabro (www.mondo-macabro.com) this is by far the most obscure movie on this list because it has never been released in the US before on any form of media and I’m pretty sure this is also the only samurai VS werewolf film ever made. “The Beast and the Magic Sword” is actually the tenth film in a series of Spanish werewolf movies all featuring actor Paul Naschy as the cursed character of Waldemar Daninsky. Other films in the series like “The Werewolf VS the Vampire Women” and “The Night of the Werewolf” have been staples of late-night horror movie marathons for decades. Naschy, who real name was Jacinto Molina, was inspired by a childhood screening of

Monster Movie Marathon
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” and went on to a long career making monster movies where he eventually played almost all of the classic Universal Studios monsters, but the werewolf was his true love and biggest success. “The Beast and the Magic Sword” is considered his last worthy werewolf film and he directed it himself. Naschy attempts, with wildly varying degrees of success, to combine European fantasy and Akira Kurosawa styled samurai epics. The first half is a bit slow and talky, but once the “werewolf loose in feudal Japan” action kicks in, the results are unique at the very least. In the standout sequence, the werewolf fights a real tiger in a jaw dropping, dangerous stunt sequence that recalls the equally mind blowing “shark VS zombie” scene in Lucio Fulci’sZombie” (1979).

Spookies (1985): Available exclusively through Vinegar Syndrome (www.vinegarsyndrome.com) this release represents the first digital home video release of a video store, VHS cult classic. Let me be perfectly honest, “Spookies” is a terrible movie, but it’s chock-full of beautiful 1980’s practical monsters and special effects. The story behind the making of this movie is far more interesting and legendary than the movie itself: A group of young ambitious filmmakers and effects craftsmen were making their own monster movie when they turned to a foreign investor who ended up taking the movie from them, re-shooting a completely nonsensical wraparound story and editing the movie into the version we now know as “Spookies”. You’ll see a giant animatronic spider monster, diminutive hand-puppeted goblins, a 10 foot Grim Reaper that’s basically an early Stalkaround haunt industry prop, farting muck-men and much, much more. The fairly standard plot revolves

Monster Movie Marathon
around a mismatched group of 35-year-old teenagers who are forced to spend the night in a reputedly haunted house, but that’s not the reason this film has a cult following. “Spookies” is simply a showcase for gooey, slimy 1980’s practical creature effects.

Billy the Kid VS Dracula (1966): There are plenty of public domain prints of this wacky film in circulation to stream online, but Kino Lorber (www.kinolober.com) has finally released a definitive, remastered Blu ray with vivid colors and as solid a transfer as could be expected from a B-movie of this era and caliber. “Billy the Kid VS Dracula” is often included on “Worst Movies Ever Made” lists alongside “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, but that kind of infamy probably has more to do with its ridiculous premise and odd blend of horror and western tropes than any cinematic ineptitude. In fact, the film feels quite a bit like a standard TV western of the period; sort of a weird episode of “Gunsmoke” written by somebody who would rather be writing vampire movies. Famed Hollywood stuntman, Chuck Courtney, plays a middle-aged Billy the Kid ready to settle down and raise a family when a vampire played by legendary horror actor, John Carradine, rides into town and kidnaps his best girl in an attempt to make her his undead bride. Although the name of Dracula is never actually mentioned in the film, the fun here for classic horror fans is getting to see Carradine exactly as he appeared as Dracula (mustache, goatee, top hat and black cape) in Universal’s “House of Frankenstein” (1944) and “House of Dracula”(1945), but IN COLOR!

Monster Movie Marathon
Munster, Go Home!” (1966): Available from Scream Factory (www.screamfactorydvd.com) this remastered Technicolor feature film includes an amazingly fun commentary track with shock rocker, Rob Zombie, and Eddie Munster himself, Butch Patrick. Similar to the Batmania that erupted when the “Batman” TV series also debuted in 1966, there was a concurrent Munsters Mania shock-wave that hit popular culture and just as quickly faded. The series only lasted two seasons, but the ratings were significant enough for the producers to green light a feature film version shot in Technicolor and released to theaters across the country. Herman Munster discovers he has inherited an ancestral mansion in England and he packs up the family for an overseas adventure that involves an international counterfeit money printing operation and a challenge to defend the family honor in a dragster road race. The Blu ray also includes a new 2K transfer of the 1981 TV reunion movie, “The Munsters’ Revenge”, which isn’t nearly as good but makes a nice extra feature. For Halloween fans, “Munster, Go Home!” provides a nostalgic ant-viral boost of color, comedy and simple joy.

The Phantom of The Ville

Thirteen Modern Haunt Innovations That Shook Up The Industry

Haunted House InnovationsLouisville Halloween’s Phantom of the Ville pinpoints some of the most exciting and industry impacting innovations in modern haunted attraction history.

Haunted House Innovations
Anyone that visits seasonal haunted attractions with any regularity has had the experience of being surprised and amazed by some new technological innovation, out-of-the-box idea, jaw dropping scene or special effect that emblazoned itself upon the memory, had the exit crowds talking and made a major impression at that particular attraction. I’m talking about something so iconic that by the next season, nearly every haunted house in the country seemed to have copied it or added it to their haunt arsenal.

When discussing modern haunted attraction innovations, it’s impossible to underestimate the impact that Walt Disney had on the creation of the haunted attraction industry when they opened the Haunted Mansion on Aug. 9, 1969 at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. The audio animatronics created by Walt Disney Imagineers that brought The Haunted Mansion’s 999 happy haunts to life in that attraction and its’ sister attraction in Orlando in 1971 were earth moving in terms of technological innovation. Along with modern technology, Disney also employed a magician’s cabinet of classic parlor tricks to achieve supernatural effects, such as the Pepper’s Ghost illusion invented by English scientist John Henry Pepper in 1862 involving an optical beam splitter and a flat plane of glass to give the audience the illusion of transparent, ghostly figures floating through a scene.

The first days of the haunted attraction industry that blossomed in the early to mid-1970’s in the wake of Disney’s monumental haunted Omnimover ride certainly weren’t the technological or mega budget attractions of major theme parks. These regional attractions, as charming as they were, usually consisted of black painted wall panels, black plastic entryways, strobe lights, Don Post latex monster masks, primitive fog machines and maybe a drop panel or two.

Haunted House Innovations
Things have changed considerably in recent years.

But what were some of game changers? The trend setters? As a longtime fan and haunt ticket buyer who experienced some of the early Jaycees haunts as a child and continued the tradition of visiting haunted houses seasonally each Halloween for decades, I’ve come up with a list of TOP THIRTEEN Modern Haunt Innovations. Let’s explore the dark hallways together, shall we?

1) Distortions Unlimited Electric Chair: Ed Edmunds and his crew at Distortions have been making masks, props and special effects for the Halloween industry since 1978, but this animatronic Electric Chair may be his ultimate masterpiece. When it debuted in haunts in 1996 it was the most talked about effect in the industry, eventually finding a home in hundreds, maybe even thousands of attractions across the globe. A wiry, bald prisoner takes the last ride of his life when someone flips the electric switch sending thousands of volts of electricity surging through his shaking body until it finally ends with his charred, smoking body slumping into the chair. I vividly remember first seeing this prop in the staging area of Industrial Nightmare in Jeffersonville, Indiana where the haunt owners had set it up as a carnival style, dunking booth game charging $5 for three balls to throw at a target to fry the poor victim. Two years later, it was installed in almost every haunted house I visited.

2) Gore Galore’s Actormatronics: Disney’s audio animatronics made a major

Haunted House Innovations
impact on the haunt industry and animatronic monsters triggered by floor pads or laser trip beams have become a staple in bigger budget haunted houses across the country. As they get more and more sophisticated, animated creatures that can attack guests are nearly unlimited in shape and size, but they can’t really see and interact with guests. They can go through their programmed routine and be very effective eye candy, but they can’t target specific group members or react to guests’ emotional responses. Kevin Alvey at Gore Galore Inc. invented a hybrid of animatronic and actor performance with these giant puppeteered creatures that are operated by pneumatic controls. This gives haunters the best of both worlds in that they can add creatures to their attraction that are far too big and inhuman in shape to be played by an actor in makeup and costume, but still have the creature physically act and interact with guests as they pass by.

3) Silicone Masks: CFX (Composite Effects) out of Baton Rogue, LA was the real pioneer of sculpting and producing Hollywood quality masks made of silicon when their first masks hit the market in 2006. Then Immortal Masks, established in 2010 by Hollywood effects creators Andrew & Michelle Freeman and George Frangadakis, added the innovation of embedded stretch mesh into their masks for increased durability and took the silicon concept to a whole other level. For 20 years prior to the concept of using silicone in mask making, haunters generally relied on latex masks or prosthetic makeup for more elaborate effect. The problem is that latex masks don’t allow for actor expression and good prosthetic makeups can take hours to achieve. CFX and Immortal introduced their line of silicone masks that conform to the actor’s face, allowing both speech and performance impossible in latex, but with the quality of detail that would otherwise take a professional makeup artist hours to pull off. One of the first and most iconic uses of a silicon mask successfully incorporated into a haunted attraction locally is the signature character of the Devil himself at The Devil’s Attic here in Louisville KY.

Haunted House Innovations
4) The Vortex Tunnel: Almost every haunt enthusiast has experienced the spinning vertigo of the infamous Vortex  Tunnel. In fact these mind bending walkways have become so prevalent in the amusement industry that it’s difficult to trace their original creator, which may have been a company called GEP Productions, but are now often built from scratch in house by ambitious haunters. Often used to disorient guests as they pass from one section of an attraction to another, they have served well in 3D and circus themed haunts.

5) Ex Mortis Stalkarounds: Created by Hollywood makeup effects artist, Wayne Toth, Ex Mortis was on the cutting edge of creating these type of larger-than-life roaming haunt characters. The Stalkarounds were giant puppet costumes that could be worn by an actor, who could control the arm movements and turn the head, and stood about 8 to 10 feet tall. With a free range of motion to interact with guests, Stalkarounds made for spectacular line actors and parade characters. Gore Galore currently makes a similar line of giant wearable costumes.

6) Nethercraft Scenic Wall Panels: Nethercraft founder, Tomak Baksik, started designing foam-based sets for the Halloween industry in 1994 and quickly discovered that the durability of foam sculpted sets was limited in high traffic venues. He and his team invented and built a series of large scale vacuform machines that his company uses to mass produce prefabricated wall panels. Suddenly it was possible to set up a haunt with super detailed walls already in place. Skulls, Crypt, Cathedral, Morgue,

Haunted House Innovations
Industrial, Victorian. Any location a haunter might dream of could be set up easily just by connecting the panels.

7) Claustrophobia Tunnel: Love them or hate them, if you do truly hate them it’s probably because they elicit the very kind of specific panic that their name implies. Introduced by the recently closed Oak Island Creative, these “squeeze bags” as they are commonly referred to in the haunt biz, are in reality two large inflatable bladders attached to opposite walls and inflated by blower fans to just the right tension that guests must squeeze between them, having their entire bodies engulfed in the material. No one forgets their first journey through a Claustrophobia Tunnel. As effective as they were, in the new normal that exists after the coronavirus outbreak, the Claustrophobia Tunnel may be retired to the history books.

8) Haunt Music by Midnight Syndicate: In the early days of haunted attractions, if there was a musical score at all, it was usually a record player or tape deck recording of Walt Disney’sChilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” pumped through whatever sound system the haunt could afford. As the digital sound systems in attractions got more sophisticated over the years, the need for atmospheric music to set the set the mood for haunted attractions grew. The call was ultimately answered by composers Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka. Over the last 20 years, Midnight Syndicate have produced over a dozen soundscape albums specifically for the haunted attraction industry. Each album focusing on a different haunted theme, they have created soundscapes for every imaginable scene from dark carnivals to Gothic crypts to abandoned asylums.

Haunted House Innovations
9) The Hellelevator: A literal jaw dropper when it first appeared in haunted attractions, the Hellevator setup takes guests on a journey to the upper floors in a rickety old elevator car before plunging them to the basement and below. This moving set piece is thought to have been introduced by Fright Props around 2004. The first time I ever experienced one was at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure in Gatlingburg, TN. The elevator has long been a popular feature in the nationally ranked Haunted Hotel right here in Louisville, KY.

10) Scents: You never forget the first time your nostrils are hit with Slaugtherhouse scent when entering some attractions’ chainsaw murder scene. Sinister Scents was perhaps the pioneer of “haunt smells”, but Froggy’s Fog, the industry’s most renowned maker of fog machines (another innovation!) and fog juice, is the current king of stink and scent distribution devices. Today’s haunted attractions are meant to stimulate as many of our senses as possible and the proper sense of smell adds immeasurable immersion into any scene. Cotton Candy, Mildew, Swampy Marsh or Rotting Pumpkins. Smell the fear.

11) The Gantom Torch: One of the newest innovations in haunt technology, just a few years ago Gantom Lighting introduced the Gantom Torch for use in haunted attractions and escape rooms. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary flashlight when handed to guests at the attraction entrance. What guests don’t know is that this flashlight is anything but ordinary. Transmitters throughout the attraction tell receivers in the flashlights what to do. The haunter is in control of the lighting at all times and can change

Haunted House Innovations
the color of the light, make it flicker or even go out on cue. The device can also vibrate and find secret writing with UV light. One of the first full-scale attractions to make use of the technology was actually right here in Louisville, KY at The Legend at Pope Lick Haunted Woods in The Parklands.

12) CGI Video Integrated Animatronics: Computer generated special effects aren’t just for big budget movies anymore. Companies like Pale Night Productions, founded by Manufacturing Engineer Kip Polley, have been instrumental in integrating CGI with practical sets and interactive effects. Pale Night Productions pioneered animations that “break the fourth wall” to startling effect. What the customer sees happen through a window in animation is often accompanied by a squirt of water or blast of compressed air to simulate breaking glass or a shotgun blast to a zombie’s head. 

13) Electrified Effects: The power to shock has been a career boost to everyone from Benjamin Franklin to the the Frankenstein Monster. Nikola Tesla might be the true pioneer in the use of electricity to capture the imagination, and you’ll still find Tesla coils in haunted laboratory scenes today including a rather large one at Fear Fair in Seymour, IN. Jacob’s Ladders, Plasma Balls, Spark Fences, Flash Crackers and those infamous Shock Strips strategically placed on hand railings or in pitch black hallways have all juiced costumer thrills in recent years. Many of these effects are available at FrightProps

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Haunters Across the Country Bond over Haunted Nostalgia on the Haunted Attraction History Facebook Group

Haunted House History

Haunted House History

As the entire entertainment industry wrestles with the challenges and fallout of COVID-19, the Halloween and Haunted Attraction industry has come together online to meet the challenge, commiserate and share their combined years of passion for this unique form of theatrical entertainment. When the TransWorld Halloween & Attractions Show, the largest and most highly attended trade show in the country catering exclusively to the Halloween industry, was forced to cancel its’ annual show in St. Louis in late March due to concerns related to the coronavirus, vendors and haunt owners bemoaned their best opportunity to get together and do business prior to the 2020 Halloween season.

One the best silver linings of a difficult situation so far has been the creation of the Haunted Attraction History private group on Facebook. Prior to this group, very little information on the early days of the haunt industry was readily accessible. One of the best researched articles the on the history of haunted houses was published by our friends at City Blood in Ohio. Since the Facebook group was started on March 5, a literal cornucopia of haunted attraction history has been shared among an elite group of longtime haunters and pumpkin kings of the industry. Vintage video, advertising and historical props dating back to the early 1970’s have literally come out of the woodwork resulting in a sort of shared mini history of the haunted attraction industry. At the time of this article, the group is closing in on 500 members from across the country.

I reached out to one of the group moderators, Ben Armstrong, owner of Netherworld Haunted House in Atlanta, Georgia for the story behind the group. “Wow,” admits Armstrong, “A lot of good stuff has been posted so fast it has made my head spin!”

“It started with an idea by MikeTattoo Krausert (Senior Project Manager for the Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group),” says Armstrong. “He had been talking about it for awhile. A few days ago he was like, ‘Hey let’s do this, and I said sure!’ I asked one of our staff and haunt fan Alex Burgraff if she could make a header, Mike put up the site and I added a bunch of posts. Then we invited a ton of folks and that was just a few days ago.”

Haunted House History

“Lots of people in the haunt industry have talked about ways to share our history, most notably Rich Hanf,” relates Armstrong, “and clearly there was a pent up interest in the idea, especially in the current situation these days.”

Haunt vendors and owners from across the industry have joined together sharing stories, memories and tips in the wake of this crisis. Froggy’s Fog, perhaps the industry’s most renowned maker of fog machines and fog juice, has refocused its’ manufacturing capabilities to create Froggy’s Simply Sanitizer in an effort to help with the shortage of hand sanitizer. Others, like Larry Kirchner, owner of The Darkness Haunted House in St. Louis has begun hosting a series of live Facebook chats where he offers tips and advice from his decades of successful haunting experience.

The Haunted Attraction History Facebook group is moderated by a veritable Who’s Who of the haunt industry. Alongside Armstrong and Mike Krausert, the moderators include Chris Stafford (Thirteenth Floor Entertainment and Don’t Be A Monster), Warren Conard (Thirteenth Floor Entertainment), Allen Hopps (Show Director at Dark Hour Haunted House) and John LaFlamboy (Zombie Army Productions). This “Legion of Doom” of the haunt industry shares a passion for the history of Halloween and theatrical haunting that is manifesting itself in a quickly growing museum-level quality collection of vintage materials that simply begs to be shared with horror fans and the public at large.

At this time, Haunted Attraction History remains a private Facebook group, but if enough interest is generated in this very unique and American piece of Halloween history, perhaps members of this secret society will remain joined in the spirit of haunt family and share some of these treasures with the world beyond the October Country. Halloween, in its’ very essence, is an ancient monster built of nostalgia. If this is something that interests you, please let them know in the comments!

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