Evermore and the Future of Interactive Theater in the Haunted Attraction Business

Future of Haunted HousesIn this year end editorial, we take a look at the amazing new Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove, Utah and speculate on how the phenomenon of cosplay and interactive theater may influence your local haunted attractions across the country.

Future of Haunted Houses
Happy Holidays, haunt fans, it’s The Phantom of the Ville here with some observations and opinions about the current state and future of the ‘horror business’ as we bid farewell to another haunt season and begin our creative nightmare sessions to plan for next year. As I embark on my eighth season writing about the haunted attraction industry, I proceed with a haunted attic full of knowledge obtained from meeting and interviewing owners, makeup artists and actors from some of the biggest seasonal Halloween attractions in the country, as well as meeting and talking with haunt fans everywhere I go.  I’ve seen trends in flux over the last decade that have provided me with a particular insider perspective of where the industry could go in the years ahead, and today I’m going to gaze into my crystal ball and attempt to see into the future of the Halloween and haunt industry.

One of things echoed in almost every interview I’ve conducted with haunt owners over the last couple of years is the realization that customers are no longer content to detachedly walk through elaborate scenes awaiting the next pop up jolt to stimulate their reflexes. They want to be engaged; they want to be part of the story. As humans we crave the interactive stimulation we are often lacking in modern life where we spend so much time on cellphones and laptops, playing video games and watching movies without direct human contact. The rise in popularity of cosplay at fan conventions over the last decade has also been an awakening to event planners that fans want to play a part in the big production.

Future of Haunted Houses
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure on June 18, 2010 and although the newly themed land contained one of the most sophisticated dark rides ever built, fan attention was equally drawn to the world creation built around the main attractions. Customers could drink butter beer and dine at the Three Broomsticks, and purchase a magic wand at Ollivanders which could further interact with features throughout the area. The opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in July of 2014 even further expanded the interactive world building set forth by the original park. Walt Disney’s Star Wars” Galaxy’s Edge is set to open in 2019 and the primary excitement for this newly themed land isn’t the two mega-budget rides planned to debut with the park, but the opportunity to visit and interact with a planetary environment and otherworldly characters within the Star Wars universe. Most of the buzz revolves around a Star Wars themed hotel disguised as a gigantic starship in which guests will be fully immersed in an outer space adventure from the moment they are ‘transported’ aboard where they will be given a character that will be recognized by the denizens of the accompanying park.

This brings me to an amazing new interactive theme park called Evermore which opened this Halloween season in Pleasure Grove, Utah. Unlike anything at Disney or Universal, Evermore doesn’t have any rides at all. Evermore, which refers to itself as an “experience park”, is a place where guests enter a fantasy village constructed to resemble a European style landscape complete with structures built with imported stone, lush gardens and dense forest trails inhabited by fantastic characters and creatures of original creation. Guests are free to roam the park in a non-linear fashion visiting shops, grabbing a drink at the Kettle Café, exploring the gardens of Glynshire, the spooky graveyards and Victorian mausoleum of Loudon’s Rest, the Celtic styled hillsides of Drust Highlands or the dark wooded trails of Clawthorne Hollow.

Future of Haunted Houses
Along the way you will meet and interact with a host of both cheery and possibly scary characters who will send you on multi-layered quests across Evermore to find sacred objects, obtain secret knowledge and complete challenging missions. You may have to bring back found objects and/or to answer secret questions to join a guild of thieves, warriors or magic users. Some of the quests may involve braving scary crypts and haunted forests while others may test your skills at archery or ax throwing.

The designs are part Dungeons and Dragons, part steampunk, part exotic botanical gardens. The whole park is one giant stage and guests are staring characters in the biggest interactive theatrical experience in the US. Evermore also offers exclusive in-house made gifts and themed food, drinks and treats.

Evermore opened its’ portal to these various fantasy realms this Halloween with its’ fall seasonal event known as Lore, a haunted, Celtic myth themed event that explores the battle with the powers of darkness. In December, Evermore will be completely re-themed as a Dickensian Christmas wonderland known as Aurora. Then in the summer, Evermore will transform into a magical lantern festival based on Norse mythology called Mythos. The park also plans to host massive theatrical parties themed to Victorian Masquerade Balls and Ghost Pirate Adventures.

It’s not hard for me to imagine the inspiration of Evermore, Disney’s Star Wars land and Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter finding their

Future of Haunted Houses
way into the haunt industry. Interactive theater is really what we do already and the seeds of growing interactivity have already been planted. Just locally, we’ve seen former 7th Street Haunt owner, Travis Boling, introduce an interactive Christmas adventure at his attraction that challenges kids to defeat infamous Christmas villains and save Santa Claus. This year we’ve seen Danger Run evolve to include side quests that cast guests as paranormal investigators following the breadcrumb trail of an ill-fated previous group and Fear Fair owner, Brett Hays, has incorporated interactive side quests into several of his off-season events.

If I were to look into my crystal ball as 2018 comes to a close, I would see a greater focus on story, original characters and much more in-depth interactivity coming to the haunted attraction industry in the near future. A few years ago, Legend at Pope Lick and Black Orchard co-owner, Michael Book, presented me with a sketch of a map for a haunt concept that suggested a non-linear haunt experience. It laid out different buildings and scenes in a wooded area with connecting trails that encouraged guests to explore the woods to find the different structures in an effort to piece together a mystery that would complete a narrative adventure. At the time, the idea seemed a little over ambitious to me on a local attraction level. How would you control put through? What would stop groups from running into each other all over the place? How could you control the length (or brevity) of the experience? Would guests accustomed to a linear haunted house even understand the concept?

That was three or four years ago, and the idea seemed a little crazy to me. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so crazy. Evermore has opened my eyes to new possibilities. Only time will tell if their ambitious concept proves itself with paying customers.

The Phantom of The Ville

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