Early Haunts

Old Little Blue Church

1974.  OLD LITTLE BLUE CHURCH CHARITY HAUNTED HOUSE, Kansas City, Missouri

Actor, Scene Designer

It was a truly humble beginning, and a strange place to for a passion for haunting to take root. But all those many years ago, an opportunity arose that I could not pass up. My brother’s girlfriend’s church was planning to convert the old clapboard building that had been the original Little Blue Baptist Church into a weekend haunted house fund raiser. Although I was only ten-years old, it was already clear to everyone that I was an unusual boy. I was fascinated by all things macabre, and was a developing fan of horror movies. So, when asked if I was interested in helping out with the haunted house, I could not control my excitement. I was the youngest in the group of volunteers, but I pitched in to do as much decorating and design work as I could. I provided the sound effects album, from Disney’s Haunted Mansion no less, along with some masks, a strobe light and other props. Although, when it came to décor and design, it was a fairly primitive haunt by any standard. But just after the first customers entered the old church I heard something amazing; their screams. It gave me such a happy thrill that I have never forgotten the experience. Those opening screams are a thrill and the reward that I continue to look forward to in every proceeding haunt that I have been a part of.

1976-1984.  HOME HAUNTING, Raytown, Missouri

But after that first Haunted House, Octobers and Halloween would never be the same for me. I had seen what it was to create a scene in darkness that caused fear to course through others, and I had just begun to learn how to turn that fear into screams. But, still being just a child, I was limited to my house and yard. Over the next twelve years, I became a home haunter, converting my yard into a succession of cemeteries and outdoor scenes with trick-or-treaters as my audience. Each year had to be bigger and better than the one before. I learned how to hide speakers in the shrubbery, and to how to cast just the right ambient lighting onto a prop. And just after Halloween, after midnight when my scenes were dark and quiet, I took them all down. So that when the next day dawned, there would be no trace of the horror I had created.

1984.  EPPERSON HOUSE HALLOWEEN PARTY & HAUNTED HOUSE, Kansas City, Missouri

Organizer, Designer, Actor

Being in the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri, Kansas City came with an usual perk for most; access to a real haunted house. Epperson House had been donated to the University upon the death of a wealthy benefactor in the 1930s, and over the years it has been used as a dormitory and classrooms. It was a 54-room Tudor mansion that was purportedly haunted. Along with my lessons, I researched the history of the place and discovered a dark past that was the likely source for the hauntings and legend. When plans were begun to have a student Halloween Party in the house, I quickly volunteered. As part of the committee, I suggested that the lower floor of the house be turned into a haunted attraction that I, of course, would design. There were only six rooms interconnected by long hallways, but it was an amazing opportunity. Since the place was already spooky enough and already believed to be haunted, I knew that there was no necessity for extreme special effects. It was a valuable lesson in using restraint and subtlety to not just create, but to enhance a place’s own inherent features. It was also where experienced many unexplained events that would launch me into a fascination with the supernatural and paranoia equal to my passion for theatrically based haunts.

1985-86. THE EDGE OF HELL, Kansas City, MO

Actor, Make-up Artist

It was already a legendary haunted house, so when I answered a help wanted ad for actors at “The Edge of Hell” I knew that it was going to be a big deal. At least to me. Although it was very much a “cattle call” there didn’t seem to be any requirements for experience or talent. Reliable transportation and the flexibility to work late into almost every October night were the only prerequisites. Once I had been accepted, I was given a list of characters and positions that were open. Being a rookie, the list was limited to ones without actual names or storylines, like “Demon” or “Ghost.” The choice of a demon wasn’t the most fulfilling role for me, but it lead to a wealth of experiences. As an actor, I learned the the tactics and strategies involved in scaring huge numbers of people. But there was a problem. While other actors complained of loosing their voices quickly into a season, I developed a persistent and painful rash on my forehead and face. I thought it was just from getting too hot in the mask, but a veteran actor I confided in explained that it was actually an allergic reaction to the latex mask. I finished the season behind the scenes doing a variety of support work with wardrobe and special effects. And next year I joined the the make-up crew, where I learned even more valuable insight into the craft of haunting.

            

1988.  HAUNTED HAYRIDE, Bonner Springs, Kansas

Construction Crew, Scene Design, Security

Working at an outdoor haunt offers an entirely different experience than in a haunted house, with a number of benefits as well as detractions. The main detraction is that the event is very vulnerable to weather conditions. Octobers in Kansas City can have days as hot and humid as any during summer, or as cold and frosty as in winter. And autumn rains can be unrelenting. But this first of two years for a Haunted Hayrides franchise turned out to be an amazing success. The land was a mixture of rolling fields and forested hollows. Work began in late July, starting with carving out over two miles of a road for the wagons to be pulled along by tractors. Situated along the road were areas for scenes to be built and later occupied by actors.

1989.  HAUNTED HAYRIDE, Raymore, Missouri

Supervisor, Construction, Scene Design, Actor

For the second year of the Hayride, the company moved to a new location, meaning that we had to start over from scratch. It would be a necessity for so many of the haunts that I would be a part of. Without a permanent location, all the hard work to create a haunt would only be temporary. As soon as a season ends, everything would have to be taken apart.

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