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Texas Terrors 05

All you could ever want to know about Haunted Attractions

Haunted Houses in Texas

Some of the Best Haunted houses in the country are located in the great state of Texas.

First of all, there is Tayman Graveyard, whom I am biased for and have already written about in a previous post so I will move on and focus on others for this post.

13th Floor Haunted house

Located in San Antonio, This Park offers two different and terrifying attractions for the price of one ticket. General Admission tickets are $24.99, Fast pass tickets are $34.99, and immediate access tickets are $44.99. This park has generally high review ratings, on Facebook with over 2,000 reviews they have an average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 while on google they have a 3.6 given by the 110 reviews there. They have become a very well-known haunt and have been featured on multiple websites such as the Travel Channel, USATODAY, and the Huffington Post.

Cutting Edge Haunted House

Located in a one-hundred-year old abandoned meat-packaging facility in a section of Fort Worth known as “Hall’s Half Acre,” this is a multi-story haunted house that takes about an hour to get through. It holds a world record for the largest haunted house and has been awarded a position in Americas top 13 haunted attractions for 7 years in a row by hauntworld.com. Tickets are $29.95 for adults. Although it is very well known and has a large reputation, it only averages about 4.1 stars out of 5.

Thrillvania Haunted House Park

Located in Terrell, Texas, this park is spread over 50 acres of land and features 3 different haunted attractions for one price of $29.95. The company has disabled Facebook reviews so we must rely on the google review system. This park has averaged about 3.8 out of 5 stars.

Dark Hour Haunted House

This haunt is located in Plano, Texas. General admission is $26. During October they are open Fridays and Saturdays from 7pm to midnight. They do however offer a different/specially themed show for one or two weekends every month, this December 30th and 31st will be “Wreck the Halls” and I will be in attendance. From personal experience I would say this haunt is more theatrical than scary but everyone gets scared differently. I still highly recommend as it is an amazing show with a high budget for theming.

There are many more AMAZING haunted houses in Texas other than the ones I have mentioned and I highly recommend you look into these and others in your area. Go out, enjoy a show or two, and support your local “artists”/haunters.

How to: easy prosthetic makeup

One of the staples in a good haunted house is the actor’s make up. It is what makes the act feel real. While most good haunted houses use higher end makeup and special effects products/tools, you CAN make a realistic looking prosthetic with simple household items. Today I am going to walk you through the process of making a simple wound/cut so you’ll be ready for next Halloween.

imagesYou will need eyelash glue, a normal glue stick, foundation, a makeup sponge, a butter knife, cotton swabs, and some fake blood (you can get this at any Halloween store).

  1. you will want to dampen the makeup sponge and use it to apply the eyelash glue to the area you want the cut and let it dry. (This step isn’t completely necessary but I find that it makes removing the prosthetic much easier)
  2. Take the glue stick and apply a generous amount of glue. This will create a fake layer of skin per say that you can cut into to create the cut. Allow the glue to set up (about 5-10 mins) and then use the damp makeup sponge to apply a top layer of eyelash glue to help even out the texture.
  3. CAREFULLY cut into the glue with the butter knife to create your wound.
  4. Take the foundation and makeup sponge and lightly blend the wound in so it matches your skin in a way.cut-throat-appliance
  5. Dip a cotton swab in the fake blood and dab it into the cut, it will help create the illusion of depth to the cut. Afterwards, drip some more blood down the wound to make it look like it is still bleeding, you can use a cotton swab for this as well.

You can use this and other similar methods to create all kinds of disgusting disfigurements. Have fun, be creative, and play around with it. You can find all kinds of youtube videos and other information online if you want any additional ideas or help.

Coming to an end…

While we can all be excited that Thanksgiving is about twenty days away and then shortly after Christmas break is upon us, this time of year always brings me down a bit. Halloween is over which means haunted houses are locking up shop for the year. My fellow haunters and I can all agree that the season seems to slip by in the blink of an eye (time really does fly when you’re having fun). When it all comes to a stop it is bittersweet. Every year I am both happy and sad when this day comes.

Happy because I can finally get some rest (no more working till 3am for a while) … I will no longer be covered in bruises and other injuries I somehow gained along the way without realizing…My skin will be able to clear up once again now that it is no longer being blasted with alcohol-based paints and covered in fake blood every weekend. All really good things. It’s nice having time off and I’ll be free from the pitfalls of my job for the next couple of months until this summer when we start prepping the park to open again in late September.

It’s not as great as it sounds though. I always feel like I am going through a withdrawal period for the next month or two after we close. It is just a nagging feeling of needing/ wanting to be at the park with my second family, I don’t even need to be scaring just being there is enough. I miss the park itself and I miss the people out there. People I won’t see for the next six months. Yes, scaring is fun and I thoroughly enjoy it, but nothing can compare to the longing to see my haunt family again.

pdgo2228
Yes. We had a theme night at the park. “70’s Disco Nightmare”

There also comes a moment when you don’t know what to do with yourself once it’s over. Just like how you feel when you finally finish a TV series you absolutely love and you feel lost in the world and wondering what to do next to fill the void. The haunt is my show and every year there is a void I must fill.

For the next six months I will patiently lie in wait. Preparing myself for all the spooks for the year to come and spending LOTS of time working with the loves of my life.

Architecture

The backbone of a haunted house’s success lies in its design. Most haunted houses are laid out similar to mazes. Instead they are paths with lots of twists and turns to keep the customers on their toes to where they can’t anticipate what will come next.

haunted-house-6

Haunted Houses are much more than just the path the customers experience. Behind every passage they see there are numerous more hidden actor’s passages and emergency exits behind the scenes. On the main path there are also many cutouts referred to as ‘scare pockets’ that help conceal actors until they choose to pop out and cut though passages that allow an actor to come out multiple times in different locations for the same group. This allows them to seemingly double or triple the amount of scares.

There are two factors that are immensely important when it comes to the design of a haunt. These aspects are referred to as throughput and scaring forward. Essentially, throughput is the haunts productivity. One of the cardinal rules for haunting is to make sure groups cannot catch up to them. On high-traffic nights, managers want to be able to move as many people as possible through the attraction in the shortest amount of time. Throughput helps them figure out how much time they need to leave between allowing each group to enter. For instance, at my haunted house to get five-hundred people through a house in one night, our owner calculated that groups of six could enter the house about every 25 seconds. This will keep the flow of customers going without experiencing and backups. It is vital that the haunt is able to deliver scares while keeping things moving. This is where scaring forward comes in. When designing a path, it is important to plan where actors and animatronics will appear. The goal is to scare people along the path in a forward direction rather than causing them to retreat. Due to the necessity of the scare forward tactic, many animatronics and actors are placed and cued to come from the sides of the back of the group.

Psychology of Haunts

People have been scaring each other for centuries, whether it be passing along folktales, gore-filled theater dating back to the Shakespearian era, telling ghost stories around a campfire, or paying people to scare the snot out of you while you walk through a haunted attraction.

So why exactly do (most) people just simply love being scared? I’ll tell you, its rooted in our biology.

When we experience fear our bodies unconsciously prepare themselves for danger from which we basically experience a biological high, releasing a series of hormones such as adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine (all of which set off a sense of pleasure in your brain). It is an evolutionary response that humans have passed on for generations. Long ago, when there were more immediate threats to human life, those who lacked the proper response typically did not survive. Those who did passed it on to their offspring. This reaction is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Be sure to thank your ancestors for not sitting idly by in the face of danger… Fear causes our bodies to release a series of hormones to make us faster and stronger. When we are scared our pulse increases and we begin to breath more rapidly. As a result, our muscles get blood with a higher oxygen content in it, which is what we need to truly experience the fight or flight sensation.

Haunted houses are so popular because it offers the consumer both the stimulus needed to set off the reaction and a safe environment to enjoy it in. Typically, after a good scare in a haunt you can catch the customers laughing at their own reactions. They know the “danger” they faced wasn’t real, yet the shock and spook worked faster than their conscious brain could process the situation.

 

Special thanks to:

Feltman, Rachel. “The Science of Fear: Why Do I like Being Scared?” Speaking of Science. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Tayman Graveyard

I may be a bit (or a lot) biased but Tayman Graveyard is, in my opinion, one of the best Haunted Houses I have experienced. Our customers have consistently described it as one of the most terrifying haunted houses in North Texas. Since it is a place that I hold so close to my heart I would like to share some information about it with you all. I know it looks like an advertisement but I honestly want to share with you our story. I know that with every customer we get we get to give back to the community more and more in the form of donations. Not only is it a job for me, I know my hard work is benefitting my community since the park gives back.

 

Tayman Graveyard Haunted Theme Park (located at 4721 Cecilia Avenue Midlothian, Texas) is set up to resemble an old western town.  The park consists of five different attractions all tied together in one way or another by the backstory of the park:

  1. The Tayman Funeral Home; perhaps the best in the park with state of the art animatronics, props, audio, and an amazing cast.
  2. Tayman Mining Co.; The abandoned gold mine, full of dark tunnels and zombies.
  3. Fappy the Clown’s Theater of Wonders; Full of carnival performers and human oddities in a colorful 3D adventure.
  4. Gravediggers Hollow; The outside trail where those who lacked the funds for a proper burial came to rest. Also a prime location for Barnaby Tayman to release his “experiments”
  5. Opening Soon A zombie shooting gallery

A rough summarization of the “history” of the town goes as follows; Long ago Dan Tayman found large gold deposits in an unsettled part of Texas. He settled there to mine and eventually others followed so he founded the town of Tayman. As the town continued to flourish over the years, a traveling carnival and its necromancer decided to stay for a while. One fateful day, the mine collapsed and trapped twenty-three men, including Dan Tayman. The townspeople desperately worked for days to free the men but by the time they had reached them, the twenty-three men had starved to death. The town was heartbroken; they had experienced their first tragedy.  Dan’s father owned the town funeral home and was responsible for taking care of all the bodies of the crisis. Heartbroken, he quickly lost his mind and was convinced that, with the help of the necromancer’s book, he could bring his only son back from the dead. For days he experimented and eventually he was successful. However, those he brought back were not the same. They were monsters; ravenous and deliriously violent attacking their families and friends. It spread like a plague throughout the town and in the chaos a massive fire started, ravishing the town. The few citizens who managed to escape told tales of the dead coming back and feeding on their fellow townspeople. When the smoke dissipated and the flames died out, not a soul could be found. Rumors of the cursed town of Tayman,

We were promised eternal life and we intend to have it. Il a promise la vie eternal.
The Children of Samsara make headlines

inhabited by the dead, quickly spread and the town remained empty for decades.

Until this season, the park has always ben strictly zombies and the carnival members. However, there is a new theme in the park this year. A sinister cult as made the Town of Tayman their home. The Children of Samsara were promise
d eternal life, after a mass suicide 50 years ago the ghosts are coming back and they intend to have the eternal life they were promised. This is my summarized version of the story, for more please feel free to visit the website.

The Park is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night from September 16th– October 30th.
This will be the parks 13th year of operation and to thank the town of Midlothian for letting us call it home, the ticket price dropped down to $20 with the donation of 2 canned goods for the local foodbank. As an additional thank you all military, police officers, and other first responders get in for free with proof of ID.

Haunted History

Currently, in the United States there are over 1,200 professional haunted houses and over 3,000 charity-based haunted houses. Additionally, hundreds of theme parks all over the nation hold horror-themed events. People’s love for being scared is nothing new however. Evidence of early spooks date back to ancient times.

Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome

In ancient Egypt it was common for crypts to be full of booby-traps including mazes, moving walls, snakes, insects, and other traps to help protect the treasures and bodies of deceased royalty and upper class citizens. The best way to deter a tomb-looter was to scare the crap out of them. Yes, this wasn’t exactly a business like it is today but it is one of the earliest examples of people creating sets and other devices with the intent to provoke fear in others.

Big picture, haunted houses are really no more than immersive theater performances. The Greeks and Romans led the path to modern day haunts. With folklore full of mazes, labyrinths, and monsters as well as a culture in which theater played a vital role in, it is not surprising that they were the first examples of special effect makeup/costume used to help further portray monsters.

The Dark Ages

During this time (1300s-1500s), Europe was being converted from Celtic and pagan religions to Christianity. Pageant wagons toured around Europe performing plays acting out Biblical stories, often the scarier parts. These plays were intended to frighten people into staying spiritual, however the attendees enjoyed the scares and gore just as they enjoyed the morals of the stories.

The tradition of Halloween was also started in this time period. Though the holiday was born from the Celtic and pagan religions, the people still carried out certain practices when they converted to Christianity.  They did typical Halloween activities such as carving pumpkins (or turnips depending on their location), bobbing for apples, dressing up and going trick-or-treating.

The Renaissance

As theater became more and more popular, so did society’s love of horror. The development of special FX also continued. John Pepper invented Pepper’s Ghost, a device that through the use of mirrors made people appear to be translucent on stage. Ghosts, demons, the devil, and other monsters started making regular appearances in plays. People became fascinated with the ideas of ghosts and other realms. Mediums, fortune tellers, and spiritualists communicating with the dead became a form of entertainment for the upper class.  The first wax museum opened in the 1800s, setting the stage for other walk-through attractions that played with the customers sense of reality.

FUN FACT: In order to create realistic onstage gore during stabbing scenes, actors would strap pig’s bladders to their stomachs. When the opposing actor would stab the bladder, pig blood would pour out, making it look as if the actor was really bleeding to death.

1900s-1980s

Traveling carnivals and freak-shows peaked in the beginning of the 20th century. Customers would walk through the attractions witnessing all types of human deformities and other oddities. Dark rides became popular amusement attractions. Basically the customers would sit on boats or trains and be moved throughout different scenes (The best known variation of this is the Tunnel of Love). Amusement parks popped up all over the nation, most featuring fun-houses and haunted houses. These were often very dark mazes full of mirrors and loud noises.

The first recorded haunted attraction was the Orton and Spooner Ghost House, opened in 1915 in the United Kingdom as part of a fair.

orton-and-spooner-ghost-house
Orton and Spooner Ghost House

Many members of older generations can remember having their first haunted attraction experience at a haunt by Jaycees charity. They used the houses as their main source to raise money. They became so well known that in 1975 two of their members, Jim Gould and Tom Hilligoss, wrote a book about how to make a haunted house. Over 20,000 copies were printed. The two men also formed The Haunted House Company and the first-ever Santa’s Village attraction for Christmas.

In the 1980s horror movies and haunted houses became increasingly popular. In1984, the Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey caught fire, killing 8 customers. This sparked a movement emphasizing safety. Haunts were reshaped in order to maintain a certain level of safety.

1990s-Present day

Haunts are everywhere. It is a huge industry that only keeps growing. They are no longer just limited to houses, there are haunted hayrides, forest paths, scavenger hunts, and so many other variations. Most people have experienced multiple attractions in their lifetimes. Haunts are definitely here to stay.

 

Special thanks to:

The Year of Halloween

America Haunts

What’s it like for the Actors?

There are the pros and cons of working at a haunted house. After working at one for three years now I feel like I can discuss some of them, focusing on some of the cons. But trust me, The pros (that I’m not really discussing as they are emotional and hard to explain) far out weigh the cons.

The Bob and Weave

One of the first things I ever learned on the job was how to approach customers in a safe manner (aka the most efficient way to be able to dodge their punches). It is common for people to go into a fight-or-flight state when startled, and the actors have to be prepared for both outcomes, either the customer runs for the hills or takes a swing at the perceived threat. One of the first things my boss, Russ Moore, taught me was the proper “scaring stance” if you will. When you approach a customer always keep one foot behind you to anchor yourself, if you see the customer start to pull back to take a swing, shift back to that one foot and put your hands up, which is a universal sign of submission and will usually be enough to get them to realize that you are no threat and its safe. However, this doesn’t always work and almost anyone whose worked for a decent amount of time at in a haunt can tell you that it’s a common occurrence. If you haven’t been swung at at-least once you aren’t doing your job.

“Dust it off and keep going”

If we make it out feeling perfectly fine, it’s been a good night. Think about what you see actors doing as you’re walking through a haunted house.  It’s common to see actors jumping and climbing on things, wailing or growling uncontrollably, sliding and crawling around, and even doing some pretty neat contortions just to put on a good and convincing show for you. It’s awesome to see right? Now, consider it from the actor’s point of view—doing these things over and over again for hundreds of groups, every day, for hours on end. Repeatedly slamming hands against a wall or sliding across the floor (Even with knee pads this and jack up your knees like no other), by end of the night you can seriously feel it. My best friend, Macayla, works at the haunted house with me. She’s bbe6fc03ebaea61c622b43f559ce8136been in ballet and gymnastics for as long as she can remember. Part of her scare is going into a bridge and chases after them. Its spooky to watch. She does this over and over again for 5 hours. By the end of the night it’s no surprise that she’s complaining about her back hurting.

Repeat customers

At Tayman Graveyard, we have 5 haunted attractions in the park. It’s a $20 admission fee and then from there you can go into the houses as many times as you like. This is a great deal that people take advantage of. There are two kinds of repeat customers. The first kind comes through again to relive the scares and get scared again, these are the better kind from an actor’s viewpoint. It means they appreciated our show that we take so much pride in and want to fully experience it again. The other kind of repeat customers… well let’s just say they aren’t our favorite. We get obnoxious guests who come in just to mess with the actors and be obnoxious. Don’t be the second kind of repeat customers… Don’t do it.

Family and the Spooks

There is a sense of family amongst the staff, and it is one of the best feelings you can experience. I asked two of my friends what it was like to be an actor to get some other inputs. They both said the same things:

“It’s really fun and getting close with everyone there really creates a close sense of family and friendship. Scaring the people is also a great time!” –Madison Baltierra
“It’s very exciting seeing the customers get scared, all the work we put into our show pays off. All of the actors are great, it feels like I’m a part of one big creepy family and I absolutely love it.” –Macayla Bryant

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Worth it? Yes!

10/10 would recommend.

What are Haunted Attractions?

Really Jamie… I know you’re always talking about them but WHAT ARE THEY?

What exactly is a ‘Haunted Attraction’? In technical terms, Haunted Attractions are a more modern form of entertainment that simulates an experience of a haunted location for the customer. There attractions can be set in a medley of locations such as an old looking homes, mazes, wooded areas and more depending on the theme for the haunt. The term “haunt” is what these attractions are referred to within the industry. These locations are usually full of actors portraying ghosts, zombies (a very popular theme within the state of Texas), witches, serial killers, and almost anything else customers could find off-putting. These actors commonly perform skits or hide and unexpectedly pop up giving the customer the oh-so coveted jumpscare that everyone so deeply loves.

www.TaymanGraveyard.com
Tayman Graveyard Haunted Theme Park Midlothian TX

Industry talk… are these really that big of a deal?

Yes. Over the years Haunted Attractions have become so much more than just little shows put on to spook people. Haunts have created a sub culture of their own and there are aspects of the industry going on at all times of the year.

Most Haunts begin operating during late September or early October up until the beginning of November. I know that the park I personally work at is open September 16th to October 30th this year. This is when the attractions are open and working at full steam, however there are some haunts that are open year round and some that open for other holidays such as Valentines day and Spring Break.

Outside of the attractions themselves there is a subculture out there for all things Halloween and Haunt related. Throughout the year there are many conventions, conferences, and tradeshows all over the country. These conventions feature prop vendors, seminars, workshops and more. The biggest convention of the year is held in march. The Transworld Halloween Attraction show, held in St Louis, Missouri, brings in over 8,000 people a day and features over 100,000 square feet of vendors. I have not personally attended one of these conventions but I have heard many stories from my boss about them over the years.

The Haunt Industry is a multibillion-dollar industry which caters to over 12,000,000 customers each year (and with their growing popularity, more and more customers come flooding in each year all over the country). Haunted Attractions are also starting to pop up overseas in the last couple of years in places such as the U.K. and Japan. Additionally, many haunted attractions are charity-based or are large donners. Our source of business is rooted in the community, so most haunts feel it is necessary to show our thanks and give back as we would be nowhere without the support of the people.

Next time you hear me splurge about haunts, hopefully you’ll have a vauge idea of what I’m talking about and the industry I so love. Until next week~ Jamie C.

“If you are reading this then you are blissfully unaware of what is creeping up behind you” -unknown

 

 

Special thanks to:

“Haunted Fast Facts.” HauntedHouseAssociation.org. Haunted House Association, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Haunted Attraction (Simulated).” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

 

 

 

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