A Night of Frights

Theatre’s Annual Haunted House Returns Oct. 28, 29

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Photo Courtesy of Alli Bisbee

After school on Oct. 24, theatre students begin set up for the Haunted House, which will run Oct. 28 and 29. This year, the theme is “Prison Break,” and is centered around a correctional facility that is revealed to be much more sinister than it appears. “We had a lot of things we wanted to try,” senior Thespian troupe leader Ryleigh Jordan said. “But Prison Break just sounded the most practical, and it was still something we would all be interested in, and that we felt like people would still want to go through with.”

Alli Bisbee, Reporter

Crash! 

A blood-curdling scream echoes through the hallway. Suddenly, a stampede of restless prison inmates covered in bloody gashes and bruises scramble through in a panic. They swarm the visitors, their skin cold and pale; faces sunken and hollow. Unphased, the tour guides swiftly usher the visitors into the next room, leaving the victims behind.

Strobe lights flare angrily as the visitors enter the infirmary. They are swept through the laboratory and watch in terror as malicious nurses force patients through torturous experimentation. Mouths are sewn shut. Eyes are gouged out. The inmates are ripped to shreds, and the viewers have no choice but to stare.

Before they know it, they find themselves pulled into a dark room with a single chair in the center. Sitting in it is a bruised and broken inmate. “The execution will resume,” a disembodied, monotone voice says from above. All of a sudden, he is executed before the visitors’ very eyes. 

Another gang of inmates storms in, attacking the tour guides and dragging them away. Now alone, the visitors must fend for themselves. They barely manage to escape.

And just like that, it’s over. 

The haunted house is a student-led production put on annually by the theater department. Each year during the month of October, students come together to create an attraction designed to spook, shock, and horrify the community. This year, the theme is “Prison Break,” and is centered around a correctional facility that is revealed to be much more sinister than it appears. The full haunted house will run from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Oct. 28 and 29. Tickets cost $15 each and can be bought at https://cphstheatre.booktix.com/index.php or at the door.  

“We had a lot of things we wanted to try,” senior Thespian troupe leader Ryleigh Jordan said. “But Prison Break just sounded the most practical, and it was still something we would all be interested in, and that we felt like people would still want to go through with.”

Jordan is part of the haunted house “Vision Team” in charge of brainstorming ideas and putting together the attraction. She has participated in this production each year since she was in eighth grade. Now that she’s a senior, she says she loves watching everything come together.

“I think my favorite thing about this year’s haunted house production is– it was like this vision and it’s actually happening,” Jordan said. “We’re going to be able to walk through our vision and walk through what we planned out for. And also, it’s so much fun being able to be with your friends and do something like this.”

A lot of technical preparations are required to pull off such a production. Students will use SFX makeup to construct fake injuries and gore. Liquid latex is used to imitate skin, and can be cut, torn, indented and stretched for desired effect. Red, purple, yellow and green pigments, as well as fake blood, can enhance the realism of the wound, or be used for fake bruises. Strobe lighting will be found in different sections of the attraction. Sound effects add ambiance, as well as auditory jump scares. Costumes will reinforce the setting and time period of the story. Every element is intended to add to the illusion.

I think my favorite thing about this year’s haunted house production is- it was like this vision and it’s actually happening,”. We’re going to be able to walk through our vision and walk through what we planned out for. And also, it’s so much fun being able to be with your friends and do something like this.”

— Ryleigh Jordan, 12

“It’s the tech department’s turn to show off, because they get to show off all their tricks,” theater director Alisa Mirabella said.

Even those acting in the attraction have the opportunity to help out with the technical parts of the show. 

“Last year, I didn’t really help out with the set a lot because I was a freshie and I didn’t know what was going on,” sophomore Pearl Bailey said. “So this year, I hope to be more involved in that. And I hope to be involved in costumes.”

Actors, like Bailey, have a variety of roles they can play. Some will go as inmates, while others will act as prison guards and nurses. Students involved will be stationed around the fine arts building, acting out their roles and interacting with passing groups of haunted house-goers. 

“Haunted house is a lot of improvisation because things can go wrong so easily,” Jordan said. “And every group that’s going through is different. Some people may react to the material differently, or you may have people say things [to the actors], so it’s just a lot of improv.”

Because of the improvisational nature of the performance, neither the actors nor visitors always know what to expect. As it is designed to be fully immersive, the actors will interact with the audience as if they were part of the story. Different groups of people will spark different interactions.

“We get a lot of different people,” Jordan said. “Sometimes we get the parents that aren’t fazed, sometimes we get the middle schoolers that think it’s funny and whatever. But we get a lot of people who go in thinking that it won’t be that scary but actually get pretty scared from it. And that can be honestly anyone.”

The attraction offers a less frightening version of the events to participants who expect to be too scared by the full production. This “Light Frights” period runs from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $10 and can only be bought at the door. Throughout the full performance, the visitors will be subjected to jump scares and gory imagery as they are guided from room to room by tour guides. The black box/execution room is the main scare– the climax of the haunted house, Jordan said.

“If [the actors are] good enough to get somebody to tap out… it’s sort of like an unwritten goal,” Mirabella said. “Because then the groups waiting to come in, they’re like, ‘wait, somebody tapped out. How scary is this?’”

According to Mirabella, the haunted house proves itself to be the department’s most successful fundraiser. The proceeds go towards funding the yearly musical, which is performed in January. Both the theater department and school community react positively to the haunted house, Mirabella said.

“I think [about] how excited everybody is about designing the theme and coming up with all the little add-ons,” Mirabella said. “It’s our annual thing that people look forward to.”