Login Dark

The art of the haunt: a behind the scenes look at local spooky attractions - TribLIVE

Author: TribLIVE

Source: https://triblive.com/local/regional/the-art-of-the-haunt-a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-local-spooky-attractions/

Image of The art of the haunt: a behind the scenes look at local spooky attractions - TribLIVE

Shortly before the ScareHouse at Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frazer opens, the staff makes final preparations.Much like the backstage of a Broadway show, the cast and crew hurry to make last minute repairs or add the final touches to their costumes.Each Halloween season, thrill-seekers of all ages willingly brave Western Pennsylvania’s many haunted houses.Whether it’s a haunted hayrides or a zombie forest, there are a plethora of options in the area for those looking for an adrenaline rush this Halloween season.While each haunt presents a unique experience, there is one aspect all these haunted attractions to have in common — they believe in the art of the haunt.JJ Byers of Butler, the show manager for ScareHouse, gathers the staff to give notes before the doors open at the haunted house.Part of Byer’s preshow meeting includes asking the actors what scares worked best from them the previous night.“I had a group, it was young teen girls and their parents,” said actor Brian Erzen, who wields a chainsaw at ScareHouse. “The parents step back and I ran these girls down the hallway.The made the left and started cowering.They ended up tumbling over top of each other on the floor.I just stood over them and said ‘get up, the floors are disgusting.’”The chainsaw maniac story is met with laughter and cheers.“There are so many layers that go into it,” said Nicole Coniff, design and production manager for ScareHouse.“You want to make sure there’s a rolling differentiation between the types of sets that you’re in. Whether they’re dark and encroaching or vast and large, you don’t want a lot of the same stuff right in a row because you’d become desensitized to it.”Local attractions such as ScareHouse, Freddy’s Haunts and Hundred Acres Manor spend most of the year preparing for the Halloween season.By either improving or expending their acts, these local business are constantly trying to find ways to to improve the customer experience and give people a night they won’t soon forget.“We want people, when they come to the haunted house to make a night of it … we want them to have a fun night,” said Tyler Kozar, the COO of Hundred Acres Manor in Bethel Park.“We want people to spend an evening and make memories.For us it’s all about being here and creating an atmosphere of a fun fall activity for everyone to enjoy.”During the off-season, Kozar tries to draw inspiration from other live attractions.“I spend a lot of time traveling, outside of haunted events,” Kozar said.“I’m a big fan of Universal Studios. Going to these different events, you learn all about the customer experience.”In the end, Kozar said it comes down to providing a safe and fun environment for people of all ages to enjoy.Fred Porebski of Aliquippa, founder and owner of Freddy’s Haunts in Independence Township, Beaver County, for more than three decades, said he understands that most important thing in any haunted attraction is making sure the customers feel safe, have a good time and of course “scare the pants” off the brave souls that dare visit.Porebski believes his haunted trail offers more of an “old school” scare that relies less on technical sets and more on an intimate feeling of horror.“We may not be the most technical,” Porebski said.“But if you look at our reviews, especially the ones that review the haunted house, they call it old school because it seems homemade.All of our props are made by us.”Porebski, who started the haunted trail after volunteering to help his son build one, turned that project into family business.And while Porebski said he does want to make money, he knows how important getting the community involved is.“That’s what people say about us,” Porebski said. “We treat them like family.”For many of the spooky attractions, the devil is in the details.Whether its taking time to make the minor details on a set help tell the story of the haunt or making sure the make up and costumes help add to an actor’s story, haunted houses are dedicated to telling their narrative.Kattie Kersting of Pittsburgh is a makeup artist and actor at ScareHouse who has developed an appreciation for the art of the haunt.“A story is told in every single room,” Kersting said.“A story is told in each and one of these person’s faces.It’s art.Horror is art. It’s scary.It’s funny.It’s cool.It’s creepy.It’s really interesting. [Haunted houses] really are works of art.”Zach Petroff is a Tribune-Review staff writer.You can contact Zach [email protected].

Subscribe To Our NewsLetter