‘We're gonna scare their pants off," said Greer Buchanan, one of the organizers of a haunted house that opens downtown Wednesday.
The theme this year is "Thrillers!", an homage to Michael Jackson's all-time classic and to all the scary scenes from films that come again and again in people's nightmares. The labyrinth of the haunted house is separated in two parts. Coming up the stairs above Valley Vision in the O'Donnell Building, visitors will have the option of going to the family side to the left or the scary side to the right.
"The exit is at the back, we will install a special ladder going down, so everyone eventually ends up at the same place," said Jeana Garske of ArtWalla.
The right side of the haunted house, where the braver will dare to visit, has turned into a realistic set with 10 intense horror movie experiences.
"The Birds" room is almost immediately followed by the "Mummy" room that leads into the "Zombie" room.
"We've tried to rearrange the space and create an illusion, where it's much easier to scare the visitors. For example in the ‘Reanimator's lab' room we're simply using former optometry equipment from Valley Vision, but in the way we've created the room, it looks super torturous," said Buchanan, who also is assistant director of the Kirkman House Museum.
"We're mainly looking for psychologically intense effects on the visitors and seeking the escalation of their fear. You can imagine when it's pitch black here, filled with strobe and laser lights and smoke, people will get disoriented, claustrophobic and easily scared," Buchanan said.
"Of course, even though all the actors will be very serious about not breaking character, there will be no touching, no real weapons or sharp objects. It will be completely safe for everybody," Garske added.
For the younger visitors or for the ones that are too scared to go to the right, the left side will offer an alternative that is less suspenseful. One of the stops will be a recreation of the Catacombs of Paris. The tour of the house will end in the Michael Jackson room where Nancy Wells and her dancers will have a special dancing surprise for everyone who makes it all the way to the end. On the way out, the old restroom near the exit will offer a special treat for everybody.
During all three nights there will be student volunteers, ready to escort and attend anybody who needs a guide. There will be 25 volunteers per night, including the actors, most of whom are high-school students and specially trained by professional Mike Rose. Fraternity members from Whitman College and students from Walla Walla University have been helping set up the haunted house.
The Haunted House is a fundraiser for two projects - the Hands on History for Kids camp in the summer, organized by Kirkman House Museum, and Windows on the Past, produced by ArtWalla, Garske said.
"So far we've got a lot of support from our sponsors, nearly $15,000, and we hope to get as many people as possible to come, because it will definitely be worthy and safe fun," Buchanan said.
If you ghost