Greyhaunt Manor

Greyhaunt Manor 2004

Below is a description of our 2004 haunt, as well as some of the things we learned and some plans for 2005:

The basic premise behind Greyhaunt Manor is a haunted stone manor house and graveyard in the middle of a swamp, inhabited by vampires. Visitors can peruse the numerous displays and features set around the swamp while waiting to go into the manor house (if they dare) to make their way to the front door and get their candy.

Making a swamp setting in the Arizona desert is less of a challenge than you might think since the two large trees we have to work with both have the "droopy" look of swamp trees and there's a "river" (of rock) that runs through the yard. Adding liberal amounts of spanish moss in the trees, and fog on the ground and in the river does a lot to help with the swamp effect. We also put a lot of sickly looking silk plants around the river, as well as some fireflies to help add to the effect. Key features of the swamp area of the yard included our two coffins (one with multiple blinking eyes inside and one with red-lit fog pouring out), a witch's cauldron pouring green fog ("swamp gas") into the river, the fireflies, a skull totem, an open grave, a hanging corpse, a small blood fountain, bats and a haunted tree. We also had "Blah," our extremely popular but not-too-bright vampire, lurking in the swamp, and a hidden person operating a small air hose that hissed and blew a surprisingly scary stream of air on people who stopped to look at the fountain. Amazingly, many people scared by the hissing air stream would repeatedly return to be "squirted" again...and shriek again.

We created a single ambient-sound CD for the entire haunt which we played quite loud. It was basically a thunderstorm with rain, crickets, frogs and some scary sequences. It worked quite well. One of our most effective scary sequences was a "hunting dragon" that seemed to approach from far off in the distance, snuffle around the haunt and then leave; we plan to use the "hunting dragon" as one of the key haunt features in 2005. We're also planning on turning down the ambient-sounds volume and putting in more spot sounds since our 2005 plans call for the TOTs to follow a narrow, winding path through the yard and over the river across a (hopefully) haunted bridge before reaching the manor house and going inside.

Visitors lined up in the driveway and along the front sidewalk while they waited to go inside. The area where they lined up was quite wide and sandwiched between the swamp and the Spider Garden. Unfortunately, because the crowds tended to congregate in this area, a lot of them missed the details of the swamp. This is why the 2005 haunt will have the TOTs line up along a narrow path through the swamp.

THE SPIDER GARDEN (and other displays)
On the far side of the driveway, opposite the swamp, was the Spider Garden, the burning stake (demonstrating what happens when you tell Blah to "fire the staff") and a dragon lair. Because of the time-crunch we ran into during set-up, these displays didn't get the time or attention they deserved. Despite that, they were still popular and gave the TOTs something to look at while standing in line. Arachne, our spider-loving vampire and Keeper of the Garden, kept the visitors entertained as they approached the entrance to the manor house.

Our silent, spooky vampire doorman (complete with tux and top hat) controlled the flow of people into the manor house/tunnel that was the main feature of the haunt. Small groups of 3-5 people were let in, one group at a time; each group had to exit (through the swamp exit) before the next group was allowed in. The 20' long black tunnel was lit only by blacklights and had numerous glow-in-the-dark skulls and bats hovering at different levels.

Once the TOTs were inside and making their way along the tunnel, a lightning strike was cued, causing a large strobe light to flash and a recording of a lightning strike to be played very loudly through a pair of speakers and a subwoofer near the tunnel entrance. Satisfying screams, shrieks and the sound of running feet usually followed the strike.

To get to the front door (and their candy) the TOTs had to turn a corner at the end of the tunnel. It's truly surprising how scary it can be to simply turn a corner in a dark tunnel, and when you add a hissing stream of air (activated by someone on the other side of the tunnel's end wall), it can be a truly daunting task. Odds are that the eerie red light and moans coming from around the corner didn't help much either.

Eventually the TOTs would make it around the corner where a red-lit dungeon cell awaited them on their right, with the front door just eight feet away, directly in front of them. Two actors in the dungeon moaned and groaned and begged for help from the TOTs as they made their way to the door and got their candy from the lady (vampire) of the house. Once the TOTs received their treats, the red lights in the dungeon faded to green, revealing that the pitiful souls in the cell were actually raving maniacs (an effect created by using red make-up on the actors that didn't show up in red light but appeared black under the green lights). The newly revealed evil cell denizens chased the TOTs back the way they'd come, often aided by yet another vampire lurking in a hidden alcove opposite the cell.

Unbeknownst to the TOTs, once they'd turned the corner and started toward the front door, a barred door that blocked the exit opening swung open and blocked the tunnel. So as the terrified TOTs ran from the maniacs in the dungeon (often leaving a trail of candy behind them) and turned the corner to flee back down the tunnel, they found it blocked by a barred door. A brief moment (sometimes longer) of searching revealed the cloth-shrouded exit, and dim purple rope lights outlined the path back to the street.

2004 Photo Gallery Index


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