Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ideas from The Haunted Mansion...

If you're a haunter in anyway then you know all about Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion. This is my number one haunted attraction that I have ever been to see. You can tell as soon as you walk up to the king of haunted houses that Walt Disney himself was a true home haunter. Disney and his imagineers gave this attraction everything it needed to make a fantastic haunted house. From the big effects, like the ball room scene with the dancing ghosts, to the little details like hoof prints stamped in the concrete from the ghost horse and carriage out in front. Even though I have been on this ride more than 50 times, I still see something new every single time I go.

Now I could write pages on The Haunted Mansion, from when Walt Disney first thought of the attraction, to this year's Hitch Hiking Ghost upgrade. But for this blog I wanted to just focus on the "stretching room" and give my fellow haunters some ideas on how you can bring these same effects to your own haunt.

First a little back history on the stretching room: It was first designed for the Disneyland Haunted Mansion as a elevator system to bring the guest down one story to where the attraction started. It would have not been "Disney like" to use stairs. When the ride was built in Disney World, Disney Imagineers wanted to keep the same effect as to hold true with the original attraction. But unlike the original, the Disney World stretching room is not an elevator, it's just a transfer room from one cue line to the next.

There are many many effects going on inside this one room. Sound, lighting, hidden panels, a dead body and of course the room stretching are all there to set the mood for the main show. When you walk in, your ask to step towards the "dead" center of the room. The wall slides closed with the illusion of having "no windows and no doors". The space is confining, making the claustrophobic feel a little uneasy. Then lights flash out with the sound of thunder and the show begins.... So let's move to our home haunt. If your haunt consist of a walk through, then adding these effects are easy. You could build a small room that fits maybe 4 or 5 people, like a 4 ft by 4ft space. Have two doors, one to get in and one on the other side to get out. But make the doors blend in with the walls so when there shut, no one knows where to go. Have only a single dim light that flashes randomly like a flicking light bulb up in the ceiling. Anyone left in there for more than 20 secs will start to freak out. But don't leave them in for too long or it could quickly turn into boredom.

Back to the Haunted Mansion. After the lights start to flash and flicker, The Ghost Host starts his story. As he talks his voice jumps around the room so you have no idea where it's coming from.... This is a great idea for any type of haunt. All you need is 4 small speakers, a prop controller with sound like the Boo Box 4, speaker wire, and a sound track. Set the speakers up in different locations and at different heights around your haunt. Split the sound output on the Boo Box to the 4 relay outputs, then run to run speakers. The controller will act like a switch, turning on and off the speakers so it seems as the voice is jumping around your haunt. The more speakers and relay outputs you use the better the effect.

As the Ghost Host talks, you start to notice the room is getting taller or as the name implies stretches right before your eyes. The portraits also stretch and show the whole story, so to speak.... Now this effect for a home haunt might be a little over the top. The mechanics alone to raise a roof is out of the reach of a lot of haunters. But the portrait idea could work. Think of a "drop panel" type set-up but without the fast loud drop. Build a drop panel with the panel lower so to cover half of a portrait. The portrait should have a normal looking feature on top and something weird, funny or scary on the bottom. Use a pneumatic piston to raise and lower the panel slowly to expose the lower half of the portrait. It's like one of those changing portrait ideas, but not. You could do this in a long hallway with a couple portraits or in a room with a single one. It's a good way to make people take a second look and wonder if the picture stretching or is it there imagination.

After the room is fully stretched and the ghost host brings to your attention that there is no way out "as there are no windows and no doors". All the lights go out with a clash of thunder, you look up to see the master swinging from his neck in the attic above..... This is a great, simple effect. The ceiling in the stretching room is made of cloth. When light is shined from below, you see the cloth and what's painted on it. In this case its the ceiling of the room with wood work and moldings. When the light goes off, another light shines from the back side making the cloth almost invisible showing what's on the other side. This is the type of effect could be used in a hundred different ways. You could make a whole tomb out of it, paint the outside like a stone wall mausoleum. When you shut off the outside lights and turn on the inside ones, your guest can see what scary things you have inside like Zombies, Mummies, or Ghosts.

As you can see, effects that are used in multimillion dollar attractions can easily be put in your haunt with, as Figment says, a little imagination.

1 comment:

  1. More more, we want more blogs. Topics are great and helpful info is a bonus!!!!!!!!!!!