Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Haunted Houses Part 2: Grimmwood

In my last post, Haunted Houses, I outlined my path from 8 year old kid building models of horror monsters and decorating his bedroom with a spooky theme to being presented with an empty barn to fill for a professional Halloween haunted house.

Barn which housed Grimmwood Manor
I had been working in the Halloween business for a while, and one thing I wanted was a "theme" I could not only hang my "haunt" on, but could also take with me. There were haunts that had traditional victorian house themes. There were lunatic asylum themes. There were haunted hotel themes. There were even sci-fi themes. What was my theme to be?

I decided to pick up on an idea from video gaming. I had recently played the game Silent Hill 2, and that game had various spooky buildings in a town. I thought... what if my theme is an entire town, and this particular year's "haunt" is just one of those buildings in the town? I can vary the design from year to year if I want by focusing on a different building in the town. An so the town of Grimmwood was born. Grimmwood had a university, a hotel, an asylum, and a sprawling gothic house called Grimmwood Manor.
The town even had a vistior's pamphlet!

I decided that the audience were essentially like PCs in an RPG adventure. That is, a haunted house audience isn't like a movie audience, or a concert audience, or a theater audience. They are there not only to "watch" the show, but to be part of it. They can talk to actors, ask them questions, and be chased by them. So my story starts with an invitation, "left under your door"

It seems that you, the guest, are descended from someone who once lived in the town of Grimmwood, and for some reason, Professor Grimm wants to see you! But soon, another message is left!

50 points if you can identify the guy in the photo!

Upon arriving, (and buying your ticket and getting in line!) you are greeted by Dr. Payne, who fills you in on the rest of the story. 
Dr. Payne (right), a patient, and the butler peering out

It seems the good Professor has been a patient of Dr. Payne for some time, and is quite mad. He seems to think if he can recreate the events leading up to the night his uncle Victor died, he can contact Victor via a seance. It so happened Victor died on the night of his daughter Iris' wake, so they've dug up dear iris and placed her body in the parlour, just as it was!

Iris Grimm

Portrait of Victor Grimm
The tour of the house ends with a seance gone bad, and "something" summoned that shouldn't be there.

Something very tall summoned

Like my first spook house at the historic tavern, this event went over well with adults, as well as with older children. The middle group... the teenagers looking to get drunk and grope their girlfriends in the dark, were less enthused. It was a ton of fun to design and run, and I got many enthusiastic responses. I have to say I believe the thoroughness of design was a result of many years of designing and running RPG adventures.

I built the story on character devlopment. Each scene had a "host" character who would interact with the audience. Sometimes the audience would get chased out of a room, sometimes not. The actors were great at owning their character, and improvising their parts. Because like RPing, you really never know how your audience is going to react, and you have to be able to adapt to each individual situation.

Next: Incident at Froggy Bottom


  1. I could have sworn I commented yesterday on the first installment, but anyway: I'm digging this series. I'm interested in how these design experiences inform your adventure building approach.

  2. I'd say its more the other way around. But once I get them all up I'll put up a post specifically about design.

  3. For 50 pts... Robert E. Howard.