JustJimAZ

The Drawing Board Part 1

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I don't know about you, but I usually find when I am neck deep in one project, I tend to start thinking about the next iteration.

I know from talking to a lot of haunters that many folks feel the same way. Often even before this year's haunt is set up, haunters are planning the next one. Even those who make it through the season focused only on this year tend to look ahead when it's time to take stuff down in November.

I thought it would therefore be apropos to start talking about the process of designing next year's haunt.

Allen Hopps says he has a formula that consistently helps him come up with successful haunt ideas:
Place + Characters + Situation

PLACE
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Your "place" (which would include "time") may be heavily influenced by the space you have access to. For example, if you have an orchard to do a haunt in, Victorian mansion seems a bit odd. Likewise, if you have a garage, you COULD try to make it a haunted trail, but why?

So, come up with a place that makes sense and also inspires you. It could be a haunted trail through the aforementioned orchard. Or, it could be a mad lab, haunted factory, or maybe a demented daycare in a garage. It just makes life a bit easier if you don't have to convert the actual space into something else.

Having said that, You can do some really cool things in a shockingly small space. If you have ever seen Fangoria's 2010 haunt "Machine", you know what I mean. They turned essentially a 2 (or maybe 3) car garage into a time machine experience I think most haunters would be proud of.


You could easily turn a garage into a cathouse, or hospital, asylum, dreamscape, etc.

Once you have a place, you also need to consider scenes. A church has several separate places from the Narthex to the Sacristy. Old churches often had cemeteries as well. Consider all the aspects of your particular "Place".


CHARACTERS
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Your characters will be driven by the place. Who is in a hospital? Doctors, nurses, and patients, right? Sure. Also, orderlies, janitors, EMTs, security guards, patient's families, and so on. Let's not forget not all doctors or nurses are equal. There are administrators and directors, newbies and veterans, all with different power dynamics. Patients, too, come in different flavors. There are mothers to be, gunshot victims, prisoners needing care - and their guards, cancer victims, burn victims, junkies, industrial (or farming) accident victims, and so on.

Who is in a daycare? The administration, the teacher, the kids, the parents, the gerbil or whatever mascot, etc. These also come in a variety of flavors.

You can do this with anything. Give some real thought to the kinds of people who come into contact with your space. One thing often overlooked - your guests are "characters" as well. Why are they there? What role do they play in this place? This is most likely the result of the Situation.

SITUATION
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OK, you have a place, you have some characters, but what is happening? Why are we here?
Maybe there are a ridiculous number of patients checking into the hospital and never checking out. Maybe there is a zombie outbreak and this is where the victims are being brought for treatment. In the daycare, maybe the children are disappearing or turning into monsters.

Maybe your situation is simple - there are ghosts! OK, but why are we here? Are we (the patrons) here to suss out who murdered the Talbot Family in 1941? Are we here to make it through the terrors of the ghosts in hopes of discovering some secret or treasure?

Maybe there has been a meteor strike and plants are turning hostile. Maybe strange lights in the sky are turning people insane. Certainly the Situation is part of the story, but this is kind of the executive summary of the story - what is happening and what are we doing?

In the Fangoria haunt I linked before, the place is a lab with a time machine. The characters are the scientists running it, the tourists, and the people (and things) met on the journey. The Situation is that there is a demonstration of time travel, we are participating in it, and it's not functioning exactly as advertised.

Maybe the setting is an abandoned orchard. The characters are groundskeepers, shamans, demon worshipers, and we patrons. The situation is that this cult has summoned demons at their makeshift shrine in the deepest part of the wood, populating it with all variety of monsters. We are there to find some of the women who have been going missing in town.


Can you think of great haunts you have been to, and what place, characters, and situation they use? Can you think of great haunts that have none of these, or only one or two?

What place, characters, and situation do you think wold make a great haunt you can build?

Please share. And, of course, Happy Haunting!
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