Falstaff's haunted house frightens students, warms hearts

Posted by Maxx Salat

Each year, October comes to a close with people across the globe donning guises, participating in trickery and telling tales of ghouls, goblins and miniature candy bars in celebration of All Saints' Day, known to many as Halloween. For college students, however, Halloween is often reduced to a haze of binge drinking and throwing together a last minute costume to ensure a reduced price on a Chipotle burrito, a black and orange variation on our usual weekend activities.

In an unlikely twist this past Wednesday, Oct. 31, a group of students demonstrated that Halloween can be celebrated on a college campus with mirth and pure intentions through the construction and orchestration of a haunted house at Falstaff's.
The haunted house was conceived, choreographed and acted entirely by students. Although this event only ran between 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., students could be seen racing in and out of the venue for almost a day before the first tour. 

Alex Orthwein '13, who served simultaneously as the eccentric greeter and creative force behind the haunted house, said the operation began almost a month prior to the event. 

"We had been having meetings and reiterating ideas about shopping and production for almost a month, but it didn't seem like it would come together until James [Kuzio] '15 designed the sound for it. Then, as we were doing build on Tuesday, the whole thing suddenly seemed tangible," he said.

Funding for the project came primarily from Cabaret Troupe and out of the students' own pockets. Although involvement with the Theatre Department afforded Orthwein access to a number of costumes and other resources, many of the set pieces, effects supplies and cosmetics were either donated by students, or picked up on one of many shopping trips to stores such as Spirit Halloween and Allerdice Party Rent-All. In spite of these costs, the event remained free to any willing entrants.

The haunted house had several sections, each thematically independent of the last, but all with the sole purpose of terrifying students. Included amongst these were a cobweb-strewn hallway, a haunted farm, a confined chamber filled with smoke, and a dance floor littered with zombies who performed choreographed routines to numbers such as Michael Jackson's "Thriller." 

Divided by curtains and cobwebs, the Falstaff's known to students for its dance parties and open mics suddenly transformed into a claustrophobic madhouse filled with stalking specters and personified nightmares. Although the walking tour only took a few minutes, it served its purpose, a point made clear by the regular shrieks of students that could be heard from Perimeter Road. 

"It may have been short, but I think it was clear that it was effective," Orthwein said.

The motivation behind the haunted house was to spread holiday cheer, according to Orthwein. 

"I think that it's a lot of fun, and [it's] something that needs to happen," Orthwein said. "Halloween is something that can often be forgotten on college campuses. Yeah, we have Moorebid and those events, but I figure a good old haunted house is something that we needed to spread cheer and help out during midterms." 

Orthwein said he has already expressed interest in putting on similar events for other holidays this year, as well as seeing to the continuation of the tradition he created. 

"I'm a senior, and this was my chance to finally lead something great and I want to keep it going," he said. "I plan on continuing to do haunted houses every year, and getting better at them."

Orthwein wishes to thank everyone involved, including but not limited to Gavin Berger '15, Alyssa Hammond '16, Shea Sonsky '15, Allison Schilling '15, Will Hoeschler '14, Emma Starr '16, Kyle Amato '15, James Kuzio '15, John Barrack '15, Noah Samors '15, Kirsten Brink '14, Becca Zipursky '15, Ashley Turcan '16, Costume Shop Manager Patty Pawliczak, Theater Manager David Yergan, Associate Director of Leadership Activities Robin Adams, and Cabaret Troupe.

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