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Haunted Houses, Haunted Dreams
May 27th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The setting I usually write is most easily described as the near future. In 1999, when I wrote Chicks Dig Jerks, I set it in 2014 – a decade and a half away. Cryptozookeeper is set in 2015, which is just four. I’d love to be able to pick a real-world location in the current date and speak to it with passion, color and intelligence, but I am bad with directions and wholly ignorant of local history. There’s a statue of a blue Bronco with bright red eyes before the Denver International Airport. They make beer in Golden. When it comes to my ability to spin yarns about the state in which I live, I think we’re caught up!

So I am quite fortunate to know a guy who makes an almost completely new haunted house each year.

In case you’ve no idea what a ‘haunted house,’ as a business is, let me explain – starting toward the end of September, and all through October, there are a number of small business owners that are in the business … of horror! They find a piece of property. They obtain some volunteers. They modify the buildings and land on this property to be spooky. Perhaps they have a particularly terrifying theme, like “The Land of the Dead” or “The Corpse Locker” or “Trapped On A Bus With The Writing of Bethlehem Shoals.” When the haunted house (and “house” is really a generic term here) is ready, they charge customers a bunch of money to walk through. What you get for your money is employees jumping out of the shadows and yelling, “agggh!”, sure, but on some of the better ones I’ll admit I’ve been a bit taken with the scenery, the crisp autumn weather and the palpatable passion on display. There’s a sick creativity among the individuals in the medium that’s very alluring.

My pal Randy, as mentioned in the previous entry, has put together a haunted house near Denver for each of the last four years.

He has also generously allowed me to tour and take photos at night, before his business went “live.” This is gold to me, for the games I make. I place a graphics window in my games to show the player where they are, so having these unique locations as a backdrop is just awesome. Touring real cities and photographing them for a game is a colossal pain because people leave their cars parked on the side of the street. I’d rather code a wet trough of Dutch adverbs than a bunch of automobiles, especially cars uninvolved in the plot. (Plus, the “missions” in any given Grand Theft Auto game might be designed by feebleminded bores, but they dominate everything regarding breaking into cars in a computer game conceptually. Let’s allow them to own this and think more of them for it; they do good work there.) Fake towns created to see the effects of nuclear weapons during the Cold War seem a little creepy. Wandering around some of the villages Randy has made is the closest I’ve experienced to that.

In this way, our crazy nature benefits each other. Because he has to tear down his haunt each year, it’s almost as if there’s a bit of performance art to them that slips into the ether come November — when the season is over and the walls, props, mannequins and fake pig organs have been packed away, his art is gone forever. (Especially since he has too much buzzing about in his brain to simply replicate what he’s already done.) His constructs live on in the games I make, and my work wouldn’t look half as interesting if the scenery was mostly made up of bad daylight shots of sunny Fort Collins and bums sleeping on parked Civics and Escorts.

I’ll include a few pictures I took of Randy’s haunts over the years after a MORE jump. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s breakfast who might be reading this at Planet IF. (I am assuming stuff only shows up to the WordPress MORE prompt on Planet IF. Otherwise, I probably owe you a breakfast.)

These aren’t actually photos I used in the game, but they help to illustrate what Randy has put together from 2006 through 2010. He’s actually gearing up for this year’s haunt (“The City of the Dead”) at the Denver Flea Market this weekend.


2 Responses  
  • Milkunits writes:
    May 27th, 201112:43 pmat

    Robb,

    This is an outstanding and humbling compliment to this weirdness I enjoy! I am glad I could help and wish you much success with the game and your passions for IF. I know I have to read when I play these games and Robb, reading is so hard. All kidding aside, I would read anything you write my friend.

    Yours in Blood,

    Milker!

  • Julie K. writes:
    June 15th, 20119:22 amat

    This is such a great idea! I have become fascinated by haunted houses recently and as a realtor, I have written an article about selling or buying this type of property.

    Robb I would love you to write a few comments if you’d like!

    You can read my article here – Toronto Haunted Houses

    Thanks, Julie


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