Atascadero’s haunted house the Haunt opens for Halloween

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If you’re looking for some gruesome entertainment this spooky season, there’s only one place in San Luis Obispo County that keeps a box office “pee board” to keep track of how often. which visitors wet their pants with fear.

The Haunt has been scary from its current location on El Camino Real in Atascadero since 2015.

It is one of the only traditional haunted houses to operate in San Luis Obispo County this year, after Nightmare on Main Street in Templeton had to temporarily close as it searched for a new location.

For Haunt founder Chris Towers – whom previous Haunt attendees might recognize as the top hat-wearing house leader – this year’s hangout is even better than ever (though he says it every year). ).

“Every year it gets better,” Towers told The Tribune during a tour of The Haunt on Monday. “Every year I say it’s our best yet – every year it’s the best.”

Production manager Sandi Andersen-Tarica added that organizers have spent more time this year making The Haunt both creepy and safe in times of coronavirus.

“We have to make it all worthy of a cry,” said Andersen-Tarica. “We had a great time doing it. “

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Haunt founder Chris Towers overlooks one of the many fairy-tale-themed rooms in the Atascadero haunted house. Most of the materials in each room are recycled from things that community members sell or dispose of. Kaytlyn leslie [email protected]

What to expect at the Atascadero haunted house

For those who are curious about how The Haunt works, here’s a quick spoiler-free explanation.

The current haunted house is located in a commercial space at 5805 El Camino Real, just up the street from the Carlton Hotel.

After stepping through the doors, you’ll be transported to a series of spooky themed rooms, all designed to scare you away with a mix of animatronics, lighting, smells, and live actors.

This year’s theme, Grimm Reaper’s Scary Tales Volume II, takes famous fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Snow White” and “Jack and the Giant Bean” and turns them into nightmares.

Each room is designed by a variety of people, according to Andersen-Tarica. Some are created by actors with The Haunt who dabble in scene design, while others are the work of community volunteers.

Towers plays a huge role in making every room possible, said Andersen-Tarica, with his training as an electrician and his interest in animatronics.

“If (the designers) say, ‘Well, I don’t think we can do that, but I wish I had that in the room,’ Chris said, ‘Oh, yeah, we can do that,’ said Andersen-Tarica. “He is an extraordinary builder.”

Each room is a testament to the creativity of The Haunt team.

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Rooms at The Haunt are designed by a number of volunteers or community members, like this Hansel and Gretel themed room which features items from a woman from Santa Lucia who once decorated haunted houses. Kaytlyn leslie [email protected]

Team members source materials to build all of their sets and props themselves from a variety of locations, including local garage sales.

“Everything here is being built by a volunteer,” Towers said. “It’s just neat how much of this is reused (when it could have) been thrown away.”

The sets can be scary on their own, but it is the actors who bring the different paintings to life.

Andersen-Tarica said she organized a team of 30 to 40 actors of different ages who volunteered their time to work in The Haunt on weekends.

“They register and we put them in a room, let them go,” she said. “They don’t need to have acting experience. Everything is just improvisation.

The Haunt is always looking for volunteer actors, Andersen-Tarica added. Anyone interested can register on The Haunt website.

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Chris Towers and Sandi Andersen-Tarica talk about the mechanics of staging horror scenes and how to use a mix of animatronics (like the skeleton pictured above) and live actors to create fears . Kaytlyn leslie [email protected]

COVID-19 Precautions at The Haunt

This year is unique for The Haunt, given all the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus.

“(The pandemic) played an interesting role,” Towers said.

He said organizers need to get creative with some of their more traditional fear tactics to get them to safety in the era of COVID-19.

“We had to come back to some things,” he said. “It has been an interesting transition. But an interesting thing is that we’ve learned a lot of new ways of doing things that require you to think outside the bubble. “

Doors that were previously fabric curtains are now vinyl, he said, and a room called “airbag walls” had to be closed because it would have been difficult to disinfect.

During this time, all who pass by the haunted house are required to wear face masks. The actors also wear masks.

“We have a lot of intelligence here,” said Andersen-Tarica. “And a lot of people who want things to be safe. And we promise our actors that we’ll keep them safe. “

“We are very, very aware of being safe during this time,” she added.

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Tribune reporters Kaytlyn Leslie, Lindsey Holden and former reporter Gabby Ferreira brave the ghoulish haunted house. Laura Dickinson [email protected]

Haunt Organizers Say Customers “Always Get the Best of Rooms”

Both Towers and Andersen-Tarica are extremely proud of The Haunt and its role in the community.

They also clearly have the time of their lives.

Andersen-Tarica, who usually works at the box office on Haunted Nights, gleefully explained how volunteers keep a “pee board” inside the small shed. On this one, they mark every time someone leaves a room saying they peed.

In 2019, there were 31 “avowed peers,” she laughed.

“Some people see it as a badge of honor,” Andersen-Tarica said. “Some of them will actually want to sign their name, like ‘It was me!’ “

The Haunt also keeps emergency sweatpants on hand which are “available on request” if guests have “accidents” while visiting rooms, she added. (The pants only had to be handed out twice.)

Towers said he was proud of how “alive” The Haunt felt.

“We have guys from Universal Studios that come here every year because they love to see what we’re doing,” he said. “They say we’re one of the few who feel like the building is alive, because there’s such a mix of animation and physical actors. So you always get the best of the rooms.

Both Towers and Andersen-Tarica have said they plan to maintain The Haunt in the future.

“It took a long time to get there, and we’re so grateful that we have an army of volunteers to make it happen,” Towers said, “It’s more fun every year and more and more people are screaming. ‘is therefore a victory. “

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes on business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers municipal governments and events in the South County area including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating in journalism from Cal Poly.

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