Haunt for red October
A good, properly frightening haunted house, like Slaughter House, which opens Oct. 11 in Meadowood Mall, is like a multimedia art installation—bringing together acting, makeup, set design, sound design and sculpture—all for the purposing of eliciting primarily one emotion: fear.
“It’s kind of a Nada Dada Hotel kind of a thing, because we have all these other artists coming in,” says Eli Kerr, the owner and director of Slaughter House. “We have live acting. We have artistic painting. We have sculpting. … Just about every art that’s out there is incorporated into the house.”
Slaughter House is a disorienting maze of phobias, more than 8,000 feet, where visitors are confronted by one frightening room after another. Whatever you fear—from spiders and corpses to clowns and dogs—there’s a good chance you’ll find it in the Slaughter House. There are innumerable props, many of them customized objects made specifically for the haunted house, and dozens of actors, most of whom are decked out in gruesome makeup and all of whom are volunteers. This is the seventh year of the Slaughter House, though it has changed locations a few times, and since surprise is a crucial element of fear, every year the house is different.
“We take people to several levels this year, raising people up off the ground, and putting stuff over their head,” says Kerr. “We even take people on an elevator ride. … We’re trying to scare people from different levels—kind of getting away from just a guy jumping away and saying “boo”—which still does work, though. Too much of that is too much of that, and changing isn’t always better, but we try to embrace the things that still work and the things that people do expect. … Nothing’s worse than going to see your favorite singer and he doesn’t do your favorite song, just because everyone’s already heard it.”
Kerr’s also a well-known illusionist, and his new magic show Eli: the Magic of Eli Kerr opens Oct. 19, at Harrah’s. He’s the figurehead of Slaughter House, but the house is a collaboration among dozens of volunteers, many of whom wear multiple masks: acting, building sets and designing makeup.
“This is about as close as you can come to doing film without actually doing film,” says Jeremy Trader, a volunteer involved with just about every aspect of the house. “This is the best outlet for anyone creative.”
Reactions to the house vary—from sorority girls who have to be escorted out after the first room to 10-year-old boys who, upon finishing, immediately want to go back through.
“It’s a study in human nature every year,” says Kerr. “People, as much as they don’t admit it, like to be scared. It’s a rush.”
“We have had good reactions over the years,” says Trader. “Just about any bodily fluid that can be expelled, has been.”
For that reason, he recommends going to the bathroom before entering, and maybe not eating or drinking immediately beforehand.
“Just for our sakes, we hate to have to shut down to clean,” says Trader.
The house will be open through Halloween with discounted ticket prices for donations to Food Bank of Northern Nevada. On Sunday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the house is presented as a kid-friendly “Laughter House.”
What attracts the volunteers to participate in a haunted house like this?
“Scaring people keeps up the energy,” says Kyle Crawford, an actor in the house. “You get excited to scare the next person.”
“This is stuff we love to do,” says Javon “Buddha” Padillo, one of the house’s lead builders. “This is how we celebrate Halloween.”