Those who ran the Queer and Ally Haunted House this year know exactly how to give a good scare.
Throughout last weekend’s “Alice in Horrorland” haunted house, sophomore Claire Neri said the newspapers lining the basement floor told a story.
“You could actually tell where people were the most terrified, because the newspaper had come up from when they would shuffle their feet,” Neri said.
The Q & A Haunted House has been going strong for four years, now and began as the brainchild of Matthew Becker ’12 and Beth McRill ’12.
The haunted house usually has a theme. Months of planning, purchasing and creating decorations and assigning character roles go into the event.
Turning the Q & A House into a den of terror cost the residents about $100 in funds through Campus Life and “a lot out of pocket,” according to senior Jill Krippel. This year, Krippel began drawing up the floor plans in spring, which she said was already behind schedule.
Guests waiting to be spooked last weekend entered the house from the side door and listened as junior Nick Wagner, doing a disembodied voice of the perennially late white rabbit, directed them down the stairs.
People passed through the basement level through a twisting maze with black trash bags for walls. Residents say the basement is plenty creepy on its own any day of the year.
“Sometimes you hear words coming up from the radiator,” sophomore and Q & A House resident Oakton Reynolds said.
The main floor of the house featured paper walls with hand-drawn, life-size playing card jacks, several Knox students as creepy characters and, ultimately, the Queen of Hearts, who was less than thrilled to hear her guests had eaten her tarts before entering. The punishment? “Off with their heads,” of course.
A favorite haunted house aspect among the residents was the Jabberwocky: a cardboard, chicken wire and papier-maché beast with a moving head that lunged at visitors. It was also one of the scariest features of the house. If the newspaper test is any guide, Neri said the floor in front of the Jabberwocky was completely bare by night’s end.
Usually, though, cast members had to rely on their own acting instead of handcrafted props to ratchet up the fear.
“Every time someone would go through, [sophomore Levi Woodbury and I] could just experiment with new ways to scare them,” Reynolds said. “We could hear them downstairs, and depending on what they screamed most at, we could adjust … what we’d do.”
Preferring to stay in character in between performances, Reynolds and Woodbury once had a conversation on “the existential crisis of pig snouts” as the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, respectively.
“We would just hear these really creepy chuckles … and I was like, ‘Oh my God, are there people [going through the house]?’” senior Jordan Durrett said. “And no—it [was] just Oakton and Levi [staying in character].”
Breaking down all the decor in the house has usually been much quicker than setting it all up, even becoming a game at times.
“Matthew did it two years ago, just dive-bombed into the kitchen,” Krippel said.
One of Neri’s favorite quotes of the experience came from a visitor who said, “I know everyone’s lost in Wonderland, but we’re really lost!” The wanderers were directed toward the right path in the end.
As for next year’s haunted house, the Q & A House is torn between paying homage to Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or putting on a macabre circus.
This year’s haunted house drew in 76 guests in two nights, a slight decrease from last year’s three-night run. The Sunday night run was canceled out of respect for Tundun Lawani, ’14, and her family.
Note: Claire Neri is Circulation and Subscriptions Manager for TKS.