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Dead Time Dreams
9/27/2013 by Hauntmistress
Haunted Bay was lucky enough to have a virtual sit down with Steve Darrough, owner of Dead Time Dreams Haunted Attractions in San Jose, to get his take on this year’s scares offered up by Dead Time Dreams and get a glimpse inside what it takes to produce a professional haunted house.
Haunted Bay (HB): What can people expect to see this year that is new at Dead Time Dreams?
Steve Darrough (SD): For 2013 Dead Time Dreams has three themes for folks to come and enjoy that are new attractions:
Then their is the Midway of Terror, which is a pre-show but creates a wild warm-up environment for guests.
HB: How did you get interested in the haunted house business?
SD: Like many folks who rallied to the Halloween holiday, I started out “home haunting,” being a fairly competent carpenter and then also working in the tech industry. Then I joined a group of haunt enthusiasts, which was a mix of yard-home-pro haunters. After a couple of years I realized it was just too much work for a single night and expanded into doing commercial attractions.
HB: What do you like best about producing a haunted house?
SD: Building out the sets and scenes, and then creating the unique props that support the themes by far is the most enjoyable part for me. There is, of course, lots of challenges in creating detailed and somewhat realistic settings, which I find a test of my abilities but feel a certain satisfaction once accomplished.
HB: Any one scene or scare that you’re particularly impressed with this year?
SD: Creating and putting so much time, effort, and resources into each attraction one can’t help but have certain favorites as the visions become reality. The main Voodoo room was a lot of fun due to a great deal of detail required. Then OUTBREAK, creating the full-sized army helicopter and jeep for setting the mood, was another.
HB: How did you pick your location in San Jose?
SD: Finding haunted house locations is definitely one of the bigger challenges in any city. Many commercial property owners are not interested in seasonal events. These are often quite expensive with no guarantee that the haunt will generate enough return to cover the costs, which are considerable. Then most buildings have property managers, which I have found are only interested in long-term leases and may not even let the owner know there is a short-term rent option. They make their fees for long leases, and short-term is almost not worth their effort. In my case, I was fortunate in finding an easy access spot where seasonal events were acceptable to the owner.
HB: Any particularly funny incident you had when scaring a guest? Anyone ever get mad at you for scaring them?
SD: Each year we set up our security cameras, which also become part of the team’s DVD memory for the show as a small thank you for their support. Those videos are priceless; guests coming through at times are quite scared, of course, and some of the dances that occur are worth so much to us in memory of that scene or attraction. On the angry part, it is very much human nature for folks to get so into it they are scared. Emotions are often triggered where it seems so real they may briefly cross over from fun to scared to angry but typically that doesn't last but a few seconds. The haunt, after all, is for fun and to create that moment of thrill, much like an amusement ride.
HB: What makes Dead Time Dreams unique, or put another way, if someone went to one haunted house this October, why should it be Dead Time Dreams?
SD: One of the things about Dead Time Dreams is, we are an adult haunted attraction. I do not recommend younger children come to the show, as it is built and meant for older audiences. This is also an immersive haunt; there are no safety barriers between guest and the scenes. Most of our core team actors are adults and there to really scare folks; they are big, and have the intent to truly scare folks.
HB: Any haunted houses of the past or movies that have inspired you?
SD: For pro haunts, there are many back east that are world class. I visited House of Shock and 13 Gate last year for the Transworld pro-haunter tour and met many other pro-haunters like Ben Armstrong from Neverworld (Atlanta, GA). These get-togethers are fun to share thoughts and experiences and perspectives. On the West Coast, my very favorite Haunt is the 13th Door in Portland, Ore. The owner, Raymond, has been a close friend and inspiration for many years and certainly has one of the best attractions each year I personally have ever seen. Movie-wise, basically I watch them for the scenes; lots of good ideas come from those, although I have never been a haunter to re-create a movie theme, as least intentionally. Part of making a haunt unique is the challenge of coming up with new attractions each year and keeping it fresh for both the customers and the crew.
HB: Anything you’d like to add?
SD: I feel the Bay Area has a lot of potential for more haunted houses; lots of folks out there who love the season, and there is a lot of room for more haunts. Folks looking to go out are now days expecting a very good show and folks deciding to get into this business should understand it is a labor of love. There is no get rich quick plan if the goal is to build an outstanding show. It does take time year round for preparation, even though it only runs for a short time of the year. I also feel it takes a great team of folks to support such types of endeavors; there are many talents at play: builders, techs, make-up and costuming folks, show managers, and most important, great actors to make the magic happen!
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