It began with a phone call. I was outside on that lovely late September day with my cat, trying to teach him to sniff out black truffles. Training little Fluff Fluff was going well, I had finally got him to stop licking his fur parts, and at least look at the picture of a truffle I had on my iPhone. Amanda called me, she needed to know if I had any plans for October. Amanda is a dear friend, and the head of a young adult breast cancer awareness center. As many of you know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the month Amanda has their annual fund raiser drive.
Amanda wanted to do something new, something different, she was tired of the same old fussy dress up dinners with stuffy nosed people who only gave out checks. This is where I came in, for the two weeks leading up to Halloween, Amanda wanted to hold a Haunted House for charity. I was thrilled, and honored, that I was asked to help. It combined two of my favorite things: Halloween, and saving women's breasts. Amanda bestowed upon me the titular title of “co-event coordinator” and we were off and running.
We dubbed our charity event “Boos for Boobs”, which we felt encapsulated all that the event was, and tested really well with teenage boys. Amanda sorted through the people she knew, and I looked through the people that I knew. Caitlin and Bill came to mind, friends to us both, and friends who were talking to us about the fact that Bill had just inherited his Great Aunt Susan's old Victorian house on the outskirts of town. I phoned C&B to see if we could go and see the place, and if it would be alright to use it for B for B. It was the perfect setting for a haunted house. Perfectly sound, but had that weathered looked that suggested something sinister was going on inside.
Amanda and I went about trying to map out the flow the visitors would go in, a straight path, with no backing over. Get the guests in and out. We also knew we wanted the house to be spooky, but not terrifying. The both of us subscribing to the idea of a 1950s drive in movie atmosphere. We also thought, that instead of filling rooms with red light, we would use pink lights to keep in the theme that this was all for breast cancer.
The house had two staircases in it, one in the front, and one in the back, so we could lead people in the front, up to the stairs, and ending with them going through the kitchen and out the back door. Amanda would welcome people outside the house, collecting their money, and thanking them for their support. I would greet them once they walked through the door, spinning macabre jokes about what they were about to go through, all in my crappy Boris Karloff impression (which I do at the drop of a hat, and is one of the reasons my third wife divorced me).
No haunted house is complete without special effects. A phone called to Jason, a friend to us both, and a man who knew a thing or two about rigging up electronics for fun and profit. Amanda, Jason, and myself sat around one evening discussing what scary visuals, sounds, and lighting effects would work. At one point, Jason asked me what was the scariest thing I could think of, I told him that being trapped in a room with nothing but a TV showing a 24 hour marathon of movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels terrified me (just typing that caused me to soil myself).
Once we had an idea of what to do: spooky sounds, people in masks, people wandering around with fake blood on, the real work began. Amanda did the recruiting for our actors, whilst Jason and I worked on rigging up the gadgets and whizz poppers. We ran ads in the paper, went on local TV and radio, and soon there was some buzz for our productive poltergeist party. The sound system was all tied into an elaborate sound board that Jason designed, which utilized a number of iPods sending certain sounds to certain speakers. We tested it, and had not a flaw.
Opening night we were all nervous. I was dressed up as a tattered butler, someone who looked like he just woke up after sleeping in a crypt for 300 years. Amanda smiled at me, as she let the first group come to the entrance, around 25 people—not too shabby for six on a Friday night. People laughed, gasps, a few screamed. All that combined with the sounds of chains rattling, and weird moaning, made some think that they were filming the “50 Shades of Grey” movie inside.
The first weekend was an amazing success, a sizable amount was raised, and it seemed we might do double the next weekend. All was going fine the next few shows, till there was a hitch on Halloween night, for some reason, one of the iPods gllitched. Instead of creepy music, the sounds of Frank Sinatra began playing all over the house. Now, in normal circumstances, I would be all for this, but not this time. People just laughed, but some teeny types found the music scary—they ran out holding their ears, and screaming.
None of it really mattered come the light of day, the “Boos for Boobs” initiative, had raised a very pleasant amount, and all felt we did a great job. People enjoyed themselves, we made them more aware, and I got to do that crappy Boris Karloff voice. Happy Halloween all.