This summer, I was tapped by a friend to help organize Positive Voice‘s annual Halloween party. For this project, I needed to coordinate a menu, a DJ, party favors, design and build props, and design games and events for the party.
I drew upon my set construction experiences at Terror on the Fox. Additionally, I had hosted elaborate Halloween parties / poker tournaments (called “Texas Haunt ‘Em) every year for 7 years before I joined Terror on the Fox.
We originally considered a theme that would expand upon Positive Voice’s mission, but we didn’t get enough traction with that approach. I was approached late in the summer – with not very much time before Halloween to get the event done. So with time rapidly evaporating, I put forth a proposal to do a haunted prison theme, because I would be able to put everything together for little time and money.
The Escape Room
The opportunity to build an escape room was the natural result of creating a prison theme. The build was simple enough – a 6′ x 8′ cell made up of barred wall panels constructed from furring strips and PVC pipes. Furnishing the cell with a little furniture and clutter was simple and cheap. I built a half dozen lightweight wall panels to obstruct the cell so that no one could cheat and watch someone else solve the puzzle.
To obscure visibility, I illuminated the area with red lights and ran a fog machine off to the side. Players were handcuffed one at a time, led to the prison cell, and locked in the cell with a genuine padlock. Acting as the jailer, I removed the handcuffs and slipped the player their first clue. They were given no explicit instructions and only three minutes to solve the puzzle. Some didn’t even recognize the clue as a clue, and most misinterpreted the intent of the clues. But the puzzle was solvable, and a small handful of players were able to locate the key and break out of prison.
An electric chair and panel were built as a photo set. Since the chair had to support weight, I opted for sturdier 2×4 studs. I aged the wood with a solution of vinegar and steel wool. For the electrical parts, I installed random junk wires, cables, fuses, an electrical box, and colander that I picked up from a thrift shop. To simulate actual electrical activity, I installed a series of strobe lights to back-light the chair and the panel.
My favorite part of any haunt-related project is the excuse to build more corpses. In this instance, I wanted to replicate (as close as I was able) an amazing prop I saw at TransWorld last spring. The inspiration was Poison Props‘ Hanging Meat prop.
I named him “Casey”, an amalgamation of my friends Cole and Macy, since I attended TransWorld with the two of them.