Makaabe Manor, 10/31/2005
I had a chance to visit the "Makaabe Manor" Haunted House this weekend, in Leesburg Virginia. All I can say is "Wow!"... this guy is definitely one of us. Too bad I didn't get any pictures, and I can't find a website for it either.
Basically it's a yard/house haunt, turned into a very professionally done haunted house. From what I understand, this guy has been building his haunted house there for 10 years now, and it's been written about in the newspaper and draws a large crowd every year. Apparently they run it for at least several weekends leading up to Halloween.
One of the nice things that they do is that they have a "non scary" version that they run on some nights for the younger kids. The fully-scary version isn't really that scary, but it has some excellent startle-tricks that gets a lot of the teens screaming. Many of the neighbors apparently get involved, and participate as actors and guides. There is a "requested donation" box, $5-each, and it all goes to charity.
Here's the really cool part... even though it's run in its owner's house, it's not obvious. It uses the garage and entire back yard. The entire front of the house has a gothic stone wall facade, complete with arched castle-doors, one for the front door of the house, and a double door for the main entrance for the haunted house. The garage is completely disguised (it's extremely easy to forget you just walked up a driveway, rather than a wide walkway), with an overhang and grand entrance. There's even a real iron cemetery fence/gate on either side of the driveway, plus a huge yard display featuring animated characters, skeletons, and graves. All of the gargoyles have glowing red eyes, and the entrance gate has real gas-flame torches. There are recessed skeletal sculptures (some made from bucky stuff) in the columns and wall sections.
The pillars that are next to the actual iron gates are of a dense construction. It might have been plaster or something. It felt very solid to the touch... not foam board. I can't imagine the time and work that went into putting together the facade and pillars.
Inside they made full use of those ghoulish portraits that change as you walk past, some animated startle effects with floor-switches for the guide to step on and activate... There's a bottomless pit to walk over, and an egyptian tomb room. The indoor part has specially constructed false-stone walls for the rooms and corridors, and its own cieling too... so there's no indication that it's the garage except that the floor is concrete.
Outside there are more cemetary scenes, and characters that step out at you, and air-cannons to blast your ankles and give you a good scare. It's also easy to forget that it's just their yard, since there are more false-stone walls, and a hay-covered path between the walls and cemetery fences. It's very elaborate, and packs a lot in a small space.
From what I hear, the line to get in can stretch more than an hour long on halloween night. The police even come and close off the portion of the road in front of it.
This is the sort of thing I'd love to do, but even for all my enthusiasm, I don't think I'd have the time, money, or energy to pull it off. I'll stick to a yard haunt, methinks.
Anyway, if any of you live in the NoVA area near DC, this is worth checking out next year if you get the chance. I hope they put up a website and document some of this, even if just to give directions. Though it looks like they can barely keep up with the crowds as it is.