Haunted houses use technology to create more thrills and chills

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Some haunted attractions turn to technology to intensify the experience for their customers this Halloween season.

Troy Barber, owner of Nightmare on 13th in Salt Lake City, has been in the haunting business for 25 years. All he needed when he started was a dark room, a fog machine and a few masked actors during the early years of his career.

However, the haunted attraction industry transformed with the turn of the century.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” Barber said. “Haunts started to charge more money, which meant we needed to deliver more to the customers. Technology is how we did that.”

Customers now expect to be dazzled by the latest and greatest in animatronics, soundscapes and 3D projections when they walk into a haunted house.

“Technology is involved in every aspect of what we do in today’s haunted industry,” said Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, a representative for America Haunts. “While the aspect of touching the senses is still the ultimate experience for a haunted house goer and the goal of those producing the attraction, we now do that with a lot of special effects to heighten the fears and enhance the adrenaline rush.”

Some haunts, such as Nightmare on 13th, are using projection technology called video mapping to project images onto various surfaces with no distortion. Other haunts use cameras, control rooms and computer programming to perfectly time each scene to elicit the most shock from customers.

One haunted house in Denver even uses giant animatronics powered by Microsoft Kinect technology to detect and interact with individual guests during the haunt, according to FANGORIA magazine.

New developments like these help create a truly supernatural environment for guests to experience as they walk through a haunted house.

“Technology allows the set to live within the attraction,” Arnett-Bequeaith said.

Of course, not every haunted house needs high-tech features to thrill its customers. Utah’s Castle of Chaos owner, James Berger, said he likes the suspense and intensity of using more actors and less grandiose effects.

“I try to add unique effects instead of big, showy things that aren’t scary,” Berger said. “Those types of things are just eye candy.”

Berger is more subtle about the effects he uses but said he recognizes that people expect to see technology in these kinds of attractions. He uses it to supplement the other aspects of his haunt.

“It’s become universally accepted that to have a haunted house today, you need some technology,” Berger said.

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