A mysterious invitation is floating around campus. “You’re invited to dinner,” it begins.
“It’s a dinner party that goes wrong, you could say,” said sophomore Carrie Jester, who is the chair of this year’s haunted house in Mary Foust Residence Hall, home of Ashby Residential College.
The one-night, large-scale production is created entirely by students and comes to life this Saturday, Oct. 28, from 7 p.m. to midnight. It is open to the campus community and to the public.
The Mary Foust Haunted House has a 22-year history. It began in 1995, at the initiative of two students, Andrea Davis and Ryan Harrison, who pitched the idea as an event to raise money for a local nonprofit.
Now, the Mary Foust Haunted House is a major production created by 60 or more students, and it has always supported service organizations. This year’s proceeds will go to The Arc of Greensboro and the Spartan Open Pantry.
Each year, the house has a theme that drives the creative process, and a storyline to go along with it. Recent themes have included “Devils’ Dollhouse,” “Pandemonium” and “Creepy Carnival.”
Residential College Coordinator Will Dodson, who has supervised the haunted house student leadership for the past seven years, says the process is not only a lot of fun, but it gives the students hands-on artistic experience.
“They’re writing, directing, acting, doing makeup effects, shooting and editing video, trouble-shooting and, most of all, they’re learning to work together,” he said. “Many just met for the first time in August, and now they’re mounting a large-scale interactive production together. With the level of detail that goes into the work, I think it rivals professional productions.”
Over 300 haunted house visitors will flow through Mary Foust, so the planning process starts early in the spring semester.
In September, the storyboard committee determines the concepts for each floor, and student actors receive their characters and begin rehearsals. On the technical theater side, students mentor each other in makeup, costuming and special effects.
Senior Paige Rabinowitz first tried out her skill with special effects creating zombies for the 2015 haunted house. Now, the media studies major does makeup for film shoots and plans to pursue the craft professionally.
“I didn’t expect to find a career from a haunted house, but I did,” she said.
In early October, the advertising team creates their materials, including flyers, short videos and advertisements, and the other subcommittees finish gathering materials to mount their creation. On the day of the show, they dress the building, don their costumes and have the fire marshal approve the building for safety before opening the doors.
Each student involved with the haunted house, past and present, recalls their time spent on it as an important and memorable tradition.
“It’s a big part of this residence hall,” said Jester. “It builds our community, which is so important in a residential college.”
Admission for this year’s “House of Torment” is $5 per person, or $3 with a canned food item. On the night of the production, visitors can also enjoy concessions, games and old movies.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications