Haunted house brings large crowds, laughter, screams


Various students sit at a dining room table, complete with prop food, as a tour group passes by. The performance involved taking an actor who was put into the tour, and tying them down to a chair with them screaming. Photo by George Frey / Bearing News

George Frey

On the evening of Saturday, Oct. 27, RBHS’ Drama Club hosted its fourth annual haunted house. Along with the fall carnival taking place outside the Performing Arts Center (PAC) lobby, the haunted house drew a diverse crowd. From the young to the old, the PAC was teeming with laughter and screams. The haunted house began in October of 2015, and has since become a tradition in the RBHS theater community; led by theater teacher, director and actress Holly Kerns.

“I really wanted a way for people who weren’t confident about doing a whole show to be able to take on a character and play within that character in a lower pressure kind of setting,” Kerns said. “I thought some people might just have fun with acting without having to think about a role.”
This year’s theme revolved around a haunted mansion-esque setting, with a variety of rooms, costumes and characters. The tour began at a large gate, where the visitor would be greeted by a tour guide, who would be a sherpa through the haunted house’s many mysterious corridors. Walking down the driveway, which was the hallway leading towards the costume shop, the visitor would experience a quick skit, beginning in a living room, where a maid fed her employers poisoned tea, thus murdering them. The visitor would then exited the area outside the costume shop, and step down a small flight of stairs into the PAC and onto the stage, where an elaborate dining room setting was dimly lit.
The actors played a wide variety of characters, and were able to create their own storyline. Senior Hunter Manes, who is a long time veteran of the project, has been deeply involved in the RBHS drama club as well as the haunted house. Manes played a butler type character with a facial disfigurement, which he achieved using makeup. He became interested in the project and in the holiday of Halloween after a visit to a haunted house when he was younger.
“What got me into Halloween really, was that in fifth grade I went to this place called Halloween City, and when I realized that the props weren’t real, I just kind of got into it,” Manes said. “It got me really interested in the holiday of Halloween, because there is no need to be scared of them [the props and actors] cause they’re all fake, we’re not gonna come after you. My favorite part [of creating the haunted house] is the brainstorming of ideas because people have so much imagination and can think of anything, and if it’s done correctly, it can be awesome.”
The RBHS drama community has a history of being inclusive, and invites anyone to join, even if they aren’t experienced actors. The haunted house project drew new RBHS students such as sophomore Grace Holdiman, who recently moved to Columbia from Pennsylvania.
“I am new to the area and I always thought that drama was just a great way to feel more connected to my new environment,” Holdiman said. “I did drama a lot [back in PA.], I think just coming up with all the stories and coming together [was what I enjoyed the most].”
Holdiman was a tour guide for visitors, and went through the haunted house with groups repeatedly for several hours, all while maintaining her character and putting on a smile for the various tour groups she handled throughout the evening.
After the visitor exited the dining room area, one would venture behind the PAC curtains and through twisting hallways. The area seemed to be a sort of construction site and garden, with plants, caution signs and even an evil gardener. The visitors were then taken into room 418, the theater classroom, where students waltzed in a fake ballroom, and taunting guests to ‘come dance with them.’ After that, visitors would be greeted by a disturbing scene in an area which was referred to as the ‘servants quarters,’ where students played maids and butlers who were either crying blood, shot or disfigured. Finally, the visitor would exit out of the haunted house down a dimly lit red hallway, and back into the PAC lobby, with either a newly inherited sense of fear, or excitement from their experience.
“Every year we brainstorm and a lot of people come up with ideas and then we see which ideas we can combine and umbrella together so we can connect themes that we’re thinking about,” Kerns said. “This is just the one that won out of all the ideas that we had to do a haunted mansion. Everybody liked the idea of the way that the different rooms, would have almost a character of their own, you know, a ballroom vs a library vs a garden, the rooms are almost like characters too.”