There’s always something about the holiday season that brings people together to enjoy everything that it embodies. All of us have our unique holiday traditions- from hanging up stockings to decorating the christmas tree or lighting the menorah. But as the years go by, new traditions develop based on the surrounding events and whatever activities groups can come up with to bring in the seasonal tourism. But every so often, something odd comes along to challenge the standard holiday traditions we all know and love. In this case, how better to celebrate the season of joy and giving than with an evening of being scared half to death?
For those of us who feel that the typical offerings of Christmas villages and zoo light shows really need more murder, there’s a new winter attraction being tested by an unlikely group that may just be what we’re looking for. That group is none other than Warehouse 31: Unleashed, who are noted for their haunted house events in Jacksonville during the month of October. The minds behind the Halloween and Valentine’s Day haunted houses have decided to try their hand at opening for the holidays, putting a frosty theme on their typical horror settings.
Avid readers of Movement Magazine online may be familiar with Warehouse 31, as I have ventured into its realm of terror before (link to the other review here?), and being able to interview and converse with the mastermind of the operation was an intriguing insight into the nature of fear and the work that goes into the setup for the monthlong event. While my old friend the Toymaker was not there when I arrived, I was able to talk to some other important members of the Warehouse 31 team in the meantime about the inspiration behind hosting a Christmas-themed haunted house.
According to on-site manager Colleen Schultz, , there’s a perfectly good reason for transforming the season of joy into an extension of the season of fear. “Horror does have its place with happiness,” says Schultz, “and it makes sense to intertwine the two. It’s the same reason people like The Nightmare Before Christmas and films like it.”
Of course, it would be hard for a team of Warehouse 31’s size to completely create new haunts on this tight schedule, so many of the themes of Halloween are recycled. This can be seen in some more than others, but this is understandable. Michael Hatchett, social media manager of the event, explains: “Because it’s been such a short time between Halloween and Christmas, we worked with what we already had, and put a little Christmas magic on it. A lot of this is building off the bases we already established, and putting a Christmas twist on them.”
As I went through the house myself, I must say that they did an impressive job with the quick redesigns necessary to fit the yule theme: everything is well-crafted as usual, but the contrasts understandably stick out between the Christmas costuming and the Halloween set design, but the performances given work to balance out the contrast. Holiday-themed or not, it’s still a haunted house, and as usual the performers absolutely deliver on their scares. I should know- I was one of them.
Warehouse 31 could always use more helping hands, according to my old friend Jeremy Spicer, and the house is happy to accept anybody willing to volunteer a few hours of time to be a performer for them. I spent a few hours behind the apparatus of Monty, a large mechanical snake head, which was a good balance between getting the screams and having to put myself out there. It’s great to know that anyone can help out regardless of their comfort level with person-to-person interaction.
While the first night of the holiday event was not crowded, I believe that Warehouse 31 has put a lot of hard work, effort and dedication into their holiday experience, which is something perfectly in the spirit of the season. It’s impressive to see how in-character the actors become and how quickly they managed to adapt their sets, given the time they had to work with. At the end of the day, both performers and guests were in both the spirits of laughter and screams. Warehouse 31 has always come off to me as a tight-knit group that has a wonderfully understanding and laid-back feeling, and I highly recommend anyone who wishes to try it volunteer there, or at least visit and support the endeavor. If you’re tired of the same heartwarming and jolly Christmas traditions, head on over to Warehouse 31 for a holiday night you won’t soon forget.
by Brendan Rodenberg for Movement Magazine