People often take haunted attractions for granted. For one month a year, those who love scaring get to let loose with their wildest, most creative, and most terrifying fantasies to create mazes and environments that are built to startle and entertain. It’s stressful, and laborious, but a true labor of love and dedication. And just like any industry, veterans must carry the responsibility to inspire and make way for new haunters, with new ideas and fresh blood to spill.
Two of those rising stars in Southern California are Lucas Acosta and Jose Cadena, the creators of “The Curse of the Devil Swamp,” a home haunt located in Orange County. Their maze has been gathering notoriety in the past few years, and Mr. Acosta was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with FGN and discuss what brought him to the Haunt life.
FGN: You are by far one of the youngest artists in the game. What are the pros/cons of that?
Lucas: Both myself and Devil Swamp’s other co-founder Jose Cadena are currently 20 years old.
PROS: Some of the pros that go along with this fact are that people we are getting the experience that we need earlier on in our life. We also both have part time jobs at Disney which allows us to have a more flexible timeline vs having a full time job. Because of our part time jobs, we have to be creative with our budget and create inexpensive (but effective) methods of scaring.
CONS: Some of the cons that go along with being young is budget. Our haunt will always be on a tight budget due to the fact that we fund it with our part time jobs. Another con is the fact that we are still in school, which can take time away from the project.
FGN: Where did you get the idea for Devil Swamp?
Lucas: I remember one year my family and I visited Lake Isabella in central California. Our campground had a sort of backwoods area for hiking and exploration so I decided to wander off. I actually came across a small swamp during that hike and took note of what I was feeling. I knew the path back to the campground but a strange uncomfortable feeling of being lost came upon me. It was a very eerie feeling to have. That’s what made me want to have the haunt take place in a swamp. The story came about through a lot of research of folklore and watching movies.
FGN: Any plans to expand/branch out?
Lucas: We would very much like to expand, but as of right now we do not have a location to build on. We are talking to a few people to possibly host us for this Halloween season, but nothing is set in stone.
FGN: What advice do you have for home haunters?
#1. Attend the events. Go to Knott’s, Horror Nights, or any attraction you can go to research. Take note of everything! Placement of scare spots, lighting, music, and how you felt walking through and why you felt that way.
#2. Create a story and stick with it. Haunts with a story stand out. I quote the great Daniel Miller (designer at Scary Farm)
You can tell when someone throws a maze together and it’s not from the heart and has no backstory. The designers often call it “Haunt Stew” A maze with one room after another with different themes that often don’t mesh.
(taken from ultimatehaunt.com)
I agree with Daniel. Create a backstory for your maze and base every creative decision you have to make on that story. Does it make sense to have a scary demon clown as a character when your haunt is based on werewolf infested backwoods? It does not. Not only does it help the maze make sense, but it will also help people remember your haunt
#3 Have good scares.A lot of people base their opinion of a haunt on “how scary it was”. Learn the basics by doing research both online and at the events themselves. Take what you learn and try to put your own twist. Don’t be afraid to try new scaring techniques.
#4. JUST DO IT! If you are new to haunting, just try something simple to start out with. Create a simple backstory and make a pathway for people to walk-through that tells that story (and scares people).
FGN: What scares you, Lucas?
Lucas: This may sound a bit strange… but talking animals freak me out. I’m not talking about Dr. Doolittle animals, but demons similar to the faun from Pans Labyrinth. Also werewolves!