Interview: Grisly Manor Studios’ “Phantom Finder”

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Halloween is upon us, and many people out there are looking for the newest, most exciting addition to their holiday hauntings.  In the age of smartphone technology that can practically jump off the screen, one company has brought a whole new way of spooking people out to life.  Well, more like back from the dead.
Grisly Manor Studios Logo
Grisly Manor Studios has created “Phantom Finder Camera,” an Augmented Reality app to be used in conjunction with physical artwork the owner comes across.  When the app is lined up with the artwork or marker, they are treated to a stunning moving picture that is guaranteed to creep you out.  FanGirlNation spoke to the owner and creator of Grisly Manor Studios, Michael Dykier about his engaging new product.

FGN: 
How did Grisly Manor and Phantom Finder come about?
Michael Dykier: We are a family business that started as home haunters that wanted to integrate visitor’s smartphones into our attraction.  Since teenagers and young adults connect heavily via social media and their smartphones, we figured an Augmented Reality Ghost Camera App that displays/records ghost footage could prove valuable as an entertainment strategy and especially for advertising.
The Haunted Attraction Industry thrives on showing visitors illusions; Augmented Reality is akin to modern-day magic, displaying virtual content in real surroundings.
At the R&D stage, we learned that many companies had attempted to make an augmented reality ghost experience, but all had fallen short in the effects and actual viable use cases.  Basically, programmers gave their best shot making scary content (which often takes creative minds such as those found in the haunt industry) and typically ended up with a functional but cartoonish looking ghosts.
When we built it, we were going to go commercial, handing out tablets to visitors so that the Augmented Reality Ghosts were primarily the distraction, hampering their night vision and distracting their attention for the big scares!
After our first prototype, each member of our team was convinced that making it available for the broader industry to use would be better than trying to juggle our own professional location in addition to making the very best Augmented Reality experience possible.
FGN: How does Phantom Finder work?
MD: It is a camera app for Android/Apple smartphones and Tablets.  When specific images, posters, logos, objects, shirts, and signs are viewed ghosts appear.  Users can record their ghost encounter, with friends in the video, and with the tap of a button, submit their Phantom Footage to their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube accounts in addition to sending it via email.
GMS Check In
FGN: Any plans to expand your product line?
MD: We have been making custom apps and phantoms for several clients in the haunt industry.  Currently, venues are having us “Phantomize” their Logo (i.e. make their logo a Phantom marker, causing ghosts to fly around when viewed).  Many are then putting their logo in a location where they film their patrons interacting with the ghosts, then email the footage free of charge.  This is sort of like the event video/photo booth concept, but cheaper and way cooler.  The patrons can see supernatural occurences on adjacent monitors and get souvenir paranormal footage (with the venue’s logo in the background) for free.
At West Coast Haunters Convention, we unleashed a Ghost Scavenger Hunt, in which the app gave hints on where visitors need to look to find specific ghosts.  Vendors loved how we directed people through their booth.  Upon completion, successful players were entered into drawings for free merchandise, a TV, and other electronics.
Recently, we entered into a cooperative agreement with AtmosFX, the makers of projection effects such as “Ghostly Apparitions”, so that our locations can make use of their high quality characters, in the Phantom Finder.
Grisly Manor Pirate Ship
We now sell Backlit markers that light up like movie posters.  The app is visual based and triggers when our pre-programmed images are viewed by the smart device.  Some of last year’s clients put their Phantom Markers in an area that had no light, and therefore the ghosts didn’t appear.  Also, we are working on markerless Phantoms, probably to be released in our wearable version.
Currently, we are part of the Meta 1 Pioneer developer program, in which we are testing/developing a Wearable Phantom Finder (headsets and glasses that display ghosts); also we are in contact with secretive Magic Leap.  We think the experience that hardware manufacturers are making possible, in addition to the money that such forward thinking companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft are putting into Augmented Reality is a sign of how significant this technology will be.  These companies are putting their money on Augmented Reality being the next cellphone.
FGN: Have you always been interested in Halloween and the horror genre?
MD: Our family has always taken the holidays to extreme levels.  When I was young I would win contests wearing high quality home-made costumes.  Mom was the head makeup and costume designer still her most important title today, albeit under different circumstances.
FGN: Where is the farthest you’ve ever had a customer order your product from?
MD: Um…  perhaps Alaska.  We haven’t made a concerted effort promoting internationally yet.
FGN: Do you have a favorite “Phantom”?
MD: The Pirate Ship Painting is my favorite.  It is one of the first of a line of revamped Phantoms/effects that we are preparing to offer our clients.  I acquired it 10 years ago working an odd junk removal job, and didn’t know what to do with it since my wife wouldn’t let it in the house.  It was too cool to leave in the trash.
FGN: What scares you personally?
MD: Spiders and people who fear/resist innovation.
Thank you Michael Dykier and Grisly Manor for taking the time to hear about their exciting product!  This Halloween, be sure to get Phantom Finder for your phone and buy a few markers for your favorite scare of the season!
Want to try out Phantom Finder for yourself? Download the app now and check out the Pirate Ship above!
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