The Devils in the Details
The Rise of the Art Haunt by August Rose – December 2010
Trick or Treat. Or shall it now be said, Trick and Treat? Tis the season for ghouls and goblins, witches and vampires, demons and children alike. And though the meanings and rituals are all but forgotten in contemporary celebrations, Halloween has only grown in its popularity, and its ability to inspire people to decorate their homes and yards. This explicit and expressive phenomenon, that once meant maybe a few pumpkins, fake spider webs or plastic signs, has exploded into vast, and increasingly expensive, productions. The quality and the aim, if not the point, of these haunts have improved and become a lifestyle, if you will, for many aficionados of All Hallows Eve. These efforts have been delineated and defined beyond the professional (pro-haunt) and the amateur (yard haunt) classifications to include the pneumatic, the static, the ambient, and more recently that which can only be defined as the art haunt.
Undoubtedly, the most well-known of all haunts are the pro-haunts, the classic haunted houses that open (and charge admission) every year with their well-known offerings. The 13th Door (www.13door.com) and The Asylum (www.asylumdenver.com), for example. Yet, it is the rogue yard haunt that has taken up the mantle of truly original, frightening (and free) experience. Masterful pioneers of the yard haunt, such as Pumpkinrot (www.pumpkinrot.com), The Davis Graveyard (www.davisgraveyard.com), and Hallowed Haunting Grounds (www.hauntinggrounds.org) to name but a few, have been setting up and displaying hand-crafted displays of eeriness and creepiness for decades, unwittingly inspiring scores of imitators and enthusiasts, while simultaneously entertaining and amazing trick-or-treaters that were growing weary of merely going door-to-door for a handful of candy. It is at these houses and in these yards that children, and more frequently and significantly the children-at-heart, are finding a lost connection to an emotive, if not entirely spiritual, experience that once dominated the human conditiona condition that ironically allowed for the popularity and rise of the pro-haunt in the first place.
It should come as no surprise then that the emotional fount that has been so long neglected by mankind is finding its voice again through the creative efforts of the yard haunter. A growing discontent for store-bought decorations, a burgeoning effort to fashion ever larger and more unique props, and a spirit that refuses to acquiesce to the commercialism that has taken over nearly every holiday have made a competition of sorts, although a friendly and cooperative one, of the Halloween-decorating community. Forums, like http://www.hauntforum.com and http://www.halloweenforum.com, and podcasts/blogs, such as http://www.thebloodshedbrothers.com, http://www.hauntcast.net, and http://www.garageofevilnetwork.com have sprung up to cater to the home-haunter and Halloween enthusiast alike to discuss and teach prop-building, speak to like-minded individuals, and spread the word to the normal world that they exist. And the more the word is spread, the more the efforts at creating, and outdoing even themselves, are re-doubled. There seems no end or limit to the expressions. These sentiments are indeed the origins of what should rightly be called the art haunt.
So what is an art haunt? In essence, it is a yard haunt that has gone to the extreme in style, in quality as well as quantity, and in the details. Yes, the devil is truly in the details. The most common yard haunt, which easily distinguishes itself from the individual home that offers a jack-o-lantern or a bag of leaves that looks like a pumpkin, etc, will display an inordinate amount of lighting, fog, tombstones, ghosts, ground-breaking skeletons and corpses and more while not necessarily hiding the fact that there is a house behind them or a vehicle in the driveway. The art haunt utilizes these decorations but zealously attempts to ensure that all semblances of a normal home, or even a driveway, are hidden if not entirely eradicated, taking not one day but sometimes weeks to set up. For the art haunter, it is not enough to display a prop merely; that prop must look real, organic, and exist within a world of its own, a world that itself exists unbetrayed by the presence of the everyday common world that was originally meant to hold no sway at Samhaim. The unadulterated nascent reality of another world is at the heart of an art haunt.
This is not to say that the art haunter is an elitist, only that the effort is highly dramatic and extremely passionate. To be sure, any effort should be commended on a day that a majority of mankind finds is frivolous at best and downright evil at worst. Remember that Halloween is meant to be a celebration of what has been reaped through sowing, a memorial to that which has or to those who have passed, and a bridge from yesterday to tomorrow. The scares associated with Halloween are symptomatic of cultures that have long since decayed and traditions that no longer apply in the ways they once did. Most amateur yard haunts also aim to startle and excite the base emotions of fear and surprise with their pneumatics and animatronics. However, it is the newly-tapped domain of the art haunt, to move beyond these aims, capitalize on the best efforts of the ambient haunt, and manifest not just a scene but rather an entirely separate reality that makes the visitor feel as if the real world does not reside on those grounds – in essence to Trick and Treat.
Rose , August. “The Devils in the Details.” Http://Www.darkrosemanor.com, Dec. 2010, filialuna.wix.com/darkrosemanor#!__devils. So what is an art haunt?