Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Killers: A Nightmare Haunted House" Patron's Testimonials Video

Thursday, October 4, 2012

This house is amazing. It's not perfect, nothing is, but people love this haunted house, and we keep making it better.  Added two new scares for this weekend alone.  Good ones, too.  Better than any Nightmare ever before.  But don't take my word for it.  The press is effusive.  Buy your tickets now before it's too late! Help make it too late for someone else!  check it out:


The New York Times

The Daily Beast

The Gothamist

The Jaded Viewer

Other notable features:



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A paean to the folks that make me look good

This year's haunted house has been very vindicating. Killers is an unequivocal critical darling. Not the least of which is this rave NY Times review. Audiences are loving it even more. After last years Fairy Tales which was not as well received, and several media outlets trying to stir up trouble over our theme this year, it has been a bit taxing. The response to Killers just blows me away and couldn't make me happier or prouder.

But I certainly cannot take sole credit for its success. I need to acknowledge those who have made this the best designed, best made, best directed, best produced house we have ever done.

First, I would like to acknowledge my brother, Justin Haskell, one of two art directors, for his beautiful vision. He led his team in making some of the most beautiful sculptures, masks, body suits and props that Nightmare has ever been blessed with.

Next, John Harlacher who is my co-director, idea man and a force to be reckoned with. We bounce ideas off each other and he is responsible for some of the most clever bits in the house (the dahmer head bit was his idea). He has these actors acting their asses off in a haunted house. It is the best acted haunted house in the world I would imagine. These actor are fracking nailing it and it is largely due to Harlacher. He is also the model for the Jack the Ripper installation.

Next is Paul Smithyman. All of my designers in fact (David Roy sound design, Garin Marshall lighting design, Candice Thompson costume design), but Paul is my production designer and he has surpassed his already immeasurable talents with what he has come up with here. And he busted his ass to help get this up in a way that he never has before. His lending his craft and skill to this house in the way that he did is one of the main reasons Nightmare has been taken to a whole other level.

Next my new partner Steve Kopelman. His 30 years of haunt experience has been nothing but a godsend. He always knew a better place to get something, a better way to do it, a better way to buy it, and a better way to run it. I am so happy to have him as my producing partner and his contributions cannot be overlooked.

And finally, david Hinkle. Last and certainly not least. This man was both the production manager and the other art director. And he is a genius methinks. David Hinkle can figure out how to do anything and do ut affordably, efficiently, beautifully and smartly. This is one of the most talented men I have ever met and someone will try and swoop him away from me someday in the film and television industry. Nightmare is incredibly lucky to have him.

Thank you Justin Haskell, John Harlacher, Paul Smithyman, Candice Thompson, david Roy, Garin Marshall, Steve Kopelman and david Hinkle. You helped make Killers the best haunted house Nightmare has ever done.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The mind of madness

The Mind of Madness

I believe that most people will understand why Killers makes a great deal of sense for a haunted house. Even think it is a damn good idea. In my last post, I deconstructed the reasons I chose it as a theme as anthropologically relevant. But I do believe the gallery of serial killer art and artifacts will really get people’s dander up. I feel strongly that it shouldn’t.

Our team is not trying to piss you off. We are not trying to create something controversial to sell tickets. We acknowledge it is a controversial subject, but we are trying to create the scariest, most sublime haunted house in the city. This gallery is a perfect companion piece to the main event. And I mean that artistically, not financially.

This is what is on the website about the gallery:

"The lobby waiting area to the haunted house is being converted into a full-scale Serial Killer Gallery. Broken into 8 different parts, the gallery will include art work by Serial Killers, artwork about serial killers, memorabilia, items related to them getting caught and their incarceration, as well as novelties related to our culture’s obsession with these monsters, turning them into celebrities.

Above all else, this showing merely contextualizes the bogeymen you will find inside the house. It is in no way a celebration or a glorification of their acts of violence, but rather provides some psychological insight into what makes these people tick, and why we are so fascinated by them.

The events inside the haunted house are fast and visceral and do not reenact any of the crimes. We treat these killers for what they are – killers. We should be afraid of them. They are terrifying, and will be presented that way. That said, you are likely to be too busy screaming and averting your eyes to get any real understanding of the people you are seeing or their crimes. The Mind of Madness Gallery helps provide that context."

 But I would like to take the opportunity to elaborate even further here. These people are part of our history whether we like it or not. Seeing their work and memorabilia will have an effect on you. When my co-director, John Harlacher, and I went to pick this stuff up from a private collector we both felt ill afterwards. As we pulled out each piece our stomachs churned. These things belonged to, were made by or are about some of the most evil people to have ever graced this planet. At least artistically we knew this stuff evoked the kind of feeling you should rightfully have. It is very disarming, and in many ways is truly the perfect companion piece to a haunted house. And in this case, is contextually tied-in. Just like the History Channel running documentaries about Hitler (by no one’s account a good person, and by all accounts the most loathsome human being of all time) the documentaries themselves have to be well-made enough to keep you tuned in. A good documentary, as Harlacher put it to me, has “an obligation to be engrossing”. No matter what the subject matter. As do we. I think we have curated a thoroughly interesting and appropriately disturbing, and certainly engrossing gallery of all things related to serial killers.

There are some very iconic pieces in this collection. None of them beautiful. I don’t want to give the impression that we are presenting this stuff because we think it is good work. Most of it is awful. But a lot of it you will recognize and it will give you that weird feeling of recognition that one gets when they see a landmark in person that they have seen in movies, or a famous painting in real life after they have seen countless times on postcards. It will mesmerize you in that way. It did me. And I think it is important to recognize that. The Mind of Madness is a companion piece to the haunted house. The way we have put the show together is looking at the whole experience. Someone suggested to me that if I felt weird presenting this perhaps take out the “Novelties” section because that was kind of frivolous. And it is. We have collected trading cards, calendars, aprons, games, etc., that have been inspired by these killers. And I think the exhibit is incomplete without including it. It puts these killers into social context. People have made stupid tzchatskes about them. Fun, frivolous bullshit. I too have created something “fun” with a haunted house. Its kind of Meta in that way. I am commenting on the desensitization of violence and these people who have hurt real people and devastated many lives, by desensitizing violence and these people who have hurt real people and devastated many lives. I am aware of this. I am just as much a social by-product of this level of violence as anyone.

This is why I think it is, not to sound too self-aggrandizing, an important collection. It provides insight into how these people thought, what they considered beautiful, how they saw themselves in the tapestry of our culture, what significance they had not just on the direct lives they affected, but on our culture as a whole. They are part of our history whether we like it or not, and I hope that this exhibit can illuminate or at least provide some new information. And, yes, I hope it creeps the hell out of you. I really, really do. Because if it doesn’t, then we need to worry about you.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Very Creepy Serial Killer Videos

These are two pre-production promotional videos for KILLERS Haunted House. These people will make your skin crawl. They sure do mine. One is the extended version of the other. The extended version truly devastates me:


So I believe Killers is going to be controversial. That much is clear. I say that because of recent comments on this Huffington Post article that was written about us two weeks ago; that, and the fact that I am not an idiot. Heck, after reading some of those comments it made me feel like protesting the event. But, alas, I have to work it. I won’t have time to picket.

 I mention this because that’s not what I want the story to be. One might say, “who would want that to be the story?” and I would say, “Most producers”. Controversy sells, right? What producer wouldn’t want a ton of controversy then? Well, this one right here. I don’t want people going to this because it is controversial. I want people going because it is going to be the most kickass haunted house in NYC (with all due respect to the other haunted houses that say the same thing). But whether after attending you agree with my superlative, that is still why I wanted you to go. And that is what I am striving to achieve. I want this to stand alone on the merits of how good of a haunted house it is. Out of the haunted houses we have done as the Nightmare team, I am confident this will be the most satisfying for those who want to be very, very scared. Sure, I understand for some they will not be able to get past the controversial subject matter. And I know and respect all the counterarguments as to why this is a good idea, but I know I do things for the right reasons, and I believe, with integrity.

So knowing that the controversy around the subject might lead the conversation, why choose this subject when there are so many ripe for a haunted house? This is our 9th season. Every year since I started asking our audience what we should do next and then how should we do it, Serial Killers has been the number one requested theme; by far. I have resisted it until now because I have had my own reservations, and there were other stories I wanted to tell. But now I want to tell this one. Serial Killers are fascinating to me as a cultural phenomenon. I don’t have a mordant affection for them, nor do I follow them and obsess about them like I know too many do. But I do find them to be a significant part of American culture. Anthropologically speaking, it’s relevant to note that here in America serial killers, although not unique, vastly outnumber cases in other countries. We are certainly “NUMBER 1” in serial killers… by an overwhelming margin. China has had like one. Recently. Amongst 2 billion people. And that’s sad, unfortunate, embarrassing and something worth reflecting on. They have become legend. So many are plain mythology. Lizzie Borden, considered an axe-wielding maniac, was acquitted of her crimes. How many people know that? She has become mythological. A folklore. Some might not even think she is based on a real person. But it is important to us that she is painted as a monster. Ed Gein doesn’t even fit the FBI definition of a serial killer, yet is one of the most famous serial killers of all time (three different major motion picture characters are based on him).

We as Americans crave monsters. And when I looked at it that way, monsters are for haunted houses. We are by no means going to celebrate their crimes. There is no didactic dissertation on the events surrounding their murders. I will have no one applaud a killing, celebrate it as fun, or turn these villains into anti-heroes. No sir. They are monsters. Monsters are scary. I have no interest in humanizing them, but I feel they are scary because they are human. They were living and breathing, honest-to-goodness human beings. Just like you and I, except they are nothing like you and I.

America is a country of individualism and excellence. But despite being around for over 300 years, we didn’t have our first serial killer until HH Holmes at the turn of the 20th century. What changed about our country then? I have my theories, but that is a longer, probably more boring essay. But what changed and only grew was not only a culture that created serial killers, but one that sensationalized them as bogeymen. These people are what nightmares are made of more than Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers, yet they seem almost as fictional. But because they aren’t, they are more terrifying. They ARE bogeymen. You are supposed to be afraid of them. They are not sexy or cool. They are awful and despicable. But they have entered our psyches like few can, and because of that, they make the most terrifying monsters in a haunted house.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Joshua Hoffine photo for KILLERS

Follow me on my Instagram account @timothyhaskell to see the Jack the Ripper photo Joshua Hoffine created for us. We are using it in our keyart for this year, but we are also modeling a room off of it in similar fashion as to how we did his Lady Bathory photo we commissioned a few years back (and we are using again in this house as well).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why you can be certain that KILLERS will be terrifying.

I am not going to apologize for past work because I am proud of everything I have done with Nightmare and anything else for that matter. But I will say KILLERS is definitely a response to those that have thought certain houses in the past were maybe "not scary enough". I admit that there have been times where I perhaps focused on how "fun it is" or how "cool it is" or how "clever it is". although I hope it is all of those things, SCARY is what I am going for. You guys wanted scary...You're gonna get scary. Since I am not so beholden to creating an overall "story" for the house this year, I have just focused on each story of each killer In each room and figured out the scariest way I could bring it to life; How unsettling, unnerving and truly haunting as well. I am trying to create moments, interactions, and images that will last with you long after you have left the experience, all the while making it truly fun and entertaining. The perfect elixir for the Halloween season. Fun for all. Scary for all. This house is very interactive, very aggressive and very in your face. These are all things that I could have done in the past, but didn't realize how much my audience wanted it to be this terrifying. But you guys have spoken. You have made it loud and clear. You are gonna get what you asked for. This is why I picked KILLERS. There is nothing scarier than actual monsters. Real ones that live amongst us.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Researching Killers

Ok, so my posts are going to start to become a lot more regular; the summer is when i really start rolling on each fall's haunted house. This year's theme of serial killers had me really immersed in the world of these sociopaths. I have been reading everything i could get my hands on from biographies to serial killer encyclopedias, from DVD anthologies, made for TV movies, films and documentaries to newspaper clips, conspiracy theory websites, fan clubs and letters. You name it, i have absorbed it, and in 3 short months i have disturbingly become somewhat of an expert on Serial Killers (with no disrespect to real criminologist, detectives and behavioral psychologists. Obviously i am hyperbolizing). The one through-line i have discovered that might come off as a shocker to you is that they are all pretty bad people. Did you know that? Go figure. But i have discovered the humanity of these people, and i find it more difficult to just dismiss them as "monsters" and leave it at that. Of course their actions are monstrous, and in no way do i condone any act of murder, but when you actually hear them speak or read their letters or interviews, you begin to get conflicted about what it means to be one of them. In most cases you realize you might not recognize them for what they are at first sight. They are people. Some of them act batshit crazy and make it very clear that you should not get in that van with them, but most act just like everyone else. Aside from the killing part What's even more interesting, is that most of them don't rationalize or even try and justify their crimes, but do cogently know how to deconstruct them. They can stand outside of themselves and see how their crimes have shaped the culture and the lives of others. it might not always be remorse, but they can intellectualize what they mean symbolically and how they were created. It is quite fascinating. I expected to read about crazy, blood thirsty murderers who crave killing, like rabid animals. But it is often so much more than that. Which is, of course, what makes them scarier than any monster in fiction. These monsters are real, and you don't always know they are monsters until it is too late. These people are to be feared. They are indeed bogeymen, and in no way are they to be romanticized or glorified (although i have discovered throngs of people who do). What they also are are perfect subjects for a haunted house. Haunted Houses are suppose to be scary, and these guys scare me just reading about them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Son, the Crouching Tiger Flying Daggers

This is a video my son and i did a little while back. Watch the whole thing. He channels his inner Shaolin and begins to float midway through. I may be a bit biased, but he might be the cutest thing on earth. Especially his interesting count sequence.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to catch a Nightmare Killer

I am the middle of reading about scores of killers for the 2012 Nightmare haunted house theme of serial killers. I have chosen this theme for several reasons: i think people are as fascinated by the subject as I am, and people want something brutal, terrifying, realistic, and in-your-face after the highly conceptualized, theatrical and stylistic house we did last year, Fairy Tales, that many people felt fell short as a haunted house. Don't worry, people who loved Fairy Tales, i will not abandon the things that you liked about FT, but too much of our audience NEED to be more scared, more terrified, more tormented. I need to bring it for 2012. Thank you Killers, you are going to make it easy for me.

These people are monsters in all senses of the word. I do not want to glorify them or celebrate them in any way, but i realize by virtue of presenting them in an entertainment, i cannot avoid that accusation. Nor would it be completely unfounded. After all, serial killers are about the scariest thing there is in our world, and I am using them as my subject because I want to create the scariest haunted house conceivable. That's what our audiences want- to be scared! So, that's entertainment. But i want to create a very real world where you will witness these horrible atrocities, and really feel them. I want this to be the most visceral Nightmare ever, truly getting in your bones. In some ways this house has to be the most theatrical we have ever done with amazing actors in order to truly unsettle you. At the same time, however, real, genuine scares also need to be provided which FT's lost sight of. It was beautiful to look at, and captured moments from those stories in a creative way, but it was a little too proud of that and lost sight of what makes a haunted house, and what makes people want to go to a haunted house.

The most sublime haunted attraction will be the one that combines theatrical ingenuity, with wonderful pop-scares and a seamless interactivity all the while remaining experiential and empathetic at the same time. When I nail that there will be no need for you to ever go to another haunted house in your life. It would be indelibly etched in your mind and make you never want to go back to another haunted house again.

That is until 2013, to see Nightmare's next adventure.

I believe we are going to come close with Nightmare Killers. I heard you last year. Enough with the artsy fartsy bullshit Tim! Oh, but just you wait. I will have had a year to figure out nothing but ways to torment you.