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Oct. 1, 2022

Day 31: Terror Haunted House in Times Square NYC

Day 31: Terror Haunted House in Times Square NYC

Terror Haunted House is new 20,000 linear haunt located in the heart of NYC off times square. But it’s so much more than that. I went on-location to tour the construction site and speak with the creator, Dalton Dale, about his plans for this...

Terror Haunted House is new 20,000 linear haunt located in the heart of NYC off times square. But it’s so much more than that. I went on-location to tour the construction site and speak with the creator, Dalton Dale, about his plans for this year-round immersive venue. Follow along to our Hauntathon:


Philip Hernandez: Welcome to the show.

Dalton Dale: Thank you!

Philip Hernandez: First, introduce yourself to me and tell me who you are and what you do.

Dalton Dale: Sure. Dalton Dale, creator of Terror Haunted House, New York City's largest, on 42nd St in Times Square.

Philip Hernandez: Tell me more about terror haunted house.

Dalton Dale: Sure, Terror Haunted House is almost 20,000 square feet. It's pretty crazy and we have over 100 actors during the show. It all follows the story of The Bedlam Institute, and the audience has to, well, escape, frankly, from all the creatures that are within. 

Philip Hernandez: So, it's a linear walk-through experience that's located right here.

Dalton Dale: Yeah, right here in the heart of Times Square. So, it's the busiest street in the world, we're beside Madame Tussauds and Dave and Buster's. We took over this really, really cool space that just had kind of a room after room after room that really lends itself to a linear walk-through. Then we added a lot of sync elements and a lot of walls and built this maze, because it wasn't quite a maze yet, chock full of fogs, special effects, and great creatures. Because we don't do the animatronic thing, it's just not fun for me, actors are what bring the lifeblood. I think being in the heart of Broadway too, we've 41 Broadway theaters, nobody wants to come and see an animatronic. We want to see actors do what they do best, and that's tell a story.

Philip Hernandez: Yeah, so it's fascinating that you are located right in this heart, and it's quite an interesting setup, I think, and experience that you have planned. Tell us a little bit more about what the guests can experience. 

Dalton Dale: The audience is invited to come and explore the ruins of The Bedlam Institute, and The Bedlam Institute was created back in the late 1800s as a really a hotbed for psychical research. The doctor who created it thought by torturing his victims he could bring out these innate supernatural abilities, right? As you said earlier, very a la Stranger Things. Things go very, very wrong, lightning flashes, thunder roars as it always does in horror movies, and the veil between worlds is split, and all of the tortured souls, the people who had died before, come rushing back in. 100 years later, we are finally exploring recently rediscovered ruins, and all of those creatures are still lying in wait. Now we've put ourselves in quite a perilous position, and we have to escape.

Philip Hernandez: OK, so it is set in the modern day and you're just really going and looking at things that are in the past kind of a thing. That's a little bit easier, fabrication-wise. It's a little bit difficult to do a period piece you know as well. 

Dalton Dale: I mean, though, we're spending literal millions of dollars on the project, we didn't want to overextend ourselves artistically. We want to give a great show, we want to make sure our audiences are having a fantastic time. Being in haunted houses for almost 2 decades now, I've realized that you don't have to have the most beautiful sets because people go there for a good time not to look at a museum.

Philip Hernandez: Talk to me about the process that brought you here.

Dalton Dale: So, I decided a long time ago to kind of tackle the hole within the Broadway industry for creating a space that could handle immersive work, right? No Broadway theater can really do an immersive show, you sit down, you watch it, sometimes you're in the round, sometimes not. So, I really wanted to create a space that could host Broadway shows in a linear walkthrough kind of way.

Dalton Dale: So, we found this space to create that. Halloween only lasts for six weeks, and then we go straight into Christmas, and then Christmas lasts for another six weeks, and then we clear out and break it all down. We gut the entire building, and then we have our next show that loads in February and that runs for nine months. But this is really a hub for immersive entertainment, not just Halloween, and I think that's the thing that sets us apart.

Philip Hernandez: So, you guys are looking at keeping this as a location that you will be able to see things in? 

Dalton Dale: Correct. There will be immersive entertainment year-round. So, sometimes family-friendly, sometimes spooky not. We definitely recommend the haunt for ages 13 plus.

Philip Hernandez: Why did you all decide to start with Halloween being that you're looking at the year-round immersive thing?

Dalton Dale: Halloween is what we do best. I think it's the bread and butter, and certainly, the thing that I love. I like making people poo themselves, you know that code brown moment. But certainly, it was all about the timing. We found the venue in the spring and then we negotiated with the landlord throughout the summer, and then it was a, "you need to take it now." I said, "well, it's Halloween time now, let's start with Halloween." Then Christmas immediately loads in. As soon as we have a week to take Halloween out, put Christmas in, and then it goes. It's not horror Christmas either, it's very traditional holly jolly. You know, all of the things that make some haunters sick to their stomachs, because it's so happy, that's what Christmas is, for sure.

Philip Hernandez: Interesting. So, really, you're trying to make it, I guess, a diverse space to be able to load in and out.

Dalton Dale: Yeah, it needs to function as an immersive venue. We are self-producing right now, but I'm very open to bringing in other shows from around the world, to kind of being residents here. There is a certain show that has been playing in London that wants to come here that I can't really talk about, but it has a few film stars attached to it and would be a sit-down thing for a while.

Philip Hernandez: That's an interesting challenge because of course you have a permanent indoor venue, and you have access to, you're doing year-round stuff, but you're choosing to make it flexible. Which means you can't necessarily come in and put up a bunch of permanent walls for your mazes, so you have to balance, that talk to me about that. 

Dalton Dale: Yeah, so I think a lot of what we do here, this is our flagship location, right? Being a flagship, it's important to be able to move our shows out because this is the first of 10 venues to be setup around the country. So, all of our shows will start in New York and then they'll move to Chicago and then Los Angeles and then around the circuit. So, they always start here, play for six weeks, two months, whatever it is, and then move. So, then we get 10 years out of a show rather than just six weeks, and that's another thing, business-wise, that sets us apart.

Philip Hernandez: I know that when you were looking at this space, you kind of looked into the local market for Halloween, how did you position yourselves to differentiate yourselves from the other, you know, Halloween experiences that are available to New Yorkers?

Dalton Dale: I think from being in New York City proper, there are very few Halloween experiences. There were a few haunted houses that have had a great run that have closed down. There is one other kind of mainstay that's been here for 10 years, 17 years, you know, in different locations, but hasn't really been taken care of. 

Dalton Dale: So, I think tourists who come to Times Square are always looking for something to do. We are not what they will spend their evening on, we are a stop along the way. So, if they have Broadway show tickets, they have dinner reservations, or they're going to see a museum and they want to do something fun, they can come to spend half an hour with us, have a great time, and then head off to their next thing. So, it's all about positioning ourselves as a tourist destination rather than like a locally driven market. Because the people in Times Square, they're here to spend money, they're here to find something cool to do, and that's what we offer.

Philip Hernandez: So, you're really looking to capture that foot traffic that's going to be walking by?

Dalton Dale: For sure. 300,000 people walk past my door every day. From a marketing perspective, we are only catering to people who are in a 10-block radius, because they're not going to drive in, they're not coming to fly in, it's the people who are here already to spend money, to have a great time, those are my customers. So, it's really about sticking our arm out in Times Square and saying, "come on in!" I think that's definitely our marketing strategy for sure.

Philip Hernandez: Tell me about Easter eggs. Are there any Easter eggs in your design for Halloween? 

Dalton Dale: There are. We have a creature that is hidden throughout the attraction in multiple locations, and we say to people, "if you want to come and see it like 10 times or 15 times and you can count," every week it changes, "how many they are and tell us where they are, then we'll give you a prize at the end." We want you to come and experience to show multiple times and really be on the lookout for those fun hidden things.

Philip Hernandez: Talk to me about your actors. Because we talk a little bit about it, but of course, as we all know, staffing is a very big challenge right now. There's a lot of people that are like, New York is taking a while to get back and, of course, Broadway and everything kind of still struggling, and you're very staffing intensive.

Dalton Dale: So, we saw hundreds of actors and we had over 40s of auditions, hired the best probably half of them, I think. Lots and lots and lots of people came through. Our actors, you know, are classically trained. They're they've all gone to college, they've all been in off-Broadway and Broadway productions, and so they are here to deliver a performance to die for, not just "boo". We, in fact, tell the actors, "don't ever say 'boo', because it is immediate termination. So please, please don't." But they certainly use those skills to tell our story.

Philip Hernandez: We're recording this, of course, in mid-September, you're not open yet, but tell us about your opening time. 

Dalton Dale: Yes. We open on September 29th, and we play until November 6th, and you can get tickets at