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July 21, 2022

HAUNTED Christmas in July: Hall of Yuletide Spirits

HAUNTED Christmas in July: Hall of Yuletide Spirits

We’re celebrating HAUNTED Christmas in July with a tour through the Hall of Yuletide Spirits.

This past December, Midsummer Scream presented a new event – Season’s Screamings - complete with a Hall of Yuletide Spirits. Like the Hall of Shadows at their signature event, this was a dark showfloor with holiday-themed haunts and displays. Today we’ll speak with creators from 5 of those displays. Midsummer Scream is next weekend and everyone we speak to in this episode will be involved, making this the perfect preview. This episode features Tim Fowler of CalHaunts, Rix Boxer of Fear Farm, Cameron McGuinness of Insane Haunt Productions, Joshua Roa St. Pierre of Reichland Asylum, and the Dreich Society. Season’s Screamings returns to Pasadena on December 2-4, 2022. Midsummer Scream is happening July 29-31 at the Long Beach Convention Center. 

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Philip: This past December Midsummer Scream presented a new event called Seasons Screamings, complete with a Hall of Yuletide Spirits. Like the Hall of Shadows at their signature event, this was a dark show floor with holiday themed walkthrough haunts and displays. Today we'll speak with creators from five of those displays. This is the first time we're air these interviews, and I think it's the perfect time because not only is it Haunted Christmas in July, but Midsummer Scream is also next weekend.

Tim: Hi, my name is Tim Fowler. I'm a member of CalHaunts, the California Haunter Society. We were fortunate enough to be invited by Rick and the team to do the entrance to the Hall of Yuletide Spirits.

So, our first house is Scrooge's Victorian style house, it's got like a projection of the animated knocker on the door with the ghost of Christmas present, I believe, talking to Scrooge. One of the windows is a animation of Scrooge sitting at his desk, turning around, noticing. That whole video and animation graphics and everything was filmed specifically for this event by one of our members.

The next house is Scrooge and Marley's counting house, this was built by Diana Preston of Rotten Apple 907, it was used in their haunt this year. And then the house next door is Bob Cratchit's house, which was also built by Diana Preston of Rotten Apple.

Philip: And then the graveyard's a very expansive graveyard, and this is a collection of several projects from different members?

Tim: Yes. So, this year we kind of got together of everything, being it so close to haunt season, a lot of the stuff, actually, everything in the display is a collection from our members of what we've had.

The crypt walls, and the cemetery fence and columns, are all from Greg Packard of Restless Souls Manor. The hearse in the back is mine. The floating candle in front of the tombstone is our friend Kate and is one of our CalHaunts builds. The breathing grave is one of our CalHaunts builds. Our snowman in front here is one of our members, Jamie from Salem's Lot, and then all the tombstones are all made by our members. So, everything is handmade.

Philip: So, I understand that you build some of these during build days that you all have at CalHaunts, which are like your meetings. So, it's kind of like your time to get together and build stuff together as a group, tell me a little bit more about that.

Tim: We are a make and take group. We meet once a month to have either demos or classes, or, you know, take home prop teaching techniques. All our meetings are hosted by members at their homes, and all our meetings and builds are put on by members.

Philip: There's a lot of expense in coming and putting together this holiday display. So, why did you all think it was important to be here this year?

Tim: It's more for me, it's getting together with friends and doing it. We do fundraisers and stuff to pay for trucks, trailers, materials. These events are fun to see all, you know, especially not during haunt season. You know, haunt season, you don't get to see other haunts, because haunters, we're all doing our own stuff. So, it's fun to come and see everybody, and it's fun to see people's reactions to the stuff that, as a group, we put together.

I think that SoCal Haunt community's awesome, and to be honest, they're like my best friends, and it's like looking forward to something every month that I know that I'm going to go hang out and talk Halloween with my group of people that are a great group of people. I've been on this CalHaunt's organizing committee for a few years, and we organize the meetings, it's like living Halloween year long, and it never gets old. Because it really is a great group of people, and when we have these events, you know, you're seeing people from the community that you don't see all the time.

Philip: Okay. Onto our first display, which was the Gingerbread House of Horrors by Fear Farm.

Rix: My name's Rix, and I'm the owner of Fear Farm Haunted Attraction in Phelan California. So, this year we brought something we've never done before, we wanted to do a Christmas thing. We did a gingerbread house. This gingerbread house is kind of rotting and it's been forgotten, it didn't get eaten or anything, so the gingerbread man's pretty upset, and he's taking it out on humans by putting them in the oven.

It took us about a month to build the whole thing. Everything is brand new, none of it came out of our attraction that we currently have. So, meaning all new wall panels, everything, it was all fresh. A lot of positive feedback has come out of this one, for sure.

Philip: Why is Halloween important during the holidays?

Rix: That's a good question. I think it just throws a curve ball in everything, you know? It just breaks up the traditional Jingle Bells and, you know, Deck the Halls kind of mentality and just throws something unique in there that I don't think anything else could do it. I think Halloween being, basically, the opposite of Christmas, kind of just adds a little seasoning, I guess, to it. I guess you could say, yeah.

Philip: Next up. Reichland Asylum presents a very Matthias Christmas.

Joshua: Hi my name's Joshua Roa St. Pierre, and I'm the founder creative director here at Reichland Asylum home haunt. So, this year for the Hall of Yuletide Spirits we designed about a thousand square foot maze and brought it all here from Riverside. It's an original story based on one of our icon characters named Matthias.

So, Matthias is our longest living resident here at Reichland Asylum, and ever since he was a teenager Santa's kind of been skipping out on him when it comes to Christmas presents. So, he's going to get his revenge on Santa, and him and the other children of the Ward D here at Reichland are trying to kidnap Santa Claus, and you're along for that journey.

So, you're going to go through some of the cells of some of our more popular characters, like Matthias and Tobias, his brother. Then from there, you're going to go into some of our Christmas rooms where they're trying to capture Santa Claus, whether that is the real Santa or just the mall Santa that's for you to find out.

We've actually been preparing even since before haunt season this year. So, as we were doing our normal haunt season in October, we were planning for this, preparing, and then we immediately tore down and immediately started working on new scenes and sets for this.

Philip: Why do you think this is important enough to put so much effort behind it?

Joshua: We have many different personal reasons, the biggest one is we feel like we want to represent ourselves. If we're not a part of it, we feel a little left out. I guess, the FOMO feeling of it. When we come as just guests to these events, we feel left out if we didn't bring something for the community, and just to kind of represent our haunt. I mean, it's important to us to get our name out there, and even if it takes spending some money, I mean, truly we love doing it. So, ultimately at the end of the day, it's for the passion of it.

Philip: Why is Halloween important?

Joshua: I think Halloween's important because it gives people an outlet, a release. Haunters are kind of a weird group normally, but when we do something like this, a Midsummer Scream or a haunt season, it really gives us a chance to connect. When we were loading in the other day, it really truly felt like a family reunion, just seeing friends we haven't seen in months or sometimes even years, and I think that's why it's important. There really is a community in Halloween, and I think a lot of people don't know that.

Philip: Next up. The Cabin from Insane Haunt Productions.

Cameron: My name is Cameron McGuinness, I am Insane Haunt Productions, it is a home haunt in Santa Clarita, and also a small business that sells sliding, sparking gear. I set up my haunt on Halloween as a cabin Halloween party, and then I knew that Hall of Yuletide was coming, and so I went, "all right, we're going to gut it and we're going to turn it into a Christmas party."

 So, when you walk in, you're greeted with a Christmas tree, and behind the Christmas tree you see a headless girl on a dart board, And a skier who is tangled all up in Christmas lights choked to death. Then you're greeted by the killer behind the door. Before you head into the closet. Once you go into the closet, you're disoriented with lights and air blasts, and you head into the den, where you were met with a killer again, who is behind the desk basically pounding to death, another victim. Then you book it outside and there's a lot of water hitting you, which is supposed to symbolize blood in the fact that somebody is running for their life and getting stabbed. Then you head into the garage where you are greeted with killer one last time, who tries to get you one last time before you make your escape out.

Philip: So, there's a lot of effects in there.

Cameron: I found it to be more entertaining to bring all these effects, rather than people. There's only, you know, two actors in there, but you're getting scared every room because there's so many effects that you're not realizing is going to hit you. I've fallen in love with haunts from CalHaunts, which is doing the entrance. I watched Epic Home Haunts when I was a kid, and I grew my inspiration from that.

Philip: And finally, our last stop in the Hall of Yuletide Spirits is, Holiday Fear, by the Dreich Society.

Dreich: We are the Dreich Society, we are a home hunt based out in Ontario, California, and next year is going to be our 22nd season. Since this is the first holiday haunt we've ever done we wanted to do something that paid tribute to one of our favorite Christmas movies, which was Diehard. So, we thought, wouldn't it be funny if Nakatomi to took over a corporate sponsorship of Santa's North Pole Workshop and all hell broke loose when Jack Frost came and took over the party with this army of blue-collar elves?

So, the very first room that you go into is, "Yay, we're opening the new tinsel tower of Nakatomi sponsored Santa's workshop." Oh, but things look like they've gone to hell in that first room and so you see Santa armed defending his tower. As you keep going on, you see that the elves have used the construction area, and the area's under renovation, to get through the rest of the tower, and in the final room is Jack Frost who has frozen over everything.

Realistically, we only had about two weeks to fabricate everything, paint, get all the lighting together, and do the soundtrack. We knew that we wanted to be a part of this, we love haunting, we love hearing the laughter, the screams and the laughter combined. It's something that we all love doing. Personally, I've been going to Knott's Scary Farm every year since '98, and that feeling has stuck with me ever since, and I love giving people that feeling as well.

Philip: So, talk to me a little bit about what do you have planned for next year's home haunt?

Dreich: Next year's home haunt's going to be something that we have never done before, and we're really excited. It's called Nightmare, it's based after Japanese folklore and mythology, and it's going to be Southern California's first sensory overload maze. All five senses will be overloaded in this maze. We are really excited, yeah.

Philip: Tell me why is Halloween important?

Dreich: My dad got me into Halloween at a very young age, I remember going through my first Halloween maze when I was seven years old. He also gave me a book when I was really young, called Bizarro by Tom Savini, that taught me how to do all of the makeup effects in movies. So, as a result, the first horror movie I remember sitting down and watch with him was Day of the Dead when I was five. Every time I would get freaked out, my dad would go, "no, no, no, no. It's all, it's all for fun. It's for make believe. This is how they do it." And that evolved into loving Halloween and getting into the special effects, the makeup, and the whole process, and I've loved it ever since.

Tim Fowler

Co-Creator Bone's Gulch

Builder from the Farm Haunt and Bone's Gulch haunt co-creator

Rix BoxerProfile Photo

Rix Boxer

Owner at Fear Farm Haunted Attraction

Fear Farm Haunt is a haunted attraction based out of Phelan, CA.