The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW’s First Haunted House a Tradition in the Making

3 min read

The University of Mary Washington’s first ever haunted house was a solid success this Halloween. I was scared out of my mind, I screamed, and there were even free deviled eggs. However, like most first attempts, there is room for improvement.

One thing that can definitely be improved upon is timing. The haunted tour was full of stops and starts, beginning with the biggest stop of them all: a long line. I waited for a little over an hour outside of MadisonHall. The reason? A lecture from the tour guide on Dr. Madison, Mary Washington’s resident mad scientist. I commend the tour guide for memorizing what felt like 10 minutes worth of information on Dr. Madison and her crazy inventions, but this sort of thing needs to be scrapped if the haunted house is going to happen again.

After a week of lectures and lessons, students don’t want to hear another one at an activity where they expect to get their pants scared off them unless that long, long story is going to help me escape the haunted house or save Mary Washington from evil scientists.

Luckily, Madison made up for this with possibly the scariest moment of my life. The tour guide “accidentally” locked our group in Dr. Madison’s “lab,” a tiny little cellar with brick walls and a cement floor. I could see the guys in black robes hanging out in the shadows, but I still hid behind my friends when the lights went off and the strobe light turned on. It was freaky! I now know that if I’m ever presented with a horrifying situation, I will shriek and hide behind everyone else in the room.

From here we got to walk across the super cool crossway between Madison Hall and Ball Hall to “Ball Hall’s Twisted Fairy Tales.” Unfortunately, we had to wait again while sections of our group went one at a time into the haunted dorm, which took about seven minutes or so.

While we waited, the haunted house security was nice enough to talk to us, but they ended up letting us in on all the little things going on behind the scenes, like who wasn’t showing up at their posts and what was going wrong.

It was nice of them to try talking with us, but it really took me out of the moment and back into the real world.

This continued to happen in Ball, which was a bit of a disappointment considering how amazing the dorm looked. They clearly put a lot of effort and creativity into making their haunted house a success. The decorations completely transformed the dorm into a terrifying, magical world where your favorite childhood stories could kill you as well as offer you deviled egg eyeballs.

I was in awe of all they had accomplished, but a good portion of the actors often broke character to say “hi” to people they knew while the ever-present security guards smiled and said hello. It detracted from the amazing atmosphere they had created, making the dorm seem sweet and eccentric rather than haunted and terrifying.
Finally, we reached Custis Hall, the haunted insane asylum. Custis Hall had more of the things one can expect from a haunted house, like people popping out from the dark screaming at you as well as blood and guts. What was amazing was everyone remained in character, which I really appreciated after Ball Hall.

The only downside was that it just wasn’t scary enough. Custis Hall was full of tricks and situations I’d seen a dozen times before at haunted houses, farms, and forests. Perhaps a little creativity could have been useful.

All in all, I enjoyed my experience. I hope the haunted house becomes a permanent UMW tradition, and that next year is even more terrifying.