In any “haunted house” you always suspect that someone is hiding in a back room pushing buttons. In this case, that’s true. Those buttons, touchpanels and iOS apps are all integrated with a Control4 system installed by Control4 technical support specialist Spencer Mears.
The spooky venue is Midvale Utah’s Scared Haunt, a neighborhood attraction that started in 2010 when local Max Burton turned his backyard into an eerie destination. Since then he’s expanded the grim fun to about 4,500 sq. feet. With the growth of the attraction came the need to find a simpler way to operate it.
That’s where Mears comes in. Not only is he a Control4 wizard, he’s also Burton’s neighbor. When Burton told him about the complex and time-consuming process of manually operating the many lights and sound effects in the system, Mears knew he could make it simpler. “When I heard that, I knew Control4 was the perfect solution for making it easy to get the show up and running and then shut it down for the night. Using Control4 controllers, lighting, amps, touch screens and the MyHome app, I was able to make everything run smoothly together,” he says.
Three buttons operate the main controls: “All On,” “All Off” and “Showtime.” More fine-tune control, such as changing individual lights or volume level, is done with a 7-inch touchscreen or a smartphone or tablet.
Cameras and sensors installed throughout the haunted house help both the ghoulish actors and the guests. In one room, known as the Clown Room, a sensor triggers an air horn to sound and lights to flash in the guests’ faces when they pass by. The purpose is to make people think a truck is bearing down on them. The people running the show can remotely disable the lighting effects in case they have a guest with a light-sensitive seizure problem.
A pressure sensor placed on a Plexiglas crawl tunnel cause a light to turn on revealing a face staring up at the guest.
In another room an actor known as Pepper’s Ghost uses remote lighting control to allow her to sneak up close to guests in the dark, then suddenly turn on the light when she’s directly in front of them.
Fog machines, rope lights and something called a blood fountain (don’t drink from it) are also powered by Control4 and connected to a variety of contact or motion sensors.
Mears especially likes using the remote cameras to capture the terrified faces of guests just as something is jumping out at them.
Sound effects are important in any haunt. Before Control4, the haunt used individual MP3 players for each room. Distribution amps make the whole process much easier. “We’re even able to have the audio change based on things that happen with the props and sensors,” says Mears. Pre-programmed announcements let the actors know when to prep for the show and when to change and pack up for the night.
The haunt isn’t all about screams. Guests are asked to either make a monetary or food donation, which goes to one of three charities: The Human Society of Utah, the Utah Food Bank, or Shrines Hospital for Children. Last year alone, the haunt helped donate over 800 lbs. of food to the Utah Food Bank. The haunt runs every weekend in October from 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM and will run every night the week of Halloween (28th-31st) during the same hours.
Watch the sacred haunt slideshow here.
Find out more about the Scared Haunt here.
• Control4 HC-1000 – Director
• Control4 HC-200 / Four HC-300’s– 7 Digital audio sources, IR control, Zigbee control, Contact/Relay for props
• Control4 8 Zone Amp – Audio distribution
• 13 CardAccess AnyWhere Buttons – Safety buttons to trigger the lights to come on, prop control/trigger
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.