THE ASYLUM & 13TH FLOOR HAUNTED HOUSES
Denver, Colorado may be one of America’s highest cities, but no amount of altitude can save its residents from the sheer terror of The Asylum and The 13th Floor, part of the Getscared family of fright sites (also including the Undead Haunted House and the Zombieland Haunted House). The Asylum was selected as one of Discovery Channel’s top 10 scariest haunted attractions, and the Getscared houses have been featured on Hauntworld.com’s Top 13 list for the past two years. Representative Warren Conrad was willing to answer a few questions about both The Asylum and The 13th Floor, and divulge what keeps the screams coming year after year.
FANGORIA: Asylums are very popular locations for genre films, and one was the principal location for the second season of American Horror Story. What is it about your asylum that scares visitors so much?
WARREN CONRAD: The Asylum has always been described as delivering visceral thrills by utilizing hi-tech effects while incorporating the mystery and intrigue of what could be found inside an actual old asylum or institution. I think there’s something of a morbid curiosity about what happened within the walls of some of those abandoned facilities. If nothing else, it’s the mystery of the building being haunted by its former residents and guests. Although The Asylum didn’t start off in a creepy old building, we recreated areas you might find in a derelict mental hospital.
Additionally, our actors have always made the show spectacular. The Asylum’s cast is a tight-knit group of enthusiastic haunt performers versatile enough to play just about any role. The fact that many of them are friends outside the attraction lends itself to great chemistry inside. The combination of a great layout, intense FX, the curiosity of what waits beyond the gates and our fantastic actors makes The Asylum stand out from the rest.
FANG: Does your attraction pay homage to any famous asylum-style characters, and if so, why did you choose them?
CONRAD: A few that we always seem to have around are doctors, nurses and patients. The whole idea behind Asylum is that inmates have taken over the abandoned facility, so there are plenty of them throughout the attraction, roaming the halls and rooms. Of course, even though the inmates are now in control, you still have some other people on hand—characters like a deranged doctor running around conducting experiments on anyone he can find, nurses begging patrons to keep out of the abandoned building as well as patients posing as doctors and nurses.
FANG: You change the layout and design every year; have there been any featured creatures you’ve had a difficult time saying goodbye to after the season?
CONRAD: We generally change, update and modify a great portion of the attraction each year, bringing in new scenes, effects and scares. There are always fan favorites and rooms we just can’t seem to get rid of. Sometimes, we’ll put a good room away for a few seasons and bring it back, bigger and better, at a later time. The Asylum has always been known to be more actor-intensive, but one of the mainstays is the electric-chair room, where the tables have turned on the staff and the inmates are giving them a taste of their own medicine. We have always had an intense strobe-light area where images on the walls stick in your mind as you pass through; that’s one we get noted for each year as we continue to perfect the effect. Of course, what haunted house would be complete without a chainsaw? We have an interesting twist on one of the oldest gags in the book. It makes for a fun ending to a great haunted event.
FANG: The 13th Floor has a local legend attached, in that the location is supposedly haunted. Is this true?
CONRAD: When we originally opened The 13th Floor, it is true that we had several unexplained events happen. I can’t say for certain that it was ghosts or spirits, but both my business partner and myself experienced very strange things while working in the building. We did have an overnight paranormal investigation done one time. The investigators captured interesting audio and video recordings throughout the place, consistent with some of the experiences we’d had. Certain areas still give us chills and uncomfortable feelings while we’re in there. Some parts give me an eerie feeling when I hang around too long, and I’d rather not spend too much time in those sections.
FANG: The modern audience has changed drastically over the years. How do you retain the appeal to patrons who are used to being scared by CGI and FX-ridden entertainment?
CONRAD: Keeping up with our audience today can be a challenge, because trends change quickly and the bar has been set so high by both movies and video games. We spend time listening to customers, visiting other popular attractions and theme parks and watching movies. We know that what we think is cool may not be to our customers, so we hold brainstorming sessions with our staff and run through ideas, trying to figure out what might be a hit. It’s not easy, but for the most part, I believe we do a good job of giving the audience what they want and raising the bar within our industry.
FANG: The 13th Floor also features live entertainment in the waiting area. What inspired you to include this?
CONRAD: We wanted The 13th Floor to offer an unparalleled experience from the time you walk through the door. Knowing its popularity, we wanted to have additional entertainment while customers were in line. Our team developed a stage show with aerialists, fire dancers, lighting and sound, which has evolved over the years. Eventually, we changed the style of the in-house waiting area to more of a themed queuing space, and moved the stage performers out front for the entire crowd to watch. We still utilize fire performers, an aerialist, dancers and magicians along with our icon characters. It allows our guests to start their entertainment experience when they walk onto the attraction property. There’s always something to see.
FANG: What makes The 13th Floor and The Asylum different from all the other scary attractions?
CONRAD: For many years, The Asylum was in a temporary location, which provided challenges and pushed us to pack in as much action as we could with very little build time. We developed a system to design and construct it that worked; it was tight, twisty and full of scares. The Asylum has now moved into a permanent building, where we can increase the level of detail and make the sets more realistic while keeping many of the old favorites intact. On the other hand, The 13th Floor has always been shrouded in mystery and the supernatural. That one features larger-than-life sets, giant animatronic characters and mind-blowing illusions, all started off by an elevator ride down to the 13th floor. It’s driven by the detailed set and innovative design, and is always a fan favorite.
For more information on The Asylum and The 13th Floor, visit www.getscared.com.