THE HAUNTED HOTEL
By DAVID McKENDRY
Open not only during the traditional spooky season in October but also in July for Comic-Con, San Diego’s Haunted Hotel is, on the outside, a nondescript little dwelling in the heart of the Gaslamp District. You might just walk past it if you’re not paying attention. However, inside exists a mind-blowing world of fright, the likes of which nothing can prepare you for.
Created by Greg DeFatta and his business partner Robert Bruce, The Haunted Hotel is a brilliant example of just how far the haunted-house game has come, and continues to evolve.
FANGORIA: What was it that pushed you into this world? Were you-like many of us—obsessed with horror as a child?
GREG DeFATTA: No, I was not. Horror scared the hell out of me. I saw The Exorcist when I was young and had nightmares for years. But I was very interested in haunted houses—not that I thought of building them for a living. When I was about 12 years old, we built a haunt at my home out of refrigerator boxes. Someone in the neighborhood called one of the news stations, and they came over and we were on the local news.
FANG: But doing this professionally—that’s a commitment. Why did you pursue this as your life’s work?
DeFATTA: I was a talent agent in LA at The William Morris Agency and my business partner, Robert Bruce, was a lighting tech in the film industry. I was tired of the business—clients always worried about their next job, super-stressful. My neighbor in Santa Monica had a haunt in St. Louis, and when I was back there, I went to see it. It seemed to me like a great way to be creative while using all of my education—a business degree—and being the boss.
I started the Haunted Hotel in Louisville with Robert, who continued to work on films after the haunt season, and then launched two other businesses. Two years after the Louisville house took off, we opened the Haunted Hotel in San Diego, and two years later, we opened Frightmare on Market Street in the same city. Two years after that, we did haunts around the country with Universal, Ron Howard’s company Imagine Entertainment and Spencer Gifts. In 2000, we opened The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park, and now we are partners with the state of California on The Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
FANG: Are there any special rooms or elements that set your haunt apart from others?
DeFATTA: For years, our signature room was the Exorcist room. We built it on rollers and had a girl levitating off of the bed and the devil bounding out of the closet. Great stuff. We have changed that space to a moving subway car with lots of characters hanging out; some of them come to life and scare the shit out of you. It was named the best room in a haunted house by ScareZone, which visited haunts all over the country.
We have a lot of movie props, and the Haunted Hotel is themed with films in mind. We have plenty of meetings to come up with ideas. A number of our employees love this business as much as we do, so they’re constantly coming up with new ideas. We watch movies, go to the Halloween convention in St. Louis… we’re always trying to build a better beast here!
To check into this attraction, head over to www.hauntedhotel.com.