JANESVILLE—“Tales of Terror” won’t be a traditional haunted house with haunters jumping within inches of guests or large groups of people huddling tightly as they walk through together.
But Jim McCullough, the education and outreach director for the Janesville Performing Arts Center, said people still can expect a “riveting, spooky” scene during the special Halloween event at JPAC later this month.
“It’s a hybrid haunt, so it’s not one of your typical ‘slash them and scare them and freak them out as they walk through and terrorize them,’” he said.
“We’re going to be a little more subdued, so you’re kind of just going through a journey of classical theatrical scenes of the macabre.”
The haunted tours will take place from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Oct. 29-30, and again from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.
Groups of four to six people will tour the center every 15 minutes, and masks will be required of both guests and actors. Social distancing will be followed as guests are told multiple visual stories.
Reservations are required for the event and can be made by calling the JPAC office. People will line up outside—adhering to social-distance guidelines—and will be brought inside as the different legs of the tour begin. Using the entire facility ensures safety precautions can be followed.
The tour will feature actors portraying the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, a mad scientist creating a Frankenstein’s monster-like creature and scenes from “Phantom of the Opera.”
“It’s really just a lot of interesting things and different Halloween-themed stories,” McCullough said.
A pumpkin-carving contest also is being presented as part of the event. Contest participants picked up their pumpkins last week and will return them to JPAC ahead of the tours. The pumpkins will be placed throughout the building, and people walking through the haunted tour will be able to vote on their favorites.
Finally, “Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone” will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday to conclude the weekend celebration.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions and people not being able to take part in more traditional Halloween celebrations, McCullough said the theater community wanted to be able to do something. They believe this is the next best thing, he said.
“There’s not many other groups that are doing things for Halloween, and if they are doing them, they’re trying to do what they can. We’re trying to do the same thing,” he said. “But we really feel it’s going to be a safe environment, and that’s really the primary goal here is to do something safely and effectively and kind of just bring in the spirit of the holiday, so to speak.”
Planning for the event began last month. Patrons will see about six stories during a 40-minute tour.
“People should expect a fun, creepy, yet scary experience. If they like stories of Edgar Allan Poe, they like stories of macabre, it will be that in a storytelling venue,” McCullough said. “So they should come prepared to see and hear some fun, spooky stories and experience a fun little Halloween adventure.”
“We’re just trying to use our resources and come up with the most effective haunt that we can and the most effective product that we can,” he added. “And we’re all excited about it because we’re all creative people, and Halloween is really a theater person’s dream.”