It started off as a local marketing campaign. Guerrilla-style.
“You mean we dress up in ape suits?”
Not everyone got that joke, that’s the sad part.
We wanted to have a Haunted House for Halloween. We wanted to go all out, which would be expensive for the couple of us organizing it, but more importantly, we wanted people to come. Because we were artists. And those of us who weren’t artists were artists, too—at least when it came to this.
So to get people to come to our Haunted House event, we figured what better way than a campaign of rampant terror? Strike hard, strike often and don’t let up.
Man, it was fun. We started off with a zombie attack. There were lots of people at the interest meeting and we wanted to keep that interest going by doing something everyone could be involved with. And when I say everyone, I mean we had total strangers getting “attacked” and playing along—even pretending to become zombies themselves. Some of them we recruited to swell our ranks, some of them just promised to come give us their money.
We had a clown attack—I participated in that one myself as a bearded lady, thank you very much. One professor let us do a “haunted classroom” spiel in every one of his classes one week.
Tim dressed up as a preacher and did a few (reverse) exorcisms on “sinful folk” that correlated with the deadly sins, it was a hoot.
And every time, we thought “Well, you know, what if something goes wrong? What if someone starts to take it too seriously?”
Contingency plans were in place for in case someone called campus security and we drilled those contingencies so hard we were actually disappointed that everyone was so game to play along. It’s hard to keep people scared if everyone around them isn’t scared, too.
But on the other hand…
The last one we did was supposed to be a virgin sacrifice. Part of the joke, of course, was “Try finding a real virgin in college.” The girl we had doing it, Nina, her whole deal was, she’d scream and scream about how she “had so much to live for”, and of course that “I’m not even a virgin, I swear!”
We did it on the main quad in broad daylight. Four guys in robes and hoods—two holding her, two holding ceremonial scepters—dragged her literally kicking and screaming to the middle of the open field.
We thought for sure someone would dial 911 this time.
In the middle of the field, all four of us helped pin her to the ground and then all four of us drew our knives and gutted her.
Katie was great with the fake blood. Just did a fantastic job. As zombies, we ate this weird oatmeal-and-corn-syrup thing that looked real and disgusting from a ways off, but not right there, although it was disgusting. For this one, we were supposed to actually puncture this blood bag. Which we did. But something was…
I knew it right away. I think it was the smell, although my memories are kinda muttled. I remember thinking to myself, no, no, reassuring, it’s supposed to look like that, thick and dark, Katie did a real good job this time. And Nina was doing a great job. Sounded like she broke her voice with that ear-shattering finale. Then she gurgled and went limp.
There was some scattered applause and I looked up just in time to catch a couple of lonely students take their earphones off and look at what all the fuss was about. We didn’t bow, though. Gorillas don’t bow, it breaks the illusion.
We just turned around and each walked to a different corner of the quad.
It took us each about a minute and a half to cover that distance, but it was five before anyone on the quad noticed or got concerned that Nina wasn’t moving, that she hadn’t even blinked her eyes. By the time they figured out she was dead, I was already in class and the others were all scattered to the winds—literally to the four corners. No one could identify us and once I started thinking about it, I realized I couldn’t really be sure who the other three were. We had all worn our masks the whole time. I knew my knife wasn’t real—just sharp enough to puncture the blood bag, not to break skin, let alone bone… but I couldn’t vouch for the others.
Everyone had just stood there. We were telling them what we were doing—were we just that good at it? Or had we trained them by then not to respond to a crisis? Had we somehow convinced them that the only danger in the world is found in art?