On October 18, 2012 Oni and I were invited by the Newark Bears to go to the Newark Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium for their media opening ceremonies for the haunt “Stadium of Screams“. This is their second year for this event, Oni and I missed it last year due to a schedule conflict. It’s a somewhat unique idea to have a haunt within a baseball stadium so we were intrigued. Given that it was their media day, and the first day of their operation for 2012, we weren’t sure what to expect. Since it was so early, and a media preview day, we’re treating this as a “preview” of the event instead of a “review”–it doesn’t seem fair to hold them to the same standard we would for fully running events.
After a small amount of struggle to actually get to the stadium and park (due entirely with the roads in Newark N.J. being mostly weird one way streets), we entered and received our media passes. Right off we saw that the owners of the event were very present and coordinating the efforts to get everything set up and running. It’s nice to see the owners getting involved, it shows real spirit. We arrived early and were able to take some photos and see many of their scare actors and costumes. A pretty impressive bunch, with many full scale costumes along with many zombie/asylum/maniac/clowns. After a brief opening ceremonies “police tape” cutting, everyone was sent off to man their spots within the 5 major areas that were set within the stadium.
One thing that struck us was how much of the stadium you move through with this haunt. If you were interested in seeing the backstage and other areas of a baseball stadium, going to this haunt will give you the full tour. From being on the field through going around the stadium ramparts and into the locker areas, you get the full walking tour. One thing I can suggest is that they might want to make side areas or other non-accessible areas more obvious by placing tape across the pathways–the only thing that could be confusing in this set up is knowing exactly where to go. This is somewhat true within the haunt areas as well, but less so. Since we were there for their media day I suspect that the lighting, and the openness of things may have been more for us to literally see everything and all of the scare actors better–if not then I would suggest they consider lowering some of their lighting a bit. Tweaks like this go hand in hand with every haunt for their first few days though.
There were plenty of scare actors in the haunt areas. Since we were the first group to enter the haunt (as in, literally the first this season), the scare actors were obviously still learning their marks and timing. The guys in front of us though were continually getting hit by the scares, and were freaking out in a funny way, so they’ve started off in a decent way. They’ll just need to tighten up and get more of an understanding of the psychology of how to affect a group. There certainly was no lack of enthusiasm though, which made us somewhat concerned that some of them would hurt their throats. The scare actors were throwing themselves to the ground and undulating in very extreme ways, so they are jumping into their parts with gusto at the very least.
One thing that I would suggest is they consider using more of the location as part of the scares and set ups. They mostly kept to the medical/asylum/classic monsters scenarios, which were fine, but I would definitely suggest they consider adding in some narrative elements related to baseball and their own history–that would really stand out. We did give them bonus points for using their own mascot costumes in creepy contexts–it’s disconcerting to go from a room of psychos to see a full scale baseball mascot directing you upstairs, the juxtaposition made the cute element of the costume seem malevolent. One set piece that did use the idea of the location was quite fun though–a situation where a reporter you meet is talking about the event and then has some “trouble” during the end of her report.
Once they firm up things a bit I can see this haunt being a fun very different experience. If they embrace the full notion of using the stadium as the setting for the haunt, it could be very unique. I also like that they are working toward a charity element of their haunt, with a push to get costumes for disadvantaged children. We’re looking forward to where they go with things, and will check back in in the future.