This is the weekly series of interviews we do with people changing the face of the Haunted Attractions and Horror Industry. This week we interview Jeremy of Midnight Fire Attractions. They build custom attractions, sets and props for the themed entertainment industry
Why did you first become interested in the Haunted House/Horror Business?
It all started when I was 13, pretty much by accident. It was about a month before Halloween, and I just happened to mention to a friend that I was bored and needed a project to work on. He said, "why don't you do a haunted house?" I barely even knew what a haunted house was, and had certainly never been to one. But I was intrigued, and together we came up with $90 and put on a little show in my parents' basement. I was hooked from that moment on.
What Previous jobs have you had?
I guess the first real job I ever had was re-shelving books at the local library. That was not fun. Since then, I've worked as a graphic designer, video editor, and musician, in addition to my themed attraction work.
What job do you have now?
I now run a company called Midnight Fire Attractions, and we build custom attractions, sets, and props for the themed entertainment industry. For anyone who's interested in learning more about us and the work we do, there's a lot more information available on our website MidnightFireAttractions.
How Long Have you Been in business?
We officially incorporated the business in 2004, although we had been working on attractions for several years before that.
How Did You Start?
It all just grew out of my fascination (and, I guess you could say, obsession) with running that little haunted house when I was a teenager. I know that a lot of people in this business started out the same way. And then one day, it hits you that if this is what you love to do, you should try to see if you can make a living doing it.
What's the scariest Haunted House you ever been to?
I remember this very vividly. I must have been about 16, and I'm on vacation with my family near Niagara Falls. We're in a mall in the tourist area near the falls, and there's a haunted house in there called "Screamers." My two younger brothers and I are extremely apprehensive about going in, so we convince our dad to join us.
Now to put it mildly, this was not the most creative attraction in the world. Most of the experience (and we were warned of this ahead of time) consisted simply of total darkness. Little red LEDs were placed throughout, and we were told to walk toward the lights.
So we start down the first hallway, walking toward the first little LED… and we’re totally on edge, in anticipation of what's going to happen. It's pitch dark, and we can't see an inch in front of us. Then out of nowhere, an actor slams himself into the wall directly in front of where we're walking. We instantly do a 180 and run out screaming. We return to the ticket counter and, unfortunately, are informed that we won't be getting our money back.
What Inspires you to create ?
I create because I want to evoke some sort of emotional response in an audience. I want to make people feel something… whether it's fear, or excitement, or laughter. I think that's what it's all about. Try to give people an experience they've never had before, so when they leave, they want to tell people they know that they "have to come see this." When that happens, I feel like I've accomplished what I set out to do.
Do you ever get scared anymore?
Do I ever! I get scared very easily. I remember a couple years back, I fell for one of those internet video tricks where they have you watching some song lyrics on the screen, or whatever, and then a photo of the Exorcist pops up. I had trouble sleeping for weeks after that.
Do you believe in real haunted houses?
No, I don't. I'm very skeptical when it comes to stuff like that. But I'm a big believer in the potential of the whole concept to create some really powerful entertainment.
What is Fear ?
I think fear is our universal reaction to the unknown. We get afraid because we don't know what will happen, when it will happen, or if it will happen. And a good haunted attraction knows how to use this to its advantage. You get people to let their guard down, and then you hit them with something big. Or you set up a scare that just comes completely out of nowhere. That's why that "Exorcist" video on the web is so effective.
Who's your competition and why ?
Well, there are several companies out there that build attractions. But I try to make my own company stand out through the quality and attention to detail that my staff and I put into our work.
What Is your 5 year goal ?
I have some big plans for the next five years, and I have to say I'm very excited. In addition to growing my business, I've been working on a concept for a really innovative haunted attraction. I think it will be a "new breed" of haunted house, something that people have never seen before. I really have no interest in doing what's already been done, my goal is always to innovate. Honestly, I think this will be so different, that at the beginning, people won't even know what to think about it. We've all gotten so used to the "standard" haunted house stuff (actors growling at us, chainsaws, etc.) that an attraction that goes in a completely opposite direction might be hard to wrap your mind around at first. But I think once it catches on, it could be very big. I hope, anyway.