Haunted house calls


POSTED: Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Laurinda Titus-Luciano doesn't just design and build her haunted house, but also acts as head witch.

“;I have to control it all. I'm here all the time,”; she said. “;It seems like all fun and games, but it is a serious business.”;

Titus-Luciano had been creating haunted houses since 1999 with the help of her son, Gino, but retired five years ago. Her love for all things scary, though, hasn't waned, and when Windward Mall called her about creating one in the mall, she couldn't resist.

“;(Creating haunted houses) has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl,”; said Titus-Luciano, who had storage spaces built into her house to hold all her Halloween decor. “;I'd gotten rid of some stuff but kept things I loved the dearest. I continue to add things, so it just keeps getting bigger and better.”;

Where most design and floor-plan work calls for clarity, planning a haunted house calls for a different set of rules.

“;We need to get people confused ... misdirection helps. For example, if it's too open, it's not scary enough,”; Titus-Luciano explained. “;We want people to feel closed in. Every room is full of things.”;

Some areas call for participants to be immersed in darkness with glow-in-the-dark features, lanterns and strobe lights. Titus-Luciano relies heavily on battery-operated fixtures and decor because only a limited number of electrical outlets are available.

Among the 13 themed rooms are Monster Alley, the Witches Den, Bone Forest and the Devil's Lair. “;Every room has a scare,”; she promises.

“;We want things to be totally shocking ... with an element of surprise,”; Gino added.

Planning for the house started a year in advance because of the time and money required for the staging. “;It's very expensive; we need lumber, drywall and music recorded in a studio.”;

Safety is another consideration. A middle room serves as an emergency exit for people who can't handle the frightening entertainment. Lighting, actors and insurance are among other considerations, Titus-Luciano said.

Gino was responsible for creating the haunted house soundtrack.

“;He did all of the voices so we could personalize everything,”; Laurinda said.

Gino also doubles as an actor, playing an array of creepy creatures, depending where he's needed. “;There's nothing like scaring someone. ... It's really fun,”; he said.

Creepy experiences are nothing new to the Titus-Luciano family. “;We were going to haunted houses since I was little,”; he said. “;I'd be crawling up my mom's leg. I might have been on the verge of crying, but once I got out (of the haunted house), I was so happy. I love the adrenaline rush.”;

For Gino the creativity involved in building a haunted house is what keeps him intrigued. “;I want them to notice all of the details like the writings on the wall, mixed in with all of the other things.”;

He always does a few test runs before the haunted house officially opens.

“;I'm looking at what could be better, what I'd like to see. We always need to shake things up and keep it new.”;

The whole idea is to have so much stuff that even if you entered the haunted house several times, you'd still have a different experience with each visit.

“;It's like a playground. You set up the whole thing, and when it comes to life, it's amazing,”; he said.




Scare Factory IV Haunted House

        » Place: Windward Mall, Upper Level, Theater Wing

» When: Open Friday to Nov. 1. Hours will be 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday


» Admission: $12 adults, $10 for children 5 and older, free for 4 and younger


» Note: “;Low Scare”; walk-throughs are offered for $6 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. All other times are considered a “;medium”; to “;intense”; scare level.


» Call: 330-1600