I think it would have to be "Storytelling". Yet storytelling has to be the oldest most basic thing known to mankind evolving with the creation of language and basic communication.
"Stay out of the cave OG, it bad in there!"
"Rip you apart, eat you slowly,smells bad in there too."
"What beast lives in there, bear? Cougar? Something unseeable?"
"No, much worse than any or all of them, I call it Mywoman."
Last night what happened in my first room was pretty incredible. All house-virgins, a group of small children, teens and adults, yes I do have the wonderfully perculair advantage of my 1870 house stimulating their imaginations before they ever get out of the car.
My first room is odd, old, strange artwork (mine of course) so as I tell them about the haunted history of this old inn- schoolhouse- bordello they become engrossed in the outcome of the experince and time spent here.
Then as one teen girl was doing some question asking and adding a few remarks of her own she questioned as to how I could be a real, living person?
I slowly blocked more and more of the light coming out of my flashlight with my thumb as I said, "Now... you know.. I'm not exactly "alive".
Total darkness took the room as three teenagers who were their own group and six adults, small kids and teenagers were also their own group all vocally accellerated a sort of moan into a scream as they could tell I was moving toward them (just a small step or two) in this wonderfull yet so inexpensive, "dark".
I released the struggling beam of light from my flashlight to find the tall, thin, teenage boy had fists clenched, ready to punch "Jim the Ghost". (Even though swinging with a punch as you are sitting is usually fairly lame.)
"And what would happen if you punched a ghost?" I had to ask him.
He was to express very quick, loud curses with very little scary stimulation upon numerous ocassions, so much so that the little girls he didn't know began calling him "Pussy", then his 4 yr. old brother learned that new word and repeated it much to the dismay of his parents. (Of course everyone seemed to be very fast with the "F" word as immeadiate faux-danger overwhelmed them at every turn.)
IT all began with mere "words", storytelling.
I can tell a very convincing "Story" I have had much practise , but then maybe most seem to believe those strange tales I tell because I believe them.. because, yes, they are true and have happened.
"Life is strange, if you take the time to notice."
I built a stand so it was about 4 ft. off the floor, laid level for viewing. A couple times I was able to sneak away from the customers and persuade one of their group waiting outside (Too chicken?) to come in the house and lay in the real coffin and scare the rest of them! (Too afraid to enter the house, but OK with laying in a real coffin (possibly "used" too!)
Of course that was THE LAST thing any of them expected to find when I opened the coffin.
Then for awhile, I had a helper laying there , mask on with some gut-punch-protection for them under the clothes. After a big build-up I opened it and people went , "Oh a stupid dummy." Then we all paused ample time for them to decide it Was a dummie.
My helper had instructions not to move until the last couple of people were the only ones left in that room, then he sat up and those few screamed and began to run, knocking into the other 10 people and a Domino effect began with the screaming and banging into one another and falling.
I was about 15 feet away at the head of the group, I turned toward the action, braced myself and almost enjoyed the pretty female customer who got slammed into me by those human bowling pins! (She used to come here alot until she got out of college.)
Not sure if this counts as a scare in and of itself, but my haunt's main attraction is the way we get them to the haunt. We load them all up into the Ghoul Bus, a school bus painted black with red neon lights and the seats facing backwards. A vehicular scene from a scary movie is played in front of them, and the bus starts to move. The awesome thing about it is that the driver has practiced all year long, and is able to time the ride with the movie, so that when the vehicle in the movie turns, breaks, or speeds up, so does the bus. When the driver really hits the breaks, something will fly up on a hinge in front of the movie screen.
Since I've been there, they've used Jeepers Creepers, Final Destination 3, I Am Legend, and Ghost Rider.
In one of the main attractions, the Haunted Corn Maze, there was this one actor who had a paint-ball gun. It was of course un-loaded but would make a loud machine-gun sound when he shot it. He was laying down in the middle of an area that the visitors came up to, but on his stomach with the gun in his hand. The visitors would come up, and say "He's just a prop." Then start to back away looking for a way to get out, but then the actor would shoot the gun and scare everyone that just said he had been a prop. (:
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