With the Halloween season fast approaching, I can’t help but reminisce about years past working with one of my favorite clients, the 13th Floor Haunted House.
I first began with this account when I was solely the in-house photographer for Sammis|Ochoa. I was asked to go photograph some of new rooms and sets at the Haunt for promotional use. I accepted with confidence despite the fact that I was having a silent meltdown over the assignment. My only previous haunted house experience was from a very young age, and needless to say, it was a very traumatizing one. How bad could it be? The house will be closed, so there won’t be anything popping out to scare me. Plus I’m sure the lights will be on, right?
Upon arrival, I learned very quickly that the lights being “on” didn’t make much of a difference under all the decor, and the lack of monsters certainly didn’t ease the creepiness of the house. In fact, the silence may have even added to the eerie vibe. I got to work, gracious to be accompanied by a couple of the 13th Floor set designers who helped light my way and aid with extension cords for my own lighting. I photographed a couple sets and they led me down to the basements for more shots.
Already in the groove of the job, I made a few requests to my helpers and switched my focus to reviewing my photos and adjusting my camera settings. Once I was all set, I looked up to the sinking realization that I had unintentionally sent my helpers away and I was standing there alone in the dark basement of the haunt. The basement, mind you, that even the employees believe to be genuinely haunted. I began to panic, yet I was frozen in fear. I became hyper aware of every single noise I could pick up in the silence. Is that them coming back? Did something just touch me? Did the temperature change? Is that even a real thing that happens?
I didn’t move a muscle. My team returned after what seemed like forever, but was likely only 5 minutes. My composure, however, did not return. I talked a mile a minute about how terrifying that experience was for me, my general haunted house fear, my fear of the dark, and, “Oh my God, please don’t ever leave me alone in here again!” As a warning note to readers, I advise that you never let a haunted house employee know that you scare easily. The rest of our work session was filled with more stories of paranormal experiences that employees had reported. Also, they took every opportunity to pop out at me from around corners when I least expected it. In the end, we had a good laugh, and it all somehow made me feel more at ease.
I returned to the 13th Floor on numerous occasions for more photographs. My new friends were there to accompany me in the beginning, but eventually I learned the ropes and started venturing through the house on my own. While I’ll still occasionally get the creeps, I absolutely adore working with this account. They’re a fun group of people who helped me to conquer my biggest fears. I even had the pleasure of traveling to their other 13th Floor houses in Austin, Denver, Phoenix and Chicago. I found myself roaming the houses alone, mumbling things along the lines of, “Green is definitely your color,” to creepy animatronics, and snapping away at bloody scenes. I’m counting down the days until I can get back in there for more photos. It makes my Halloween season complete.