Recently, we got the chance to tour the warehouse which currently stores many of the props you will find at the upcoming Los Angeles Haunted Hayride as well as interview the event’s COO, Melissa Meyer. We would like to thank the Ten Thirty One Productions PR staff as well as Melissa Meyer for making this interview possible.
GS) Just to start off, would you mind introducing yourself and telling us what your position is with Ten Thirty One Productions?
MM) My name is Melissa Meyer and I am the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Ten Thirty One Productions. I have been with the company since its inception.
GS) And when did Ten Thirty One start?
MM) We are going into year six.
GS) Was it always, as I assume from the company’s name, focused on haunted attractions?
MM) Yes, definitely, our main focus has always been on live horror events.
GS) This year, you guys had a much larger presence with The Great Horror Campout, what was behind the idea of taking it on the road?
MM) We actually had the idea to take it on the road since its inception when it was just in Los Angeles the previous year. We started planning the next year almost immediately after.
GS) With the LA Haunted Hayride being the big haunted attraction it is, when do you guys start designing and planning the whole thing?
MM) Well we start the concept and engineering as early as December and we continue planning and creating the entire year. Finally, we have an 11 day actual move-in, building, and rehearsal period at the event’s location.
GS) Did you ever consider any other locations for the LA Haunted Hayride?
MM) Well year one we were actually at the old Gillette Range in Calabasas, CA. After that, we wanted to get more central to LA and Griffith Park is one of the most paranormal places in all of Los Angeles – all of Southern California for that matter, and the Old Zoo has really crazy, creepy history as well as a lovely natural ambiance. We really like to utilize the environment with our haunted events.
GS) A lot of news was released on Mark Cuban’s investment into Ten Thirty One on Shark Tank. What has that meant for the company in terms of being able to put these events on. What has that enabled you to do that you were not able to previously?
MM) It definitely helped with The Great Horror Campout tour. A lot of those fund are going to the expansion of our current projects.
GS) Melissa Carbone [CEO of Ten Thirty One] mentioned on Shark Tank that she was planning to expand the LA Haunted Hayride, is that correct?
MM) Yes, we actually have plans to take it back East potentially as soon as 2015.
GS) If you have never been to the LA Haunted Hayride before, how would you describe it to someone coming for the first time?
MM) I would definitely describe it as taking the Halloween season back to its roots. It’s very old fashioned – lots of glowing lights and pumpkins and fog in the air. We always put a big focus on making a great live theatrical experience like the old Grand Guignol where you get to see things that are a little bit more than just a jump-out scare. Don’t get me wrong, we have those as well, but we try to a lot more too.
GS) How does Ten Thirty One create all their special effects? Do you guys work in-house or contract out an effects studio?
MM) We do all of our special effects in-house. We have a team that is currently building away to do all of our props, creature suits, masks, and everything else.
GS) So what is the overall theme of this year’s LA Haunted Hayride?
MM) So the theme this year for our sixth season is called “Echoes from the Rift”. As it is our sixth season, we wanted to pay tribute to Hell (laughs), like any good horror event should and so we have utilized a lot of larger than life, leviathan type creatures – lots of Greek mythology and basically lots of influence from Hades and Hell.
GS) I have been fortunate to attend every LA Haunted Hayride with the exception of the first one. Can you tell me a bit about what’s new for this year?
MM) Yes! So we actually have two whole new attractions. We still have our Purgatory Zone and also have our dark maze as well as the hayride. This year, however, we have added the House of the Horsemen and the Seven Sins Sideshow so two completely new things to do within the event.
GS) Can you explain a bit more about each of the new attractions?
MM) Yeah, definitely, so the Seven Sins Sideshow is loosely based off of a side/freak show utilizing the motif of the seven deadly sins. The experience is going to be very interactive with the audience having to “activate” the scene each time they walk into a new area. The House of the Horsemen is a little more of a walk-through maze that has guests interacting with each of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
GS) Last year, you guys had a really neat tent full of grotesque photo opportunities. Will that return this year?
MM) Yes, absolutely, we call that Death Row and we will be having one this year as well.
GS) Will the pro pumpkin carving area return?
MM) We are bringing pumpkin carving back this year and we are even adding a contest element to it. It’s just more reason for people to stay for the whole thing.
GS) “For the whole thing” – are you guys changing your hours at all?
MM) Oh no, but something that will help people attend more nights in the hayride is our new season pass program. It has no blackout dates and allows guests to have VIP access every night if they wanted. Personally, I think it’s amazing because there is so much to do at the LA Haunted Hayride this year, more than one night might is necessary to take it all in. I forgot to mention we also have a Theatre Macabre this year – do you remember last year we had the paranormal investigators?
GS) Oh, on the Purgatory stage?
MM) Yeah exactly – this year we have the Theatre Macabre which is a very audience participation oriented, improv acting out the scenes of famous horror movies on stage. We also have Blood Drums – we will be bringing them on the stage that is in the line queue for the hayride attraction itself.
GS) As someone who runs and helps build a haunted attraction, I have to ask what scares you? What freaks you out?
MM) For me, it’s anytime there is anticipation – those quiet, creepy moments that speak true because maybe you didn’t jump out of your chair but you go home thinking about this messed up situation all night. It resonates so for me it’s the slow and creepy.
GS) What are your thoughts on the current state of haunted attractions?
MM) Well on the whole I am happy to see this large movement to take it to more of a spectator sport, and that’s something I think we try to help lead the charge on. Making things a little bit more of an interactive, weekend warrior type of event.
Once again, we would like to thank Ten Thirty One Productions’ COO Melissa Meyer for taking the time to speak with us. The LA Haunted Hayride runs multiple days in October beginning on October 3, 2014. You can see the full LA Haunted Hayride schedule and purchase tickets over at the event’s official website.