As the evening of All Hallows’ Eve approached, Four Winds closed its doors early for a transformation. No longer the student-run cafe campus knew and loved, walls turned black, tables filled with plastic organs, customers and employees covered each other with cornstarch blood. Back after a yearlong absence, the Four Winds Haunted House returned last Friday from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m with an “X-Files” theme and plenty of scares.
The transformation began at 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 31. Students who came to help were greeted with cafe food, coffee and sweet treats. Some focused on mixing the perfect shade of fake blood while others hung sheets of torn black plastic trash bags on the walls and from the beams to form division in the space.
Within four hours, the back patio area became a “holding” area and the inside became four separate rooms. Guests entered from the patio and were welcomed to tables filled with tubs of blood and organs; made their way through a blacked out room, a room depicting a ritualistic scene directly inspired from an “X-Files” episode, and a room with a cage, frightening messages, and a black light; and exited through the back door near the bathrooms.
The creation of this large-scale event began at an interest meeting during midterms week earlier this month. Students surrounded a patio table outside of Four Winds, sharing theme ideas and forming a general plan for the weeks to follow.
“We can rely on the scare factor and weirdness,” alum (‘11) and Four Winds manager Olivia Levinson said at the meeting.
Thesis student Bradley Baker suggested a sci-fi direction right before thesis student Hedda Cooper narrowed down the idea to “X-Files.” Cooper’s theme entailed going on a journey through a secret holding facility, encountering doctors and creepy medical experiments along the way.
“More eerie than gory,” Baker said, summarizing the goal moving forward.
Haunted Houses have traditionally been held on campus around Halloween. Four Winds hosted one four years ago, B Dorm took the baton three years ago, and then the tradition returned to the cafe with a twisted carnival theme two years ago.
A second interest meeting was held on Sunday, Oct. 25 where students helped cement the ideas for each room, assigned character roles, and discussed advertisements. In the days leading up to the event, flyers began to scatter around campus, emails were sent to the Students’ List, and Four Winds requested more than $100 in funds from the Student Allocations Committee for everything from face paint to an alien mask to animal organs from a butcher in Bradenton.
Four Winds split the open area into separate rooms. Each room possessed a theme, usually brought to the organizers from students who were interested in participating. The goal was to have groups zig zag through the cafe, starting in the patio area and ending through the back door, allowing more visitors to get through the house faster.
Excited students began to fill the holding area at 9:00 p.m., while organizers prepared the finishing touches. The turnout was consistently strong the entire night.
“Reaction was really good,” Levinson said. “It’s tough to have a haunted house with student actors at a small school — everyone knows each other. But a lot of people expressed that they were scared. Others found it funny to see their friends dressed up and in character.”
An estimated 80 to 100 people attended the haunted house in two short hours.
“It was a night of improv and team effort,” second-year and Four Winds employee Briana “Bree” Nieves said.”It couldn’t have been done without Olivia. She’s our strong leader.”
“And at the end of the day, fear and laughter are good results for a haunted house,” Levinson continued.