City Tech Spooks Brooklyn with “Haunted Hotel”
Thousands of scare-seekers have accepted this eerie challenge in the four years since New York City College of Technology’s “Haunted Hotel” first opened its doors during the week leading up to Halloween. This popular annual live, theme-park-quality entertainment attraction is produced by Theatreworks, the college’s resident theatrical troupe, with design, construction and operating support from students and faculty of its Entertainment Technology Program.
The event has grown larger and more technologically sophisticated,
and every year more and more New Yorkers, for whom the daily Gotham
routine isn’t nearly horrific enough, show up at the Voorhees
Theater eager to be scared silly.
Students design new effects each year. Last year, senior Scott Hittelman
designed and built a video graveyard room, and this year senior David
Reierson is building the bloody bathroom.
The results are decidely spooky, even for some of those who have helped
make the production happen. Smith says his seven-year-old daughter,
who has worked behind the scenes since she was a toddler, can attest
to that. “Two years ago I took her through the exhibit. When a
student, dressed in a hockey mask and wielding a chainsaw, suddenly
appeared through a hidden door, she began to cry. At that point, the
student, plus other ghosts and goblins came rushing out to console her.
It was a humorous sight, seeing all these denizens of evil saying ‘It’s
all right, little girl, don't be scared. It’s only make-believe.’
For Professor John Huntington, on the entertainment technology faculty,
years of watching the terror-struck cringe through the Haunted Hotel’s
corridors include seeing supposedly tough guys getting spooked and the
faint-of-heart backtracking at top speed out of the maze of separate
rooms. “But most of all, I enjoy seeing people laughing and having
a great time,” he says. He adds, “The sophistication of
‘Haunted Hotel’ is possible because the audience itself,
although unaware of it, is actually in control of the effects throughout
the installation through the use of motion sensors in a networked, interactive
‘Show Control’ system.” City Tech is a world leader
in show control technology education, with systems and equipment donated
by companies in Canada, Sweden and France, as well as the U.S. Huntington
is the author of Control Systems for Live Entertainment, the
only book on the subject.