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Behind The Screams

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A Visit from Hollywood Legends

ScareHouse attractions have hosted all kinds of famous faces over the last 20 years: Martin Lawrence, Elijah Wood, Kristin Stewart, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and even the Impractical Jokers… but as die-hard horror nerds, the most mind-blowing visit will always be the night that writer/directors Guillermo Del Toro (Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) and Michael Dougherty (Trick r Treat, Krampus, Godzilla: King of The Monsters ) flew from Hollywood to Pittsburgh just to check out ScareHouse.

“Most of our cast and crew had no idea they were coming,” admits ScareHouse co-owner and Creative Director Scott Simmons.  “That’s the kind of thing that can just freak everyone out in advance, and break hearts if it doesn’t actually work out. But for those of us who knew? We were full-time freaking out.”

So how did Del Toro and Dougherty find out about ScareHouse? It was all due to Thomas Tull, former chairman and CEO of Legendary Entertainment – partial owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers – and a frequent visitor to ScareHouse every fall.

Scott continues: “The year before, as Thomas was leaving, he essentially said ‘Hey, maybe next year I’ll come back with Guillermo and Mike Dougherty’ and if I’m being honest, I just kind of assumed it was the usual Hollywood schmoozy thing … but nope. He was totally serious, and delivered as promised almost a year to the day later. Who does that? And how is this my life?”

ScareHouse Design Manager Nicole Conniff remembers Del Toro saying that he was particularly impressed with the Creepo’s Christmas in 3-D attraction. “I did a lot of work back there,” she says, “and hearing that? I think I probably teared up a little.”

a group of people standing in a roomDuring his visit to ScareHouse, Dougherty said “My wish was always that the Haunted Mansion ride would break down so I could get out and walk around the inside of it.  That’s kind of what ScareHouse felt like, like walking around inside the Haunted Mansion.”

Scott remembers the night as a completely surreal experience. “Part of me was just vibrating with excitement, and then yet the other part of me was equally calm. Everything that got thrown at me was just sort of, ‘Oh hey… There’s Guillermo del Toro getting out of the car….There’s Michael Dougherty smiling about one of our characters.”

“It still feels so surreal so many years later, but it was just a remarkable experience and really inspiring to meet these two gentlemen who have done so much for horror and genre culture … and realizing they’re still fans. They’re not jaded or cynical about any of it. It was amazing, it was inspiring, and I can’t imagine it’s something any of us will ever forget.”

“You do the world a lot of good!” Del Toro proclaimed to the design team.  Dougherty agreed, saying that he was “(just) so happy and inspired. You guys nailed it!”

In fact, Michael Dougherty would return to ScareHouse multiple seasons afterward, even trusting and collaborating with our team on the creation of two interactive attractions based on his iconic films! But that’s a story for another time …