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Behind The Screams

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ScareHouse Easter Eggs

After narrowly missing an alien spaceship’s crash-landing, unsuspecting survivors look up above a crashed car, avoiding zombies lurching toward them, to see: A billboard for cheese?

 At ScareHouse, details like what objects go inside a fridge, on a table or become part of a billboard all start with being a part of the overall set design. Ideas can come from anywhere, like movies or inside jokes.

That’s how the billboard for “Conniff’s Cheese” came to be — ScareHouse creative director and co-owner Scott Simmons took advantage of a phrase often-repeated by design and operations manager Nicole Conniff.

“I wanted a billboard there to block the eyeline, and I asked Scott to design it when he was feeling punchy,” she said. “Instead of ‘that’s good,’ I say ‘that’s gouda’ a lot — I got it from my sister — so now we have that billboard, and it’s pretty funny.”

On a regular visit, in the fog and dark while bombarded by scares of all types, ScareHouse guests might not catch all the Easter eggs that have been incorporated into each of the sets, but the 90-minute behind-the-scenes tours give them that chance.

“There’s a lot of art in the detail that goes into the set design that you can’t really stop to appreciate when you’re just walking through on a normal night,” Nicole said. “It’s nice to get a lights-on view of some things, especially if you’ve seen it and you want to go back and pore over the details that you might have missed.”

Even sound designer Bengt Alexsander has incorporated details into the audio that brings the ScareHouse to life.

“It’s still a scavenger hunt, so I don’t want to give all the secrets away,” he said. But Bengt did share, for example, that he used sounds from alien movies “Fire in the Sky” and “Independence Day” to create just the right atmosphere in the spaceship crash scene.

“I’ll just have some tiny little clip of something that I dropped in that maybe plays only once or twice over the course of a half hour,” he said. “But to me, it’s just fun that some person is going to hear that at some point, and maybe catch it.”

a close up of a carScott shared some of his favorite Easter eggs:

  • In the first room, there is a painting of our character The Bride.
  • The TV in the den is playing a montage of weird clips, many of which are from ‘70s TV shows and movies that terrified him as a child, including “Salem’s Lot,” “Gargoyles” and “Land of the Lost”
  • On the table in the dining room sits one of two George Romero references in ScareHouse: Our version of the Father’s Day cake from “Creepshow,” which was filmed in Pittsburgh.
  • Also on the dining room table, the candy is a recreation of the candy bars featured in the film “Trick ‘R Treat”. The artwork was provided to us by the film’s writer/director, ​​Michael Dougherty.
  • In the forest scene, many of the scenic elements were first featured in “The Last Witch Hunter,” which was also shot in Pittsburgh.
  • The head of the large robot that looms over guests utilizes the original gyro-cam housing from Chopper 11 at WPXI-TV.

What other secrets await with ScareHouse scares and scenes? Find out for yourself with you book a lights-on backstage tour this weekend!