Spartan sights and frights
Campus taken over by all things paranormal in pre-Halloween week
Joshua Whitson and Sarah Matthews, co-directors of this year’s Haunted Aud, discuss what goes into making the event a success. The State News was invited to walk through a dress rehearsal on Sunday, Oct. 27.
Witches on broomsticks, candy corn and sinister cackles trigger visions of the year’s spookiest holiday. However, these are only some of the aspects of the buzz that surrounds Halloween, with its origins dating back centuries.
Chris Frilingos, associate professor in the MSU Department of Religious Studies, said Halloween means the eve of All Hallows, or the day before All Saints Day on Nov. 1.
All Saints’ Day is devoted to remembering the saints and martyrs of Christianity. Frilingos said All Saints Day is an ancient date in Christian religious calendars, dating back to the Middle Ages.
“Halloween was in anticipation of that, like Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve,” Frilingos said, adding that times have changed. “My kids seem to just want candy.”
As rosy-cheeked children swarm the streets tonight on the hunt for coveted candy, students will be celebrating the holiday in their own ways, and some of the frightful festivities got under way earlier this week.
Theatre sophomore Tara Marier holds a baby doll during a press rehearsal and walk-through of the Haunted Aud on Oct. 27, 2013, at the Auditorium. The annual production involves more than 40 students. Danyelle Morrow/The State News
James Madison freshman Alyssa Stein poses with a hula hoop during a press rehearsal and walk-through of the Haunted Aud on Oct. 27, 2013, at the Auditorium. The annual production involves more than 40 students. Danyelle Morrow/The State News
Theatre junior Melissa Mercieca stands in costume during a press rehearsal and walk-through of the Haunted Aud, Oct. 27, 2013, at the Auditorium. The annual production involves more than 40 students. Danyelle Morrow/The State News
Students walk down the hallway to enter the Haunted Aud on Oct. 29, 2013, in the MSU Auditorium. Theatre students got together to put on the fifth-annual Haunted Aud, this year Carnage themed, filled with bloody carnival people and lots of screams. Margaux Forster/The State News
A fearful campus
Blood-curdling screams have filled the Auditorium the past two nights at the fifth-annual Haunted Aud, where visitors experienced a carnival gone terribly wrong.
The entire Auditorium has been taken over by spider webs, plastic sheets, eerie lighting and a variety of fear-inducing rooms for visitors to experience.
Walking through the Haunted Aud only can be described as sensory overload; the smallest graze of a piece of plastic on an elbow is shiver-inducing, and the fog-filled air is cut with strobe lights, laughter and pleas for help.
Different areas of the Auditorium are divided into separate scenes, including a puppeteer controlling a girl and several scenes with terrifying figures looming at the ends of dimly lit hallways.
This year’s theme, Carnage, features a whip-wielding ring mistress, freakish clowns, endless shrieking and other ghastly sights. The masterminds behind Carnage are co-directors and theatreIS juniors Joshua Whitson and Sarah Matthews, who are part of the Society for Performers and Arts Managers, or SPAM.
Matthews said preparation for Haunted Aud began during the summer and, in addition to a crew of designers and faculty members, there are about 60 student-actors lurking in the crevices of the building, waiting to terrify visitors.
Whitson said he expects between 1,000 to 2,000 visitors to walk through the Haunted Aud this week.
“The past couple years, we’ve had lines all the way down to Farm Lane,” Whitson said.
Whitson said Haunted Aud is financed each year by a $1,000 budget left over from the organization’s balance the previous year. The money is used to purchase supplies and refreshments for the volunteer scarers.
Whitney Bunn, director of advertising for Carnage, said the event raises upward of $10,000 for SPAM.
“(Students) use the money to meet with producers, casting directors — things to get them on their feet after graduating,” Bunn, a journalism junior, said. “What you put in is what you get out.”
Alyssa Stein, a James Madison freshman, performs as an acrobatic hula hooper in one portion of the Haunted Aud. While most actors involved with Haunted Aud are theatre students, Stein got involved with Carnage on a whim.
“I love scaring people, so I’m really excited,” Stein said.
The Haunted Aud costs $10 per person and will be open for its last performance today from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Searching for fear
Some students let ghosts spook them. Others go hunting for them.
The MSU Paranormal Society began more than four years ago by a group of students interested in all things supernatural. Now, the organization is hired by clients to actively search out areas of paranormal activity.
Most recently, the society did an event with University Activities Board in which they investigated Beaumont Tower and Mayo Hall.
The group has found nearly every building on campus has its own paranormal story, said Tylor Letson, president of the organization and an astrophysics senior.
Letson said Mayo Hall is haunted by the building’s namesake, despite the fact that Mary Mayo had never stepped foot in the building.
“It’s claimed that there’s a female apparition (who) plays one of the pianos (in the hall),” Letson said.
He added that a young boy’s ghost is rumored to roam the halls of the Auditorium.
Beaumont Tower is said to be haunted by the ghost of someone who might have been crushed by the collapse of College Hall, the building the famed tower was built over decades ago.
The Paranormal Society uses cameras, audio recorders and temperature guns to gather evidence of ghostly activity.
“When we go to a location, we don’t try to prove that there’s evidence of ghosts or spirits there,” Letson said. “What we try to do is disprove claims of activity. If there’s evidence to show on our equipment, that tends to give us prudence that there is something paranormal going on.”
Celebrate the fear
Whether students are bundling up at home with a horror film to celebrate the holiday, or donning a costume for a night of partying, Halloween has a defined place in many students’ hearts, especially ones involved with or close to events like Haunted Aud.
“I’m not one that likes to get scared very much,” Bunn said. ”(But) I like to be somebody else — (it’s a chance to) walk in someone else’s shoes.”
For Matthews, it’s always been about bonding with friends over something common.
“Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays,” Matthews said. “It really comes down to the spirit of the thing — people are so together about being frightened, being scared or being weird.”