Potter’s facade has been re-imagined as old New York’s 42nd Street theatre district, said Scott Pasternak, who is behind the fear-inducing annual haunted houses, which open Friday (Oct. 5), along with a new escape room.
“I started designing it (the New York scene) and I just turned it into a 3D sketch and walk-through so people could actually build it, rather than me explaining everything,” Pasternak said.
The facade is actually double-sided with an alleyway for guests to line up in before heading into one of the two haunted houses. Pasternak said his reference was an alleyway in the Downtown Eastside.
The stores are also references to horror movie directors and “horrific people,” with one storefront called “Bundy’s Boutique.”
Chris Pershick of Potter’s said Pasternak loves horror, adding that there is “not a horror movie that Scott hasn’t seen.” Pershick said those names are references for “the horror geek.”
“Nobody’s going to get those references except this little group of people that love horror movies,” Pershick said. “Everything was like a tip of the hat to these sort of geeky horror movies… To the rest of us, it just looks like a really cool, fun facade.”
The entryway to the haunted house is designed to look like a movie house, with teasers of the “features” such as “Super Action Packed Thriller” and “Tension Shock Tingling Suspense” to describe the haunted houses, called Monstrosity 2.0 and Devil’s Descent.
“Everything he (Pasternak) has done was to be as authentic as possible,” said Pershick of the theatre awning meant to resemble old movie houses.
Inside, Pasternak has spent the past several months fine-tuning the pair of haunted houses, the escape room and the entire layout. He said the building of the labyrinths begins Aug. 1, but the prepping of the props begins in May.
However, Pasternak said he usually starts designing the entire setup in January, adding that the design process usually takes about a month. He said once he knows the space he’s working with, he then figures out how to make it all work.
“It’s right to the inch because there are so many things that you have to do. You have to make sure there’s a fire escape, you have to make sure everything is (minimum) 36 inches wide by 68 inches tall… Once you get down to that, you start to actually think about what’s going to be in the rooms.”
Of the two haunted houses, Monstrosity 2.0 is back for another year. Pasternak said it’s horror through the ages mixed with a bit of sci-fi and clowns, of course. Devil’s Descent, he said, has a mining theme with caverns and a spider house, and it even includes a swamp.
Pasternak said the swamp took some creativity.
“This room here was tricky because the whole room is raised, because the swamp is 18 inches. The whole area had to be raised up, all the flooring had to be raised up, then you need ramps,” said Pasternak.
New this year is an escape room, which is designed after an apartment from the 1940s.
“I was thinking of what would be a good theme and would have enough practical props in it that would actually allow an escape room to work properly,” he said. “It is really hard, in this square footage, to come up with a theme that actually has a doable game play with enough stuff to actually trick people.”
While Pasternak said escape rooms can be frustrating, he said he really likes them because it gets people to think outside of the box.
“It’s amazing how some people just think outside of the box and they can just go through really quick and go, ‘That was obvious, isn’t it?’”
Potter’s House of Horrors runs from Oct. 5 to 31 at Potter’s Nursery and Farm (12530 72nd Ave.). The “ultra-scary” show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. with tamer family hours beforehand. There is also a Li’l Haunters for younger children.