Even though I had to admit defeat with building a post-apocalypse haunt, I haven’t given up on scavenging through the genre for props and scenes for haunted houses. Probably the most recognizable post-apocalyptic prop is the gas mask. It’s really effective for many reasons. Their very presence means that danger literally surrounds you – the air you breathe is in some way poisoned. You can’t recognize the person/creature wearing it. And finally, they are strongly associated with war. Any one of those makes for a pretty compelling prop, but when combined, you get a scarefecta!
Anyone can don a gas mask: the terrorist, the survivalist or the ex-chemistry teacher turned pharmaceutical entrepreneur. My favorite gas mask bedecked characters for the haunt are military themed. A World War II era soldier or a military doctor covered head to toe against a toxin are very menacing characters to run into after rounding a corner.
I wouldn’t normally cast a military character in a haunt – unless she was the victim of unsanctioned government experiments of course. However, imagine the effect if 3 or 4 people wearing gas masks wordlessly herded your group away from the apparent path to safety and instead locked you in a room before walking off. There would have to be a hidden door through which the group could “escape” into the rest of the haunt, but for those few minutes until they discovered it (or the whispered voices from other side ushered them through) it would be very unnerving.
I also imagine using these characters to split up a group. After giving all the guests a cursory inspection they would select 2 or 3 to peel off to the infirmary (or lab) while the rest of the group is denied entry and sent down an alternate path. This one is bit tougher to pull off, but while it is tempting to use a plant for this, the effect will be greatly enhanced if you choose people who arrived as a group.
Care (and good judgment) must be taken not only when separating people from their friends, but even with the “examinations”. Inspecting their eyes or looking for “spots” on the skin with a flashlight is a safe way to determine which guests must be quarantined. Since you never want to injure, or really even make contact with, your guests, your actors will need to act as sheep dogs (it somehow always comes back to sheep dogs…) to herd your chosen infectious victims away from their friends and into the quarantine zone.
It’s obvious that they must never grab their arms or push them along, but the actors must also be careful in the choice of guests. I recommend not choosing guests that are already in great distress; select instead someone more composed as the infected. And of course, consider how others might interpret your selection of the sick; for instance younger children are off limits unless one or both parents are also chosen. I also recommend a back up plan in case some of the infected refuse your medical assistance. Either herd the entire group into quarantine or “let” them escape.
Another scenario where this character can appear is a biological attack. This, with the additional of a creeping cloud of “gas” and possibly with a siren and flashing red light could be very useful in chasing your guests out of the haunt. Who wouldn’t follow a group of the people in green biological suits and gas masks running past them out whatever door they feverishly broke through?
Image From: Ebay
There so many different ways to use these diverse actors in a haunt. They can be escorting an alien or monster of some sort. (It would be a real shame if the monster just happened to escape their grasp though, wouldn’t it?) I envision a huddled child curled up in the corner sobbing, but suddenly turning around with a gas mask on and screaming at the guests. Or maybe she scrambles away to get clear from the group without their own masks. Even peering into a window to see a 1950’s nuclear family (get it?) calmly going about their mundane daily lives covered in hideous boils, faces obscured in gas masks would be unnerving. These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. There are many other wonderful ways to use these types of characters in a haunt, and next week we will explore how to put together these costumes.