After seven years, Midnight Productions has laid to rest Necropolis, its haunted, New Orleans-themed cemetery, located across the street from the 13th Gate haunted house.
In its place is Carnevil, a circus carnival where owner Dwayne Sanburn says the production company can not only showcase its top horrors, but also test new ideas on customers.
“Though the cemetery had its seven years, normally we change up big parts of the haunted attraction each year. The cemetery either needed a major renovation or to be replaced,” Sanburn says. “We wanted an area to put some new stuff out and test some things on customer experience.”
Among the new products being tested this year are two virtual reality experiences: Beat Saber, a virtual reality game where players wield lightsabers; the other is a virtual ride.
He’s also rolling out axe throwing at Carnevil, which, he says, is “the next big thing.”
If the virtual reality games gain enough traction with customers, Sanburn says he’ll consider adding them to 13th Gate Escape, the escape rooms that Midnight Productions began in 2015.
The company plans to open its sixth and final escape room at the beginning of next year, Sanburn says.
Since he started working with haunted houses in the ‘90s, Sanburn says the industry has become much more complex, borrowing from the movie industry to satisfy customers expecting higher quality special effects and scenery, similar to a theme park-type experience.
Though the haunted house may only be open from the last week of September to the first week of November, the business works year-round on the attraction. Plans are already in the works for the 2019 Halloween season, which, Sanburn says, may include a new large animatronic.
“What scared people 25 years ago would be laughable now,” Sanburn says. “People are desensitized now to horror. You have to put on a great show besides just scare them because the customers expect more than just someone jumping out in a rubber mask.”