This is a day 37 of our 61-day Hauntathon counting down to Halloween. Today is Friday, October 7th. And there are 24 days until Halloween. Today is all about, what exactly is County Line Fright, and does it live up to the hype? We’re going on location to find out. Hannah, who leads the marketing efforts for the haunt, explains.
What Is County Line Fright?
Hannah: So, County Line Fright is basically a man-made maze where people can walk through; there’s jump scares, there’s a lot of psychological thrill, it’s about 5,000 square feet. So, this year it’s called The Evil Within, technically it’s like the evil within someone. It’s a serial killer and you’re walking into his home, you’re trying to help police try to find him, and either you come out or he hunts you down.
Philip: In a review online you are known for the ability to subvert expectation and innovate on classic haunt tropes, can you talk a little bit about that?
Hannah: Last year’s Asylum we actually built our own elevator that move, of course, it didn’t go up and down because it is one story, we moved it and everything so people would go from one hallway to the next. Then I know that we do like classic haunt stuff. So, for example, in the dentist room last year, he was cleaning someone’s teeth and water came out and basically sprayed our customers. So, that’s classic haunt stuff, compressors, the water, but then we also have our own man-made designs too that we do so the elevator is one of them. Then, this year, we actually have a replica of basically a stalker van that our owner is building; so, we make all of that. We make our own props, we don’t buy anything, everything is just man-made by our owners.
It takes about 30 to 35 people actually working inside of the haunt, and then I would say about. Six to 10 on the outside. We like to really focus on the psychological aspect of horror, not really the jump scares too much. Yeah, of course, you’re going to have those where you turn a corner and someone’s there waiting for you. But really, we like to mess with people’s heads more than we like to do those traditional scares. So, I think that’s what makes these elements super cool.
Hannah Discusses the Why Behind Building Their Own Props
Philip: Chris, which is the founder, has 15 years of experience in architectural design and 20 years of construction, so the owners have a big base in construction, is that why you all make everything by hand?
Hannah: Chris basically does it on a smaller scale for the haunt. So, instead of building an actual home, he’s building like a temporary one, is what I like to call it. So, he puts the walls up and all of that, but yet everything is built on our property by their hands. So, Chris is the plans and build guy, and then John, our other owner, he is more of the props and creepy factor. So, them working together with the rest of the team just creates this really cool haunt.
Hannah Discusses the In-Queue Escape Room
Hannah: Yeah. So that actually is brand new for us, it’s going to be a separate package. So, if you purchase a ticket to the escape room, you actually get VIP access to our haunt as well, so it’s all included. It goes by 15-minute increments, so you can go online and book by 15 minutes. And then what you do is we do a minimum of four people and a maximum of six. So, you don’t have to have four in your party, you can have two, but it works well with four. They can go in, they can do the escape room, and then once they’re done, they go straight into the VIP line, and this would be our serial killers study or office, we’re calling it the study, and you’re going in there to find clues and then you escape into our haunt.
Philip: Oh, I love how they’re connected thematically, you get like a little bit extra the storyline, if you were doing the escape room.
Hannah: Yes, exactly. So, it’s all connected, it’s just a separate package from our actual haunt.
What COVID Procedures Does County Line Fright Have?
Hannah: Yeah, so as we know, COVID is changing every single day, and we are relying on the CDC and just our California rules and standards in order to put any policies that we need to in place. Luckily, though, we do have a huge outdoor waiting area. So, we do have fresh air.
So, I work in the general contracting industry and we work with HVAC contractors, and we actually work with one of our local HVAC contractors who basically built us, I don’t know if it’s an actual HVAC unit, but that’s what pumps all of the fresh air in as well. It’s a white tent, like an event tent that hangs over the haunt, but all of that stays open. So, when it gets dark, we don’t really need it covered because it’s dark. And then we also have that unit, that fresh air flowing through as well. We are trying to keep it as safe as possible for everyone.
Philip: So, there’s a lot of air flow, that you’ve deliberately designed.
Hannah: It’s all outdoors, yep.
Guest Impressions of County Line Fright
Guest 1: Brutally awesome, terrifying, scary, Loads of fun.
Guest 2: I was really scared at first, but it was super fun.
Guest 3: Definitely worth it, even if you think it’s going to be too scary.
Guest 2: I would say to give it a shot, it’s worth it
Guest 1: were going to do it again.
Guest 2: I would do it again.
Guest 3: So, I would definitely come back and do it.
Guest 4: We go to a lot of haunts, and we look forward to this every year. Every single year, yeah. This haunt, they focus more on you, they put all their energy into you. So, instead of like going room to room and you have a ton of people behind you, they’re just constantly on you, every single room, and that makes it terrifying. And not only that, we were just talking about how creative it is compared to other haunts. We’ve been to, so a lot of good effort in this haunt.
Guest 1: The standalone haunts, I really recommend them because they put more energy into you, where if you go into a more mainstream haunt, there’s a bigger crowd and it’s harder for the actors just to focus on individuals, you don’t know what to expect. If you go in with a large crowd that they might jump in on the people in front of you and you already know that the fright is coming, but here you can’t anticipate that.
Guest 4: Basically, quality over quantity. Like those big haunts, they have a bunch of other mazes here. It’s just one, but that one makes up for the lack of quantity. It’s so good. It really is.
Guest 5: I got more scared here tonight than I have at Halloween Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm in the past couple of years.
Guest 6: Yeah. They do a great job.
Guest 7: I think they put more time into, because you know, the amusement parks are like packed, there’s trying to get everybody through. Here, they took their time to let us through, so we were really surprised.
Guest 8: It was three adults and one under age, and I felt like we were little kids in there just screaming our lungs out. It was so good in there, I definitely recommend this place to anyone.
Guest 9: I mean, It was just unexpected. Everyone blended into the surroundings, so when they jumped up out of nowhere,, it was like, whoa, run! You know,
Owners John and Chris Discuss This Year and Future Challenges
John: My name’s John Leman, one of the partners co-owners and operators of the haunt.
Chris: Hey, how are you doing? My name’s Chris Stark, I’m the other owner, 5’ 10’, 205, married, sorry, ladies.
Philip: How are you all feeling?
John: I’m feeling good. We hired more than we did last year and we’ve grown and expanded. So, with that comes different challenges, but so far it’s going smooth.
Chris: Yeah, like you said, this year we’ve decided to go a lot bigger compared to last year, a lot more rooms, a lot more square footage. We actually spent over two months this year putting this thing in. Tonight was really a big learning lesson on logistics and how we’re going to make this thing efficient, and finding the spots that people were running a little too fast in and people were getting a little jammed up. So, now we got the next week to figure all that stuff up and make this thing just perfect.
John: It blew up last year, and the year before it was doing great, so this year we’re like, “we got, gotta hire.” So we did, and they all returned. We didn’t scare them away, so they all showed up tonight, but yeah, worked out good.
Philip: What do you all think are some of the challenges that you are going to have now that you’re in the season, right?
John: Obviously the hot topic of the last year and a half is COVID. We follow all requirements with the city, the county, we have to, we gotta be safe, and for the actors too. We feed all of our actors and we have sanitation stations back there. So we try to put the stations everywhere we can, but that is a challenge that, I guess, over the years prior, you didn’t have to worry about as much. That’s something we have to keep in mind as we build, as we hire, and operate.
Chris: We just want our body to have a good experience at this haunt, and that comes with the price of being safe as well. But, we’re saying as far as having a good experience, we want to make sure that everybody gets that good amount of time in the haunt, and if they’re not seeing what’s going on in front of them it ruins a scare for them. We’re trying to create that extra something special that nobody else has where we want our customer to get the best scare that he could possibly get.
John: I think one of the challenges too, we change the theme every year from ground up, it is a totally different theme. And so, with that, we have to plan every single room. Him and I, we’ll meet November 1st and we’ll start talking about next year. So, it takes a lot of planning, but that’s always a challenge, but we love it. We love the thought process that goes into it, we love the meetings that we have, and brainstorming, and we open up with a brand new theme, so it’s not something you’ve seen last year.
What Was a Surprise for the 2021 Season?
John: Operation-wise. I think we probably both agree is we’re learning, we’ve stepped it up, we’re doing a lot of stuff with air and solenoid and programmers. So, we still love the realism of a real actor. We’ve dipped our toes in the water with a lot of that this year, and we’ve learned from it, and I’m sure we’ll use more of that in the future.
Chris: And we also put all of our rooms on security cameras, not only for the safety of our customers, but our actors. But it also allows us to be as like a director back of house to kind of orchestrate everybody through the haunt so they get that maximum experience they can get. It just makes it more seamless.
John: We have a person almost like an air traffic controller, they sit there and that’s their job here, they watch a big monitor, and we all can communicate and say, “Hey, slow down here, slow down, room one, slow down this.” To your point, we’ve all been to the haunts where they heard you through a bunch of cattle and you see the scary happen in front of you. You paid money, we want you to have a good, full scare through the whole thing. So, we really focus on that, to try to space people out enough without having them wait too long, but enough to where they’re not being guided through, they’re not being walked through, they’re walking through a house on their own.
Chris: The funnest part about that whole experience is, we get to see our thoughts and ideas come to life and how good they scare people, and we get to sit back and just laugh and cry on these people just getting, horrified by stuff that we created. Yeah, laying on the ground and falling over each other, oh, it’s funny. The guys are jumping and their girlfriends are holding them tight, oh, it’s great.