Exeter’s Haunted House Pt. 1

Exeter’s Haunted House

Where it all started

Prodigy Escapes & Experiences started as a charity Halloween event known as Exeter’s Haunted House. Today I’ll share with you a bit of a background about how this event came to be.

Growing up I (Dan) had an unusual relationship with Halloween. When I was a kid I remember being told that it was an American thing that I shouldn’t have an interest in. When I made it to my teenage years I remember being concerned that it was a night when everyone at my school went out egging houses. It wasn’t a great introduction to the annual celebration.

In my late teens, I ended up with the 31st of October being my anniversary with a girlfriend which meant we’d be heading out for meals as others went trick or treating. Yes, this was at first a non-event for me for a number of years.

Changing Perception

It was after a few years when I was with my now wife Lisa, when I decided to take our daughter out trick or treating. We got dressed up and headed out onto the streets of St Thomas, Exeter. The neighbours around us made such an amazing effort to decorate the small spaces in front of the terraced houses. I remember how amazing it was that I was meeting people who I’d never met before yet they were making such an amazing effort to create an experience for strangers. Ignoring the ghosts and ghouls, blood and gore this was an opportunity for people to connect.

The very first year

The year after this positive experience we decided that we’d get involved ourselves. With some fake spiderwebs, a blacklight, and some fairy lights we decorated our small courtyard which was down a small lane. I donned a Michael Myers mask with boiler suit and our daughter was dressed as a vampire. After a little while of greeting trick or treaters, we’d developed a routine. She would draw visitors down the dark lane. I would wait in a shadowy corner until they got close before walking into the light delivering an amazing reaction. The thing that made the biggest impression was the response from our daughter’s school friends. They exclaimed that it was amazing and asked whether we’d be doing it again next year! We were hooked!

Our Canada trip

The following year we ended up moving house and were actually away for Halloween. We found ourselves in Calgary, Canada. This amazing trip had us traveling through the Rocky Mountains to Jasper before heading to Edmonton and finishing back in Calgary. The scale of Halloween there we were not prepared for. I vaguely remembered a section on the news a few years previous regarding someone decorating their house for Halloween and thought we should try and seek it out.

Haunted Calgary

What we discovered was Haunted Calgary. This event saw a maze surrounding a home in a suburban area of Calgary. We arrived early as we were keen to go around without actors present to start with. The scale of the venue was incredible and with our daughter feeling more confident we decided to head off for a bit of trick or treating before going through again once the actors were present. The whole event and the scale of Halloween really impressed us. We found ourselves thinking “Why don’t we have this in the UK?” before concluding that if we wanted this to exist in the UK then we could just make it happen. You can see our trip through Haunted Calgary here:

Haunted Calgary 2016

Bringing Halloween to Exeter

Inspired by our Calgary adventure we headed back to the UK and in the Spring of the following year, we invited a few friends to share our findings and pitch our plans. The initial idea was to create walls using bedsheets and a washing line through sections in our garden. Our idea was that we would create lots of mini-scenes featuring a variety of different horror lore. Our areas included:

  • Spiders
  • Nun
  • Exorcist
  • Creepy Doll
  • Butcher
  • Clown
  • Witch
  • Scarecrow
  • Zombies

As we started construction our friend Ashleigh started work on a witch’s area. Ash had previously been told off when working at Crealy for making their witch too scary and despite knowing this we let her have free reign. She built a structure that was designed to black out any light. This area looked great but left us with a slight issue. Everything else by comparison looked a bit basic. We had to develop the other areas to increase the quality. Many pallets and hours later we were ready to open our doors. We distributed flyers and waited to see if anyone would turn up.

We were aided by our friends and family who filled various roles throughout the attraction. None of this would have been possible without their support.

Exeter’s Haunted House POV

The response was amazing! Hundreds of people visited and we raised lots of money for some amazing local charities. Our journey had well and truly begun.

Read more about our escape room adventure here. Part 2 to finish shortly.