By Annie Reuter
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After he was given a horror book written in the style of a kid’s fairy tale, Timothy Haskell had the idea to create a haunted house that had the feel of a children’s book.
“I’m a big Grimm’s fan as it is and I knew the original stories are actually much, much darker than most people realize,” said creator and co-Director of Nightmare: Fairy Tales, a downtown Halloween attraction which would scare the pants off most adults.
“I read hundreds of fairy tales and decided on the ones that I thought would play the best,” he told CBSNewYork.
A theater director, Haskell said he’d been walking the line between traditional haunted house and theatrical haunted house for years. As a result, this year’s theatrical direction was more artistically satisfying for him.
“I thought fairy tales really lent itself to that level of theatricality and horror. There were some great images I wanted to create. I wanted it to look like a pop-up book, which is why everything is three-dimensional,” he explained. “It was a very distinct style choice and I really wanted it to look and feel like a pop-up book, including the actors.”
Over 500 people auditioned for 14 coveted roles at this year’s attraction, which is recommended for those over the age of 15. Haskell said he wasn’t just looking for a good actor.
“It was about how willing you were to take the craziest direction, how open minded you were to performing out of your comfort zone and how gung-ho you were to just go for it,” he said. “We needed people who are good actors but at the same time weren’t timid and would go for the jugular every time.”
Visitors get lost in a dark forest and navigate through hidden cottages while characters from over a dozen fairy tales by The Brothers Grimm, Aesop and Hans Christian Anderson frightfully come to life. Afterward, they are ushered upstairs for a psychological experiment.
Known as “The Experiment,” each person is tested with five fears. From fear of the unknown, humiliation and claustrophobia, Haskell said he and co-director John Harlacher wanted to present a unique stimulus.
“You know we’re not going to do anything that harms you, but most audiences don’t know what to expect. We wanted to present a stimulus that could go haywire and an animal had that unpredictability,” he said.
One of nine haunted houses showcased throughout New York City, of Nightmare: Fairy Tales, Haskell said he wants to exercise the imagination.
“There are so many imaginative opportunities. I want to explore the creativity and the stories and the characters. I really want it to be engrossing and interactive like a theater piece would,” he said. “Our goal is to be scary; we’re just trying to do it in a different way.”
Nightmare: Fairy Tales is located at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street between Rivington and Delancey. It runs through November 5.
Annie Reuter is a freelance writer and the founder of YouSingIWrite.com.