After drawing the blinds and turning off the lights, the bus became silent as it took passengers to “Zombie Wasteland.” The bus became surrounded by screams from outside and moans of distant zombies, as the destination drew near.
“Zombie Wasteland” is the fifth annual haunt put together by Scare for a Cure, a non-profit organization capitalizing on the horrors of fantasy in hopes of ending a horror of reality: breast cancer.
The organization began in 2005 in the backyard of Jarret Crippen, an Austin Police Department Detective, and his wife’s home. Crippen has had a long love affair for fantasy. In 2007, Crippen won the reality series “Who Wants to Be a Super Hero?” For his prize, Stan Lee wrote a comic book based on Crippen’s character “The Defuser.” Crippen still directs Scare for a Cure and could be found earlier this week conducting a performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” along with fellow cops and friends to promote the organization.
Currently, the haunt takes place at Richard Garriott’s unfinished home in Hill Country. Garriott, known for creating the PC game series “Ultima,” said he abandoned construction on it after the dot-com crash in 2000. Now, Garriott donates the home and its large yard for the yearly haunt.
“I’ve been a part of several haunted houses before and I have to say this is one of the best I’ve ever had to work with,” James Boord said, behind a face wrapped in bandages and splattered with fake blood. Boord is one of the 300 volunteers that came out to act in the event this year. “Both their haunt ideas and the people you work with – it’s not just for a paycheck. We are out here trying to make a difference.”
Scare for a Cure has been giving its donations to the Breast Cancer Resources of Texas for the past three years. Donations have grown from $5,000 in 2007 to an expected $20,000 this year.
“Everyone is touched by it,” Leanna Holmquist, PR director of the haunt, said. “Every one of us either has a relative or friend or knows someone that has had breast cancer. It touches everyone either directly or indirectly. It’s something that is easy to get behind.”
The haunt itself is unique in its structure. Unlike most narrow, indoor haunts, this year’s theme, “Zombie Wasteland,” is closer to 25 minutes in length and includes varied indoor and outdoor locations. Those brave enough to come out can expect actors to improvise dialogue based on the party’s appearance and attitude, to take more than one bumpy ride in a vehicle and to hide their head as a ball of fire shoots out above the group.
You are required to sign a waiver before stepping onto the bus, but that doesn’t mean the actors rely on grabbing people for cheap scares.
“You don’t have to really touch a guest to get in their bubble and really make them feel uncomfortable,” Boord said. “My character is really good about sneaking up and getting right in your face and pushing that boundary. And, I’ll never touch you.”
Over the course of the venture, you will have played a role in your own horror movie. Actors will ask you to solve puzzles, you’ll scream as a zombie sneaks up on your unaware guide and hide in the corner as the lights go out and the zombies are let loose in a prison.
“As soon as you step foot in the door you are part of the story, so you have to have your wits about you,” Holmquist said. “You have to interact with the actors to get information and find out things so you can get out alive.”
WHAT: “Zombie Wasteland”
WHERE: 7400 Cold Water Canyon Dr. Austin, TX 78730
WHEN: Friday to Sunday, 7:30 p.m. – midnight