Approaching its fourth go-round, the Lafayette Science Museum’s
Museum of Fear is bigger and more horrifying than ever.
By Walter Pierce
Photos by Robin May
Kevin Krantz has always been a fan of the macabre, of stage props, a good scare. When he was 6 he bought a rubber chicken at the Fun Shop on Jefferson Street. He couldn’t get enough of the Saturday-morning shlock that dominated television when TV was three channels and some rabbit ears.
“I was hard core at a young age,” he recalls. “The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Frankenstein. Boris Karloff. Lon Chaney. All those guys — I grew up on them on Saturday mornings just glued to the television set after the cartoons would go off. I was compelled. I was into it all.”
When he was 7 he staged his first haunted house at an uncle’s place on Roselawn Boulevard.
Museum of Fear, the annual haunted house that dominates the third floor of the Lafayette Science Museum every October, is an extension of Krantz, who developed the idea several years ago. A major fundraiser for the Science Museum Foundation, Museum of Fear occupies almost the entire top floor of the LSM — a few thousand square feet of narrow passages punctuated by gory vignettes, animatronic ghouls, decapitated and disemboweled corpses, zombies and mad men — plus a few of the obligatory things that go bump in the night.
But Museum of Fear definitely isn’t about the cheap scare. It’s more horror than terror.
“There’s no jump-out-and-go-boo scares — everything is a build-up, a suspenseful build-up to a really ugly, climactic finish,” says Krantz, the museum’s director who came up with the Museum of Fear concept when he was the facility’s exhibits curator. “I had a makeup and a 3-D design background,” he says, “and since I was already the curator of the exhibits in the museum I had access to all the lights, construction equipment and we started with that.”
The first Museum drew about 9,000 visitors in 2009 and has held steady at that level since. But Krantz hopes this year’s Museum, bigger and better and more horrifying than ever, will see attendance increase by about 3,000.
“The first year was the hardest because we hadn’t matched our expectations with our abilities,” he recalls. “We wanted to do this but we weren’t sure how we were going to do it. Now we’ve evenly matched our desire and expectation with our ability to pull them off, and that’s what the difference is and that’s what the viewer is going to see this year.”
The market was ripe for such an attraction in 2009: there was no haunted house with high production values in the Acadiana area. The lighting, animatronics and audio are first-rate; visitors will even encounter artificial aromas fanned into certain areas that mimic the smell of decaying flesh. Krantz and staff looked east, across the Atchafalaya Basin, for inspiration. “Baton Rouge has 13th Gate,” he says. “We visited them to get an idea of what their process was, and it was amazing to me how fantastic their sets were and everything was just pulled off so professionally. We gained a lot of inspiration from them but we came back and realized there’s nothing high-quality like that in town.”
Kevin Krantz, above, with one of his many
There is now. It will take groups of five or six visitors about 15 minutes to navigate the Museum of Fear maze, moving through narrow passageways that lead into chambers where horror is celebrated with a verve usually reserved for motion pictures. This year’s theme might properly be described as a tribute to the torture chamber. Think entrails. Lots of entrails.
Volunteers help in the construction and reconfiguration of the horror house. A local contractor devotes labor. Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center donated some of the now-obsolete medical devices that are put to decidedly non-Hippocratic purposes. It’s a different experience from year to year.
And Museum of Fear is never just thrown together. It’s practically a year-round job. “I’ve literally been working on this in some aspect since November of last year,” Krantz says, confessing that he put in about 14 solid hours on a recent Saturday. “It never stops. There’s the floor plans, there’s the concept, there’s the props. It takes months for these things to be made and come in, so you literally have to plan it and know what the concept is going to be, know what you’re going to be doing, flesh it out in your mind, know what it’s going to take. Thousands of dollars of lumber. Hundreds of man hours. I would say we probably at least have 250 to 300 man hours just literally getting to the point where we are now.”
Last year a woman fainted during her transit. A group of girls were smitten with spontaneous incontinence. This year Krantz is banking on the ultimate tribute to Museum of Fear: “I’m pretty sure we’ll get some vomiting,” he says, deadly serious.
MUSEUM OF FEAR
7-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Oct. 5-27
Lafayette Science Museum,
433 Jefferson St.
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