Ghost Manor FAQ (2017)

What is Ghost Manor?

Ghost Manor is a Halloween experience free to the public and viewable from the sidewalk. It features more than a dozen different scenes, with flying ghosts, singing skeletons, and dancing zombies, all perfectly timed to music, much like a theme park attraction. The entire display is coordinated, unlike other displays with normal props that each do their own thing. Each scene lasts a couple of minutes and has its own cast of characters, lighting, and sound. It is not a walthrough haunted-house, but believe us, there's plenty to see from the sidewalk.

What inspired the artistic style?

We wanted to capture the beauty and whimsy of Halloween and create a magical and mysterious world as opposed to a scary or gory one. We were inspired by the rich Halloween color palettes, by movies and other visuals, and by some popular songs and scenes which are either lightly parodied or completely transformed. We are also huge fans of opera as well as musical theater; when we attend performances and everyone else is looking at the actors, we're looking for and appreciating the lighting design, tech cues, and other dramatic elements and how they contribute to overall aesthetic and emotional impact of the production.

Is it kid friendly?

All of the scenes are reviewed and approved by our four-year-old.  But it’s important to note that although it is definitely kid-friendly, it is not kid-focused; we want to mesmerize people of all ages and make them ask, "How on earth did they do that?" You're never too young or too old to believe in magic.

Why do you do it?

Several reasons. It all started in 2012 with a crazy idea to fly a ghost across the house — a personal challenge to see if it could be done. It worked, and we soon learned we could control a lot more elements, such as sound, lighting, and eventually animatronics.  By the second year it became an artistic passion in addition to a technical one. We had a platform that provided a broad new outlet for creativity, and we wanted to make something that captured the beauty of the holiday. We began to approach it foremost as a visual and performing arts production. The display continued to grow and improve each year, and it turned into something special. What kept us going was seeing so many people smile and by realizing this is a way to help spread a bit of joy into the world.  When we first started this, we had no idea it would come to mean something for so many people. The joy it brings to the neighborhood is the main reason we continue to do it. Halloween is a short break from life’s challenges — especially in this year of divineness and tragedies, it's great for people to escape reality for a moment, get in the Halloween spirit, and be entertained.

What is the history of the house?

It was built in 1892, after a fire engulfed dozens of homes in the neighborhood. It is a great example of late Victorian Queen Anne style, which naturally lends itself to a Halloween motif, and makes the ghosts happy. We moved there in 2011 and often got the question, "Is it haunted?"  Our response was, "We'll see." Given the home’s style, history and location, we thought it would be fun to try.

Does anyone live in the house?

Yes, we do, in fact. People are surprised to learn that all the rooms are still perfectly useable, even when the ghosts are performing.

How long does it take to put it up?

This might be the most common question we get asked. The decorations only take a couple of days to put outside, but creating them takes a long time. More and more things get added each year, and everything involves elements that are custom made to some extent, which requires a lot of planning, R&D, fabrication, and editing. The creative process for some of the larger scenes began over a year in advance, and there are already a couple of projects already underway for next year. What surprises some is how much editing is involved -- there are a number of scenes that hit the cutting room floor, a couple of which even made it all the way to production for a night or two. The scenes have to work in the display, and sometimes the only way to see how it plays is to give it a try. But I feel it's important to not be afraid to cut it if doesn’t fit, regardless of how much time, effort, and expense was put into it.

Where can I buy decorations like this?

For the most part, you can't. The main elements of the display are all custom made and programmed. Store-bought props sometimes form the base, but they are heavily modified with electronics and integrated into a show control automation system to do their thing. However, the ghosts and skeletons are real, and we’re still figuring out how to convince them to perform every night without showing attitude.

How do you make ghosts fly and skeletons talk?

A little bit of magic and a lot of patience and hard work. (Skeletons and ghosts can be pretty stubborn.)

Do you do this for a living?

One day perhaps, but not currently. We love it because of the broad range of skills involved — multimedia art and lighting design, electronics, computer programming, mechanical design, fabrication and machining, show control automation, video and audio editing, CG animation and motion capture, to name a few. Contrary to rumors, we're neither in the film industry nor theater.  We're now entrepreneurs, and software engineering and visual design are part of what we do.

When does the display run and how long is it?

The display runs through Halloween night from sunset: ~6:45pm to 10pm on weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. The length varies depending on what scenes are running; the full sequence has 14 scenes and repeats about every 20 minutes.

What’s new this year?

Last year we added forty hand-carved pumpkins that light up individually and it seems they may have multiplied in the attic, so look for even more. This year we're very excited about our newest member of the cast, a mean green singing machine. We're also rolling out a new number that's been a longtime classic and should have you singing along.

What do you have planned for next year?

That’s a secret, but it’s going to be great!

Do you have a Website/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?

Yes!  Website: https://ghostmanor.org  Facebook: ghostmanor.org  Twitter: @ghostmanornola  Instagram: @ghostmanornola

Is this for profit?

No, this is a labor of love, but it is expensive. Feel free to contact us if you're moved to donate.