Stress and fear permeate UCLA’s campus every October as students prepare to take their first midterms of the year. Ironically, one form of escape among students Tuesday night was “Haunted Hill: Apocalypse,” a one-night haunted house put on by the On-Campus Housing Council in the Covel Grand Horizon Room.
Zombies, ghouls, cannibals and mad scientists haunted Covel Commons. The dreaded, surprisingly lengthy path weaved in and out of unrecognizable rooms on the top floor of Covel that were inhabited by UCLA students in frightful getups.
Students momentarily forgot their impending schoolwork as they twisted and turned through halls containing dimly lit operation tables, crawling undead and rattling cages.
Brandon Howard, a fourth-year neuroscience student, decided to take a break from studying to face frights much different from those awaiting him on his physical science and Spanish midterms.
“They terrify me already,” Howard said.
Nearly 200 UCLA students waited in the long line that coiled down the Covel stairs, eager to enter “Haunted Hill: Apocalypse” at their own risk.
I never knew Covel had so many rooms until I was being chased in and out of them by zombie students.
UCLA’s “Haunted Hill: Apocalypse” functioned unlike any other haunted maze I’ve ever encountered. The fright walk featured haunted rooms with focused themes such as a haunted library, a hospital operating room and an outdoor graveyard. The constant starting and stopping of our journey through the maze made the overall experience last longer and ultimately appear scarier due to the pure anticipation we experienced before going through each room.
The maze began with what was undoubtedly its best scene: a display of torture in a hospital room that had been overrun by the undead. This room featured props including gurneys, hospital beds and various medical tools made of metal, making it the most enthralling scene we encountered. A dummy of a man’s corpse remained eerily abandoned in the center of the room after a surgery gone wrong.
Our maze guide led us through the rooms that followed, each filled with suspiciously familiar Halloween tropes including priests, doctors and a number of gruesome zombies. We were constantly jumping due to the sporadic nature of the scares and often had trouble continuing on to the next room in fear of what we would find next.
Even Covel’s terrace got an eerie revamp, where a number of bodies laid scattered outdoors amid headstones and cobwebs. Projections of frightening images – including crawling spiders – were displayed on the walls of the building. The terrace was an unexpectedly terrifying moment on the tour, with the light of the moon shining forebodingly on the minimalist decor of the apocalyptic setting.
The very last room featured little decor and was characterized mostly by black curtains, making for a minimalist finale. It proved a bit of a letdown following the rooms we had been led through previously, which our group enjoyed for their frightening intricacies of the Halloween themes.
— Jordan Dakin
Student volunteers held nothing back, hounding their guests from all angles. Despite being far less experienced than the professionals at haunted mazes like Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, their effort was strong and many of the scares rivaled those of popular LA theme parks.
The actors were top-notch in their blood-stained appearances, intense impersonations and jump scares, looking like professionals in their own right.
Some actors evoked fear in a straightforward manner: Actors dressed as zombies wore students down from every angle by running and flailing their arms, marching or galloping, all the while groaning and shaking in anguish and distress.
Other actors took a less direct approach. The rattling of deranged prisoners made me feel as if the bonded actors could break through at any moment. A priest knelt in front of me and began to yell loudly and mercilessly, causing me to lose my common sense and briefly wonder if I had truly evoked some kind of wrath.
A woman in a white nurse hat beat a decaying limb violently against a cold metal gurney, staring me down as if to emphasize that no one, not even nurses, could be trusted anymore. Compared to the many haunted house actors that emphasize jump scares, these actors kept me on my feet and added to the fun with new tactics at every turn.
One common scare strategy involved using decoys to distract visitors from the real terror. At one point, a crawling man with a hound-like face sat ready to pounce like an angered animal, but he ended up only being a diversion. The real threat boasted an emaciated, pockmarked face and stood ready to yell and brandish his weapon as soon as his victim turned around. This added to the intensity of the house and made it far more difficult to predict the next surprise.
Only after exiting the house could I catch my breath and recover from the horrors inside. My heartbeat finally slowed as I reminded myself that the terrifying creatures in the maze were just actors. Or were they?
— Landon Miller