Provoking undesirable feelings by immersing its visitors in a paralyzing nightmare-type experience, the Lafayette Science Museum captures the essence of Halloween and the holiday’s frightening traditions in its annual Museum of Fear.
The museum, which will be open from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in October, has transformed the facility’s 10,000-square-foot third floor into a world of nightmares that will attempt to challenge the bravest of souls.
“We delve into several different areas that look into the psychology or the response that we have to human fear,” said Kevin Krantz, the museum administrator. “There are about five different psychological fear types that we inflict on our victims — I mean, visitors.”
He said visitors are not lined up within the maze but are pulsed in six at a time to intensify that feeling of isolation and vulnerability. More than 8,000 visitors are expected this year.
“We carefully plan our scares out with surgical precision,” he said. “No pun intended because we do have a coroner’s office and a morgue — a highly active one, I might add.”
Some people are afraid of the dark. Some are afraid of death. Some are afraid of the unknown. Some are afraid of the anticipation. Some people are fooled and deceived and decoyed into thinking something is going to happen, and then something completely different happens, Krantz said.
“Fear itself is without range,” he said. “We pick apart people’s biggest fears.”
The museum uses 200 professional actors and volunteers, a movie-quality set design and a fog machine specifically designed for the event.
Even the smells will invade participants’ senses by mimicking rotting flesh and putrid sewer water.
The soundtrack is also designed by the science museum specifically for the event, with 36 channels of sounds, like rattling chains, terrified screams and howling winds.
Krantz said the event has cost anywhere from $18,000 to $30,000 for the 44 hours it will be open.
“We do make changes every year,” said Todd Comeaux, one of the museum’s set designers. “I’ve created a few of the scares in here. There’s one in the cemetery, and I’ve done other little effects, little monsters. Halloween is like Christmas to me.”
Comeaux said he and his wife work with the volunteers, putting them in their roles and finding costumes.
Of the thousands who entered last year’s museum, more than 200 visitors were unable to completely make their way through the maze. Krantz said he expects that number to increase this year.
Some call these horror stories. Krantz referred to them as gold stars.
He advised those willing to attempt the maze to bring a friend and to use the restroom prior to entering.
“It’s really good stuff for us,” he said. “It makes us feel like we are doing our job. We don’t want to make it any scarier. We just want to make it more appealing.”