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Slumber party turned horror nightmare: Behind the scenes of the 2023 senior haunted house

Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
In the 2023 haunted house’s opening scene, it was senior Alex Martin’s birthday slumber party, where they are watching “Scream.” The theme was a birthday slumber party mixed with classic horror movies. 

If you were not able to experience this year’s haunted house firsthand, imagine: You are walking up the steps of the front veranda, and a swarm of seniors slips you a sleepover invitation. You’re led by a group of seniors in crimson-colored pajamas to the basement. Looking around, you see sleeping bags across the floor, balloons scattered around the room and “Scream” projected on the wall. Suddenly, the movie glitches and the phone rings. Confused, you watch birthday girl Alex Martin (’24) pick up the phone. Through the darkness, you hear a voice: “Do you like scary movies?”

In that moment, you know: The slumber party has officially gone wrong.

Every year on Halloween, the senior class turns the basement into a haunted house with a different theme. The Class of 2024 chose the theme of a slumber party gone wrong. They brought classic horror movies to life, including “Saw,” “The Exorcist,”Bloody Mary” and “Chucky.”

Twelfth grade Dean of Culture, Community and Belonging Stephanie Nicolard coordinated the haunted house and said every mentorship played a critical role in its creation.

“They just started letting their imaginations run wild. At first, it was a sleepover. Then, it was a sleepover birthday party,” Nicolard said. “Then, it’s a sleepover birthday party where people are watching scary movies and maybe you get dragged into these scary movies and the sleepover goes wrong.”

Nicolard said it is a gradewide effort and requires everyone’s help. She said most of the work happens in individual mentorships, and each group is designated a part of the basement to decorate.

“We definitely have to coordinate with the arts hallway because there’s lots of artwork on the walls, obviously they have classes down there,” Nicolard said. “Ms. Moon, Ms. Petrillo, Ms. Alfred and Ms. Kremin — they’ve all been great in helping us figure out how to balance using that space and then decorating it.”

The senior class stayed after school Monday, Oct. 30, to decorate the basement. Halloween morning, they came in at 7 a.m. to work on finishing touches, and the senior tour guides surprised students on the front veranda. Alexis David (’24) was one of nine designated tour guides who led groups of middle and upper schoolers through this experience.

“We all got matching pajamas so we could all be designated tour guides,” David said. “Before the day started, a group of us went out onto the front veranda to hand out invitations while the buses were coming in. We played music and danced around, and I just had a really great time.”

Laila Charles (’24) is a member of the Student Council Executive Board and helped organize the haunted house. This is her fourth year at Archer, and from her previous haunted house experiences, she knew there were certain aspects she wanted to include.

The haunted house is for both middle and upper school students, so making it adaptable is a large component of the production. Charles said the seniors brought down their overall “scariness” and added more lighting for the middle school. She added that, luckily, the older grades went in first, so the energy from the seniors would die down as the day went on. 

“I really liked their jump scares because you never knew where they were going to come out. But then from last year’s class, I really liked their energy — there was never a silent moment. You never knew what was going happen. Those are two I want to keep,” Charles said. “But then something that I also just want to emphasize is a lighted pathway because I feel people go backwards, people get lost and everything.”

From brainstorming ideas to scaring students on Halloween, the haunted house took two months to complete. Charles said it was a challenge to keep the theme a secret leading up to Halloween, but she had fun with it.

“The hardest thing is keeping it a secret because I know a lot of grades want to know or just people already know. Then, also our meeting area being the amphitheater is really an open space so anyone can listen,” Charles said. “I feel like secrecy has just been the hardest part. But at the same time, we love just dropping subtle hints to grades or anyone who asks us.”

David said the haunted house was a great experience. Although she is sad this is her last year, she said she is excited for all the Archer senior traditions to come.

“The whole haunted house was really successful,” David said. “I loved hearing people talk about it afterwards and be like, ‘That was so good. That was so scary.’ I had a great time, so it was really rewarding.”

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About the Contributor
Sydney Tilles, Senior Reporter
Sydney Tilles joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She is on the Archer tennis team and dance company. She loves learning about current events, participating in service learning and activism. She has a passion for government, politics, and social justice.

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