From the depths of Downtown Bryan, Fright Nights Haunted House is set to scare unsuspecting guests from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. on Halloween night.
Fright Nights Haunted House is a joint collaboration between the Downtown Bryan Association and the StageCenter Community Theatre department that invites the bold and easily-shaken to an evening of late-night terror. Previously located at the Palace Theater, the horror venue moved to its new home at the StageCenter Community Theater on 218 N. Bryan Avenue three years ago.
Nearing a decade of instilling fear in her patrons, head-haunter and president of the StageCenter board Cindy Roberts said she still takes pride in every scare.
“It’s not just walking through the woods with people jumping out at you,” Roberts said. “We try to put a lot of details into the experience.”
The smallest detail out of place can make-or-break a room in a haunted house, and this year’s batch of haunters want to earn every shriek, Roberts said.
“With our decorations and lighting, we look at what we’re putting in a room for the eeriest and the best look,” Roberts said. “We have a room that’s supposed to have ‘water’ in it, so we have a blue light that moves, and it gives the effect that you’re walking into a room with water in it.”
While sending a fright down a guest’s spine is always part of the fun, Roberts said that Fright Nights will never harm anyone in the venue, nor will anyone under the age of 13 be admitted without an adult.
“We try not to do anything that would offend anybody,” Roberts said. “We try to keep it scary, but more as a thriller-scary. We’re not throwing blood and guts at you. It’s more of a mind thing, and that’s why we put so much detail in the rooms. We tell people, ‘Don’t go in with your eyes closed, you have to see it.’”
Roberts said moving from the Palace to the theatre department’s building has allowed for a welcoming and more accessible environment for the public.
“Because we were on the third floor, the stairs were almost impossible for our older patrons,” Roberts said. “Now with us being on the ground floor, ADA-compliant to get into the theatre, not to mention our utility bill was cut more than in half, it’s a much better energy efficient building.”
On Halloween night, Roberts will lead groups of four into the house with tales of haunted Bryan history in character. However, costume and all, Roberts said she has still been recognized from her involvement in previous StageCenter productions.
“My first role at StageCenter, I was M’Lynn in ‘Steel Magnolias,’ and if you know that you know M’Lynn gives Shelby her kidney,” Roberts said. “Once I was leading a couple of gentlemen in, and they said ‘(Gasp) It’s M’Lynn from Steel Magnolias!’ I said, ‘Yes, I gave Shelby my kidney, now I’ll be taking yours.’ They just died laughing.”
Alongside StageCenter actors, Fright Nights is put together based on volunteer work from the surrounding community. Across nine years of holiday horror, A&M’s Alpha Phi Omega (APO) has assisted the venue for the last six.
Kyle Dunham, allied health junior and APO vice president of leadership, said he has looked forward to helping Roberts all semester. Scaring the daylight out of strangers may never get old, but in between guttural screams, contorted bodies and chasing guests through dimly-lit hallways, Dunham said he has even made friendships through Fright Nights.
“For me, it’s just seeing that raw reaction from people who go through the house,” Dunham said. “When I was pledging, I didn’t know that many people in the organization, so you’re kind of in there for six hours, and you get to know the people you’re in the same room with. It’s actually where I met my new roommate. We bonded over this and became friends because of Fright Nights.”
Urban planning junior and APO external relations chair William Willingham said working with the venue has consistently attracted member involvement each Halloween.
“When you go to a haunted house, you’re filled with that adrenaline and anxiety, but this is like being on the opposite side of that,” Willingham said. “Everyone who is involved with it loves going to Fright Nights, and those spots always get filled up. I’m always trying to grab a shift, and it’s like, “No, sorry, it’s already closed,’ because everyone loves it, and it’s always a fun time.”