Last year was the inaugural year for the haunted house at Lake Square Mall. What started off as an idea, quickly turned into one of the scariest haunted houses in Lake County! But how did this experience grow and get popular so quickly? Well, that is due to the amazing creative decisions by Josh Blake.
(Lake Square Mall Creative Arts Director Joshua Blake, without all his makeup, is charming and just as you would imagine him. He has a warm personality and has enjoyed bringing fun events to Lake Square Mall the past few years.)
(This is Joshua Blake in full makeup. He is the mastermind behind one of the scariest Haunted Houses in Lake County. Blake was one of Halloween Horror Nights best scare actors for years.)
Josh is the Creative Arts Director at Lake Square Mall. He has a ton of experience as a scare actor, with eight years as a professional scare actor at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando. He gained valuable experience and knows what works. He has also worked the Polar Express train in Mount Dora and has elevated the Lake Square Mall creatively the past few years.
“I earned ‘Scare Actor of the Year’ when I worked on Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando multiple times,” he says. “I picked up a lot of tips and tricks on what ‘gets’ people and I enjoy training new scare actors at the mall and teaching them different approaches to their scares. Every guest scares differently, so it’s important to be creative and learn what works for different people so they can have the best scare experience while walking through our haunt.”
(For Josh, this is one of his favorite times of the year. He has also been dedicated to teaching young actors how to produce the perfect scare.)
Blake created the set and hired real scare actors. There is a difference between scaring people with props and dummies, but there is an added element when a human being is acting out the scare. That human element is one of the reasons that Hollowbrooke Haunted House has been so successful. It’s like watching a practical effect during a movie. The reason the 1996 Titanic movie has held up over all these years is because James Cameron used practical effects that looked real.
(One of the many set pieces that will be used this year. The set will make use of blue light, fog machines and other tricks to enhance the experience.)
The same thing goes for Halloween Horror Nights and Lake Square Mall. They use actors to scare people and that creates more of a personalized experience.
“I enjoy being a Creative Director because I can see the growth of the actors from when they first start, to the end of the run,” Josh says. “I also see the passion they have in trying new things and the enjoyment they get in their faces as they discuss the funny stories we encounter during the haunt in the after chats while everyone takes their makeup off. Just stop, do it all again the next night!”
(Kids and even adults have become used to CGI or automated scares. Josh Blake sees the value in scare actors providing a much better experience. Kids could walk right up to a scare like this one and think it’s fake, and then be in for a scare of their life when they figure out this is a real person! BOOO LOOK OUT!!)
Many of the actors involve students and young adults from the community, who reached out to Josh the second they announced another year of the Leesburg Haunted House. This particular haunted house was put together in about 3 weeks. All the sets are made on property and Josh made it his mission not to use any automated scares.
“I tried to keep everything organic and done by an actor,” he says. “We had people literally running out last year leaving shoes, phones, hats, clothing behind because of how well done it was. This year the Haunted House is called Scream Scenes – Abandoned” and there is a backstory that goes into this year’s haunted house which we will provide below.”
Dare to venture into the eerie tale of Hallowbrooke, where a once-revered pastor’s life unraveled in the shadow of his wife’s sinister secrets. Step beyond the threshold, where the air seems to shift as you navigate the tight corridor that ushers you into the heart of this twisted narrative. Legend speaks of a man who led a congregation in a simple town, just past the cornfields. Unaware of his wife’s malevolence, as he would pray, she also would prey…on her victims. Hidden from his sight, her dark deeds unfolded. Congregants were silenced forever and their remains were offered to her ravenous arachnid companions. Spare bones and body parts found their way into crates and suitcases, stashed beyond his gaze. Some say they still see souls wandering in the graveyard, and can even be seen in the old chapel itself.
The town has long been abandoned, but the few who managed to escape the clutches of Hallowbrooke, carry with them the chilling account of the spirits that still roam the grounds, seeking retribution for the atrocities committed by the pastor’s wife.
To this day, the pastor’s fate remains shrouded in the chilling mysteries of Hallowbrooke. Can YOU make it out alive?
Opening night is September 30 and the Haunted House runs every Fri/Sat/Sun throughout October as well as Oct. 31. Tickets are $10 for teens and adults and $5 for 12 years and younger. We do not suggest it for really young kids as it is definitely a scary experience.
Photos Provided By Joshua Blake