LIVINGSTON, NJ - Halloween is just around the corner, and for those who get a thrill from being scared—Bane Haunted House opened its doors this weekend, and will remain open through Halloween. According to Jennifer Condron, who owns the attraction with her husband John, Bane is one of the first such attractions in NJ to open this early.
Bane, which is ADA accessible, will be open on Sept. 23-24; Sept 30, Oct. 1-2; and will then be open from Wed. to Sun. for the rest of the season. Hours are 7 p.m. to close each night, generally ending at 12 a.m., except for Sat., when Bane is generally open until 2 a.m. Tickets are $27 each. There is currently a coupon for $2 off available on the website. On some nights, there will be a DJ or food trucks, and Bane will provide a nightly concession stand with hot chocolate, chips, cookies and drinks.
It is College Night every Thurs. night at Bane, where tickets are $24, with a valid student valid ID. On Sun., for $8 each ticket, the “Happily Haunted House” is open from 3-5 p.m. for kids or adults who are too scared to go through the attraction at night in the dark. Each child will receive a glow stick and a bag of candy. They will go through the house with the lights on, no one jumping out at them, and without the scary music.
“All the zombies are sleeping,” said Jennifer.
More than 1,000 people walk through the Haunted House each day it is open, with at least 25,000 people having gone through it by the end of October. According to Jennifer, at least 35 percent of visitors to Bane are repeat customers.
In addition, while the lines are long—sometimes with close to 2,000 people, Jennifer said they do their best to get everyone on line through the haunt in a timely manner, while permitting people to go through in small groups, with just the friends and family members they came with.
“We are the only haunted house that I know of that lets people in at 2-3 at a time, so they can go in with friends or a spouse, and not with 10 strangers,: she said, adding, “so it is super intimate.”
Last year, Bane, which just made the 2016 Buzz Feed list’s, “25 Haunted Houses Across America That Will Scare The Crap Out Of You,” boasted around 30 rooms, but it has been ramped up this year to consist of over 50 rooms. The theme is a scary abandoned house—chock full of blood, gore, zombies and scary music.
Customers may have to climb up, climb over, push through, and spin around what lurks inside the haunted house for a spine-chilling, interactive experience, according to the website.
In addition, 5,000 square feet of terror has been added to the attraction this year as well as
a new entrance and exit, which, according to Jennifer, “are very different from other haunted houses.” There are also new featured actors at Bane this year among the 100 or so that will be there each night.
Bane, which was named “The Scariest Haunted House in New Jersey,” by The Star-Ledger, two years in a row, opened seven years ago under a 4,000 square-foot tent at the Livingston Mall, then moved to the Rockaway Mall before finding its permanent home in a 40,000 square-foot facility in Livingston, located at 630 W. Mount Pleasant Ave.
According to Jennifer, who shared that she is one of the few women in the industry to own a haunted house attraction, especially of this size, the scary ideas for the haunt come from the deep crevices of her mind.
“I have always been into scary things,” said Jennifer. “My house was always the best decorated for Halloween. My dad Peter has been my makeup artist since I was a kid.”
She added, “This is what I breathe, live, eat—everything horror.”
She said she goes home late at night and eats pizza with a bottle of Coke, and “thinks about crazy ways to scare people.”
“I think if it’s going to scare me—it’s definitely going to scare everyone else,” she said.
Once she dreams up the scary ideas, she comes to work with an idea of how she wants it to be laid out. Architectural plans are drawn up and then she and her crew, consisting of John, Peter, her mother, uncle, brother, family members and friends, start building.
“Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and we have to take things down, try new rooms and build new things,” she said.
While it is a family-run business, Jennifer said that many people volunteer to help get the haunt up and running. She said there are many men, women and students who help out along with her friends and family. They are taught how to use tools, build, and do lighting and technical work. They also learn how to apply makeup. Those interested in volunteering can call or email the Condrons via the information on the website.
According to Jennifer, “Everything you see at Bane is handmade, organic or recycled.”
“We put a lot of hard work into it,” she said, adding, “it’s not your typical theatrical haunted house where everything is pretty and beautiful—we are going to make sure we get in your head and become one of your biggest nightmares.”
Jennifer said that Bane is the only haunted house she knows of that has no animatronics and only uses actors. Some of the actors at Bane are vets that have worked with the Condrons over the years and some are found on Craig’s list, via the Star Ledger and at colleges.
She said that some actors have lines and some are zombies placed in specific spots to scare people. She added that there are also some actors who remain unseen until visitors are just outside of the house because “the haunt doesn’t end when you exit the door.”
“People think the ride is over when they exit—but it’s really not,” said Jennifer, with a laugh. “We use some of the prime actors to scare visitors just outside of the ride and into the parking lot.”
While Bane certainly offers patrons a scary time, the company also gives back.
Free tickets are available to anyone who is in the military or is a vet and shows proper ID.
Bane doesn’t just open for the Halloween season.
A Bane Purge event is planned for Nov., where laser tactical weapons will be used. People will purge against other people in the house. Unlike their prior Zombie Apocalypse events, during the Purge event, the actors will shoot back, according to Jennifer.
“It is a fun survival type of game,” said Jennifer.
In addition, the Condrons plan to open a few escape rooms at their facility in a few months. One will be scary, and at least one will be kid friendly.
They also have plan to open the Haunted House for the Christmas season and perhaps Easter, with zombie Santas and Easter Bunnies.
Bane is not all about scaring people—the company also gives back to the community.
According to Jennifer, her company is the only one on the East Coast licensed to lend its tactical weapons to the military and police across the country for training. He weapons weight seven pounds and do not emit any projectiles. Rather, they use lasers and scanners that keep track of hits and their locations.
She added that the Sea Cadets just used the weapons and that the Livingston Police have used them as well.
“The police cannot just practice with their actual firearms in schools, libraries or courthouses, but they can use our weapons anywhere,” said Jennifer. “This is unheard of.”
In addition, each year, Livingston High School teacher Brian Megaro brings his theater classes for a field trip to Bane, where students are given a tour and are shown how the Condrons build the rooms, do the makeup and more.
Jennifer said that she and her team have also helped LHS student with their sets for plays and that some of the students have helped out at Bane too.
“There are very artistic children in that school,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer said she loves what she does for a living.
“It’s different than your typical 9-5 job,” she said. “We get paid to scare people—that’s the best job in the world.”