LIVINGSTON, NJ - Nearly 70 Livingston High School students took an early-morning tour of Livingston’s Bane Haunted House on Wednesday, continuing the high school's long-standing relationship between Bane and Brian Megaro, who runs the theater program.
The staff at Bane often helps the LHS students with their sets and stage makeup and many of the students have volunteered to help build the rooms at Bane over the years.
“We have been working back and forth together for many years, borrowing props and have a great working relationship,” said Megaro.
Throughout the visit, students enjoyed a discussion, question and answer sessions, a tour of the attraction with the lights on and a make-up demonstration.
Jennifer Condron, who owns the haunted attraction with her husband, provided the group with details about the house and actors, while Megaro explained the similarities and differences between an attraction like Bane and a school stage production, like the upcoming LHS drama, “Alice in Wonderland.”
“This haunted house is like a set we would have for a school play," said Megaro. "They are creating an experience for guests, just like we are.”
However, he explained that the major difference is that Bane is playing on people’s fears and LHS is not.
He also shared that the attention to specific details differs between the two because at school the audience is “going to sit still for two hours and analyze everything put on that stage,” while at Bane, “the audience is going to see each room for a split second—because most likely they will be running out of each room in fear.”
“So, there is no sense making a perfect intricate set piece when your goal is to scare people and keep them moving,” he said.
Open through Halloween night, Bane is a scary, live set with more than 50 rooms and the theme of an abandoned house. If walking through it, the haunted house takes about 23 minutes to complete.
“We want to make you feel like you are actually going into an abandoned building, with very limited lighting,” said Jennifer Condron. “We play on all your fears. We separate every person down to one and we are the only haunted house in the country to do this.”
According to Condron, there are more than 100 live actors every night and none of them wear a mask for safety purposes. Instead, all of the actors use airbrushed make up. She also said that masks could get overheated and would take away from the organic feel of Bane, with makeup providing a more realistic feel.
The students also learned that at Bane, there are no animatronics; rather, everything is organic and recycled. Condron said that Bane uses a lot of recycled items that come out of dumpsters and homes that are being torn down. Some items used include sinks, toilets and wallpaper.
“The house has a very organic feel," she said. “We don’t use theatrical props because that is not what I feel is scary.”
According to Condron, nothing fazes her, so if something bothers her even a little, she knows it will scare other people.
“What’s scary is going into a building, with no lights on, not knowing where you are going, being by yourself, hearing things, smelling things, being unaware of your surroundings,” said Condron. “That’s what we do here at Bane—we put you into your own little nightmare.”
Megaro added that at Bane, the actors play on fears and that everything is preplanned.
“It is much more than just having something jump out and scare you,” he said.
Condron shared that about 10 people on her team, including her father and uncle, help her build Bane each year, as well as many volunteers. She said they have to make the house different every year to keep people coming back.
At Bane, Condron said a good deal of time is spent creating completely different entrances and exits, as that is what people remember the most.
The students discovered that the Bane team spends seven months revamping the house each year. The team starts getting ideas during the season as the attraction is running and planning begins on Nov. 1.
In TAP’s last article on Bane, Condron said that all of the scary ideas come from her head, as she loves horror, gore and the like. She works with a staff architect to plan the rooms and then the plans are submitted to the township for approval.
However, she also said that not every plan works the first time as they have to determine what “room works, what designs work and what scare works.”
In addition, she told the group that things break every night that the attraction is open and that she and the staff are there every day cleaning up and fixing things that have broken.
“People run into walls and break props all the time,” she said. “We are constantly rebuilding restructuring and redesigning things each day.”
“It is the same way for us," said Megaro. "When we are building a set, we have to plan for the unexpected. You never know as a scene change happens if a blackout will occur, or if a performer will run across the stage because they are late getting to their cue and smack into a wall, or knock something over.”
During the question and answer session, a student asked about quitters.
Condron said she puts put more than 1000 people through Bane’s doors every night and that as of Wednesday, there had been more than 1,275 quitters since the doors opened on Sept. 30. She said more than 100 people quit every night, either at the front door or while inside.
“We are the only haunted house in the country that has such a high quitter rate,” said Condron. “We are just that good. We are really scary.”
Another student asked how guests who want to leave are able to do so.
According to Condron, everyone who enters Bane is told to say "mercy" if they want to leave. Then, one of the many staff members who are in the house with the actors will go into the room and pull the guest out. There are 35-40 different exit doors in the house that all end at the same quitter door.
When asked how the attraction is monitored, Condron said that Bane is has more than 100 cameras fitted with night vision. She shared that when season is over, the staff and actors come together for a pizza party to watch and laugh at clips of people being scared while in the attraction.
John Condron, Jennifer's husband, led the first group through Bane, where he explained how the rooms were constructed and startled the group a few times throughout distraction—sometimes by causing rooms to shake, or doors to slam. He then showed the group how he did it.
He did not show the group the final exit because he said didn’t want to give everything away. He said he hoped the students would all come through Bane at night, with the lights off, over the next few days.
Once the group was done with the tour, Jennifer invited the students to volunteer at Bane and a few students agreed to do so over the weekend. One student, Khia Espinosa, said she planned to volunteer on Sunday.
“I am looking forward to scaring people because I just got scared going through with the lights on, so it should be awesome to be scaring people,” she said, adding that the tour was "fun and awesome."
Sammy Indyke said she was also planning to volunteer.
“I am excited to come and volunteer and watch the reactions of people walking throughout the haunted house,” she said. “The tour was amazing. The setup in incredible. I think how they make this all happen is great.”
She said she leaned a lot on the tour, including “how you can use basically trash to make something as cool as Bane.”
Indyke also said she really liked “how they make the rooms move.”