Next Haunt is a student organization at Next House at MIT which plans, builds, and runs a haunted escape room every year for Halloween. I was on the executive board for both the puzzle and build teams for two years. I was the first non-resident of Next House to ever join the executive board.
The Nightmare Before Christmas - Virtual Minecraft Haunt (2020)
As a result of the pandemic in 2020, Next Haunt was unable to create and run its haunted escape room as normal. Instead, did it virtually in Minecraft.
We chose a theme of the Nightmare Before Christmas and spent months working as a team of five on the executive board to plan virtual puzzles including mazes, lever puzzles, carnival games, and more. We built an entire server environment in Minecraft. Guests would enter in a recreation of Next House at MIT, travel down to the basement where Next Haunt traditionally takes place, and entered a portal to the Nightmare Before Christmas environment. The environment had houses, hedge mazes, a theme park, the famous curly mountain, a cemetery, and more. Guests would work as a virtual team on zoom to make their way through the environment, solve puzzles, and get back home to Next House. We also had live actors on Zoom and in the world that would scare the guests and other actors that would interact with them in the world. 200 student and faculty guests experienced the world through Halloween weekend 2020. The executive board and I planned, built, and ran the world entirely virtually.
I worked on general planning of the puzzles, environment, and guest experience. I also worked on some of the houses in the environment in Minecraft.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Minecraft environment including hedge maze, curly mountain, cemetery, houses, fountain, etc. In the hedge maze puzzle, teams would be split up where some people were making their way through the hedge maze and other people could open gates to let their teammates through different parts of the maze (all while the people in the maze are being chased by zombies that could kill!)
The theme park environment. Guests would interact with the rides and beat carnival games to progress in the experience. I worked on some of the houses in the environment surrounding the theme park.
The Terror Beneath (2021)
I was on the executive board for both build and puzzle teams for our old mine-themed haunted escape room. I worked with a team of ten people to design a two-story house layout, engineering plan, and six puzzles. I also helped to construct the house according to Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) standards. I also worked as an actor in several different circumstances. I worked as a zombie actor, scaring groups as they went through the house! I worked as a clue zombie, knocking scarily on th walls and dropping clues whenever groups got stuck. I worked as a mine guide welcoming guests into the experience and giving them the background story and instructions. 450 MIT community members experienced the 25-minute house over the 2021 Halloween season, including MIT President Rafael Reif.
Our two-story haunted escape room house built in the basement of Next House at MIT
Zombie actor in the first room
Inside of the first floor
Ladder that leads between thee first floor and attic
Inside of the attic
Instead of reusing old materials from previous years, we built the entire house again fresh with new wall panels. Here I am with build team putting together the wall panels
Me doing construction in the house
Wall construction in the house
Assembling and painting walls
Me spray painting foam cubes with symbols for the avalanche puzzle
Our first puzzle where guests used clues from the newspaper and posters to determine who the criminal was and what item was stolen from the mine (jewel)
A favorite puzzle that I worked on was our "split the team" set of puzzles. There was an activity in which guests would need to hold up lanterns to symbols on the wall. The lanterns would illuminate when they touched the sensor in the wall. This activity served to separate the group across the room and allowed us to begin our avalanche sequence! A crew member in the attic of the house would drop a foam wall down to separate the group. Then, foam rocks would fall down with different symbols spray painted on the sides. Teams would have to communicate with their teammates across the wall about the symbols on the blocks to solve the puzzle and reunite. During several runs, I acted as the crew member in the attic initiating the avalanche sequence, dropping the wall, and dropping the foam blocks.
When the lanterns were held up to the matches (sensors) around the room, the lanterns would light up
Initial test of the wall drop during the avalanche sequence
Crew in the back room watching the avalanche during the MIT administrators' run, including MIT President Rafael Reif!
Guests sorting through the foam rocks from the avalanche
After reuniting with their teammates, guests would move on to our mine cart puzzle, another of my favorite puzzles that I worked on. Guests open a door to discover a mine cart. A zombie jumps out of the mine cart to scare them! After the zombie leaves, the guests would roll the mine cart down the hallway. Halves of letters were inside of the cart and the other halves of letters were along the wall. Guests would roll the mine cart until the two halves of the letters matched up. When two halves of a letter matched up, an indicator at the bottom of the mine cart would point to numbers on the floor that indicated the order of the letters needed to spell out the word for the next lock. During several runs, I acted as the zombie hiding in the mine cart!
The mine cart
During runs, the Next Haunt crew and I would sit in another room and watch camera footage of the guests inside of the house to monitor their progress and to know when to drop hints when guests got stuck
Acting as a zombie! I hid in mine carts, chased guests throughout the house, and knocked threateningly on the walls while I dropped off clues to guests! Here I am with one of Next Haunt's producers, Meghana Vemulapalli!
Acting as a mine guide! I introduced our group of administrators to the house, telling them the background story, instructions, and safety information!
MIT administrators after their run!
MIT administrators signing the totally full board of all guests from our 2021 runs!
MIT administrators with everyone that made MIT Next Haunt possible - executive board, builders, actors, volunteers.
Me with members of Next Haunt executive board and Next Haunt volunteers
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