The 17th Door elicits many emotions in those who dare experience the horrors, pain and gross things woven into the complex circuitry, elaborate sets and vigorously enthusiastic scare actor talent making up this unique and intense Orange County haunt.
But even the most diehard fans have no idea what it actually takes to put on a haunted attraction of this caliber. Yes, there’s live roaches, the constant threat (and actuality) of being shocked and a number of phobia triggers — from suffocation to claustrophobia-inducing situations — but there’s a level of technical artistry that takes place behind the scenes as guests fearfully walk (or run) from room to room in terror, glee or a weird combination of both. It’s an artistry that no one really sees, or has been able to fully appreciate — until now.
Because now, well, there’s a reality show. But this isn’t an overly produced, quasi-real, big-budget TV show on Bravo. Like much of what happens at The 17th Door, it was envisioned and spearheaded by head creative honcho Robbie Luther.
Part of the show’s synopsis reads: “To soothe his insecurity, an egotistical innovator decides to make his own reality TV show about how he and his business savvy wife lead a misfit crew to build the craziest, most elaborate haunted house in the galaxy: The 17th Door.”
It’s certainly a bit of this but also offers viewers a fly-on-the-wall (or in this case, roach) look into the creativity, technical skill, passion and determination that it takes to put together an elaborate, beast of a production that this haunted experience has become.
“We just think this place is extremely unique, and know that many people would love to see the stuff that goes on here, even if they’re not into Halloween or horror,” said
Spook Show 17 Cinematographer Wyatt Barclay. “The scenarios that occur are inherently entertaining and could only result from building and running this specific attraction.”
The 14-episode series — which became available on Sept. 28 on streaming platforms like Amazon, iTunes, DirectTV and Google Play — follows the lives of husband-wife team Robbie and Heather Luther, as they run every aspect of The 17th Door: from set builds to managing staff and the cast.
“We shot around 6,000 hours of footage for season one,” said Barclay. “The first season is around 14 hours in total, so we definitely left out the vast majority of what we captured.
“We cut many fully-edited scenes from the final product. These were typically scenes we thought were just great moments or funny interactions between characters, but later realized were grinding the episode to a halt rather than furthering the story.
“We realized, perhaps later than we should have, that every scene needed to be connected to the owners — Robbie and Heather. The entire show is effectively their story as a married couple trying to run this crazy machine that they’ve built. There were plenty of other characters and arcs we initially focused on, but no matter how entertaining they were, they always felt disconnected if they did not affect Robbie or Heather.”
There’s a strong sense of comedy running through the show — and also plenty of drama (the “Jogging on Water” episode where staff and Heather test Circle Shocks, comes to mind). But there’s also a feeling of authenticity that was a big goal in the show’s direction.
“The goal was to make it as real and candid as possible, so everything that happens on the show occurred organically,” said Barclay. “You can hopefully tell just by watching that it’s a different type of drama and humor than you would see in a normal reality show, or even a movie. Like you just can’t make this stuff up or fake it.”
As the Halloween season is in full swing at The 17th Door, Spook Show 17 offers fans and even those who are just curious, a way to get an inside look into this elaborate, blood-sweat-and-tear-inducing professional haunt.
“Believe it or not, we actually shot an entire second season, which would go into post-production if season one were to be successful,” said Barclay. “If season one flops, then the rest of the footage will remain on a hard drive in someone’s desk, and I can pull it out and watch it by myself every Thanksgiving.”
Watch our behind-the-scenes footage from this year’s The 17th Door and the Field Trip add-on experience: