The 17th Door has made a lasting impression in its first few years. The elaborate, envelope-pushing maze put together by Heather and Robbie Luther has been a growing success in Tustin, but will be moving to a new location in Fullerton for this year’s run.
HalloweenEveryNight.com recently chatted with Heather Luther about the move, and about creatively keeping pace with themselves.
Halloween Every Night: What triggered the move to Fullerton?
Heather Luther: Our first lease at The Market Place in Tustin was a temporary lease, August to mid-November. We were lucky enough to be able to negotiate a storage lease with them after our 2015 season. Our hope was of course that we would be able to get that second year, which we did! Unfortunately, they found a permanent tenant for that space so we had to leave after Halloween last year.
HEN: What are the perks of the new location?
HL: In our search for a new spot, we knew we did not want to move further south as a large portion of our customer base comes from Los Angeles. We are very excited about our move to Fullerton this year. Being in a brand-new location keeps it fresh and exciting for us and our guests. It also forced us to redesign and rebuild the entire attraction. It was a great opportunity for us to change things up completely. Matter of fact, every single room this year is new – 100 percent.
HEN: Has the new environment spawned any new ideas visitors will see in your haunt?
HL: Definitely! We’re always coming up with new ideas. Well, I should say my husband, Robbie, is. He usually has more ideas than we’re capable of bringing to life. Always good for future years. Being in a new city, new building, new environment is a great inspiration for his highly creative, and I’ll admit, a bit twisted mind.
HEN: Is it a challenge for a haunt to keep the same space year after year for only one month?
HL: Yes. Real estate in Southern California is not only expensive but there is a limited supply. It’s always a bummer to hear about a haunt announcing it won’t be operating one year because they were unable to secure a spot. Most landlords and building owners aren’t even willing to entertain a seasonal/temporary lease because their main focus is to secure a long-term tenant. We realize we got really lucky in our first year being able to sign a lease in March, even though our move-in date wasn’t until Aug. 1. It becomes extremely hard to design and plan such a technical and elaborate haunted house when there is uncertainty with your physical location.
HEN: What are some attributes of an ideal space for a haunt like yours?
HL: First thing we look for is sheer size. We don’t even look at buildings less than 10,000 square feet. Our goal is to maintain a professional large-scale show and really, the more space you have, the more options you have. This year our space is just under 16,000 square feet. We also look at ceiling height and of course we have to have enough parking for over 25,000 victims… I mean guests.
HEN: Is this year’s haunt an entirely new theme?
HL: It is! Paula is off to prison this year. As you know, she killed her baby at the end of last year’s show and now she must pay the price. I’m very excited about the new theme this year. All new sets. New characters. New innovations. New scares. New everything!
HEN: What can guests expect?
HL: They should expect things to be very, very different. And of course they should expect the unexpected! I think I’ll just leave it at that.
HEN: You’ve built a reputation of pushing people’s buttons and anxieties with your haunt. Are you continuing the same approach or taking a different approach to scaring?
HL: You know, the intent was never to push buttons, so we’re not going to plan/create the show around trying to or trying not to be controversial. Our intention is to keep it fresh and new with new innovation to keep people on their toes and keep people guessing “what will they do next?”
HEN: Over time, how do you continue to toy with this approach without “going too far”?
HL: The impression of pushing buttons is just a by-product of pushing the boundaries of what can be done creatively in a haunt, not just in subject matter but with the technical aspect and the system we’ve created. We still want to give people experiences they’ve never had before.