Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group is no stranger to intimate, immersive experiences. But as we head into the home stretch to Halloween, the Los Angeles-based group will be visiting a very special house in Castaic to give guests a one-of-a-kind immersive home haunt experience.
The home belongs to Bryan Cunningham, who’s had a difficult couple of years. In 2020, he was recovering from a spinal fusion surgery, had just opened up a financial advisory practice and was the sole caregiver to his 100-year-old grandmother and mom, who had bipolar disorder and diabetes. His brother was also battling cancer.
“Then COVID hit. My world was spinning,” said Cunningham. “Through a lot of sleepless nights, we made it through 2020. I thought the worst was over. 2020 was preparing me for 2021. In the middle of January, my mom had a stroke that put her in the hospital. Emergency brain surgery to relieve blood caused by the stroke was too much for her to handle. I had to make the decision to pull the plug on Jan. 24, 2021. Due to COVID, we weren’t even allowed to see her in person. We said our goodbyes through FaceTime.”
Then 10 days later, his brother passed away after a nine-year battle with cancer. He had been staying with Cunningham under hospice care for six months.
“So needless to say, life sucked for awhile,” said Cunningham.
But on a brighter note, his daughter was having her 21st birthday party on Aug. 13, 2021.
“This happened to fall on a Friday, so we had a Friday the 13th party,” he said. “We love Halloween in our household. We went to a ZJU show to look for ideas for my daughter’s party and we fell in love with Zombie Joe and his awesome theater group.
“We had such a good conversation at our encounter that we asked if they did shows for parties. We figured out what we wanted to do, and they came out and put on a guided haunted tour of our house, for all of our guests. I was so impressed with this group that we started talking about doing a haunted house.”
And so The Cunningham House of Horrors was born. The two-night-only event takes place Wednesday, Oct. 27 and Thursday, Oct. 28 in Cunningham’s Castaic home. It’s an immersive, haunted walk-through experience offering a family-friendly version for ages 8 and over from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and a “Dark N’ Creepy” version for ages 17 and older from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., including adult themes, adult language and nudity.
“Halloween was always my brother’s favorite holiday,” said Cunningham. “So to honor his memory I wanted to raise money for the Circle of Hope, out here in Santa Clarita. We are even incorporating my brother into the story for our two-day event. I really wanted to give back to the community that helped my family and I so much during the tough months of loss, and have some fun.”
Several members of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group will be performing. The immersive show will run about 20 minutes and will take COVID safety precautions, including requiring face masks and admitting small groups only. Eight to 10 guests will start their journey every 10 minutes.
“This will be a haunt like you have never seen before and will leave you truly captivated,” said Cunningham. “The Circle of Hope is important to us because of their mission. They help Santa Clarita residents who are battling any type of cancer. They assist people with meals, transportation and even payment of medical bills. It is such a wonderful charity that we feel proud to raise money for.”
The Gory Details The Cunningham House of Horrors 29724 Castlebury Place, Castaic Oct. 27 to Oct. 28, 2021 Family-friendly (ages 8+), 5-7 p.m., $15 each Dark N’ Creepy (ages 17+), 8-11 p.m., $20 each All tickets sold at door. Cash/Venmo/credit cards accepted. Portion of proceeds benefit Circle of Hope.