One of the most popular new Halloween events this year has been Alchemy NFK’s Haunted Gallery in the Norfolk Arts District. We asked members of their cast and crew, What is the importance of being afraid?
Day job: Student teacher, art education
Spook job: Plague doctor
I’ve always felt like Halloween was my most comfortable day, because I knew I was not going to be myself. My mom and dad did a haunted house growing up. I was always the one scaring people. I like scaring people because of the intense emotion you get out of them all of a sudden. I don’t get a lot of emotion out of people normally. But when I throw that aluminum tray on the floor and the whole group jumps at once… it’s very rewarding. It’s like a guilty pleasure, like eating a Twinkie, like maybe you feel bad, but not really because they did it to themselves. It’s my parents’ fault I’m a Halloween freak.
Day job: Designer at Virginian-Pilot
Spook job: Consultant and artist, flyguy
The thing that’s so wonderful about being scared, especially when you’re little, is you learn to overcome your fears. When we’d do a little haunted thing on the porch when we lived in Larchmont, we’d have a dark space with some creepy sounds; a kid’s imagination would fill in the blanks. When the kid gets through and gets the candy, it’s like a triumph. Being scared is pure triumph and pure emotion.
This one kid walked by an inch away, didn’t know I was there. I reached out and grabbed him, and he collapsed into tears. I take my mask off and I said, ‘You made it through when the other kids were scared, and wouldn’t come in.’ That’s basically it–it’s really cool when people walk through and they prevail.
Joshua Akiva Weinstein
Day job: Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation
Spook job: Plays the Harbinger
It’s important to be afraid for the same reason it’s important to be sad on occasion. It gives you perspective on the times you feel secure and good about yourself. It’s the reason people like things like Halloween and horror movies, because it gives them perspective on the good things in life. It gives you context. It’s an entertaining form of context, if you want to get existential about it.
Day job: Runs Media Jack Films
Spook job: Made opening video, “anything they need behind the scenes”
Our problem, particularly as adults, is we don’t spend time in fear, we spend it in anxiety, which is a bitching, nagging, egocentric, small emotion. We want our human experience to be rich, and fear is so much more powerful than anxiety. The job of the artist is to bring numinous moments to our lives: a rich, connecting experience that wakes you up. Our experience in this country and culture is often a bland one. We want to be awake. We want to be alive. Modernity is a very positive thing in a lot of convenient ways, but it robs us of core experiences we want to be reconnected to. I think we’re missing something deep and profound and something like the haunted house, particularly something that’s a little more artful, a little more theatrical, and focusing on that human dynamic–as opposed to jumping out and scaring boo moments–it’s part of what makes Alchemy’s project by nature something different and essential.
Day job: Accounting work
Spook job: Plays James Robert Harrison, III
At the end of a night of dying I feel alive. It allows me to really embrace the raw human emotion that we sometimes hide within ourselves. When I become James Harrison, I think back to the 1800s, with limited medical technology, a lot of fear. I try to exert that. I feel reborn after.
Christopher Jude Ranes
Day job: Maintenance
Spook job: Working the voice, lights, fog machine, made the Wishmaster mask; art in gallery
The only sure thing in life is that you’re gonna die. I’m drawn to it in my art because I’m one of those people who’s fascinated by death. You have people who constantly worry about it. It consumes everything. The funny thing is, expressing it this way, doesn’t give me time to go out and do things that might kill me.
Day job: Retail
Spook job: Wishmaster, the terrifying devil creature
It’s empowering to play the devil. Fear is a human response to threat. With feeling fear, and confronting it, it’s a very human connection. I see that look of terror. I’m terrorizing the crap out of you, with me sitting in a sheet. To be afraid of something is to know you’re in danger. To be that threat brings me at a level of connection. I’m a woman and I’m literally 5-feet-tall. In real life, people look above me. But as the Wishmaster, I’m so much bigger. I love it.
Harold Scott [center, rear]
Day job: Stage hand at VA Opera, Digital Thunderdome effects tech
Spook job: In charge of puppeteering, creature effects, fake heads
It’s a thrill. One of my favorite things to do is create a little chaos, and even though you know it’s safe, you’re walking into a scenario that is violent, thrashing, crying, and then you explode in emotion. It’s kind of like, you run across a crazy person on the street… but you’re in the craziness.
People’s lives are so predictable. They spend their whole lives trying to be predictable. Then they go into a situation like this that isn’t comfortable. Just like a roller coaster, you know it’s an organized thing that’s safe, but you have those primal instincts that tell you to survive. It’s about pushing to the edge of survival, to the edge of instincts.
This is the last weekend of the Haunted Gallery. For more info, click here.