Nightshade Toy Factory returns to Howl-O-Scream this year as the No. 1 fan favorite of 2010. Venture through this bizarre factory and you’ll be terrified of the toys you loved as a child. Scott Swenson, the “creative mind” behind HOS, talks about how he brought to life the demented “playthings” conjured up in his nightmares.
1. What is the storyline/theme behind Nightshade Toys?
The Nightshade Toy Factory was established in 1963 by creating its signature playthings: “Catch Your Breath Bear,” “Zippo the Wizard” and “Tina Tinkle.” For many years, the factory has been closed, but sinister sounds and lights have been heard and seen late at night. As brave guests enter the factory, they learn the fate of Mr. Nightshade and his suspiciously “toy-like” son, Nigel.
2. What was your inspiration behind this house?
This house actually started with a nightmare. I had a dream about a teddy bear that would sit on peoples’ chests while they were sleeping and “steal” their breath. I think this is an old wives tale about cats, but I’m not sure. ANYWAY, “Catch Your Breath Bear” was born, and the factory was built up around it.
3. Have you added new scare-tactics to Nightshade Toys to surprise HOS-goers this year?
Nightshade Toys was a guest favorite last year, so we didn’t want to “mess it up” too much. This year, we did relocate some of the performers so that guests who had been through before might be expecting the startle to come from one location and this year it comes from another. We also re-lit some of the rooms in the house to help re-direct the guests’ attention in order to make some of the scares more effective.
4. Please share a fun fact about this house.
Tina Tinkle does exactly as her name suggests, so cover your cell phones and cameras.
5. Do “scare-actors” do their own makeup for HOS? How do they create those oh-so-real wounds?
Some of the performers are trained to do their own make-up, and some are applied by our make-up artists. This year, we have chosen to build on the strength of our actors by giving them prosthetic pieces and silicone masks to distort their features even more. We have a team who hand-crafted all of our silicone masks and prosthetics, so don’t go looking for them on eBay... you won’t find them. When it comes to wounds, the most common practice is to use some form of small prosthetic that is applied to the face. Theatrical makeup is applied to help blend the piece into the face and then “blood” is added to make it appear fresh. We actually use 3 different kinds of blood, each for a different purpose. Runny or “splatter” blood is used for wounds that should appear new, the medium thickness is very dark and can be used for “deep” wounds, and the blood gel (almost the consistency of cupcake frosting) can be used to create a very convincing “road rash."
6. As Howl-O-Scream’s Creative Director, what fuels your creative mind?
As I mentioned with this house, dreams and/or nightmares are great forms of inspiration. I also enjoy working with the Entertainment team to hear their suggestions or fears. Inspiration can come from many different places, the trick is to be open to it and recognize it when it happens.
7. Is there anything else unique about this house that you would like to share with fans?
Many of the giant stuffed toys used in the Nightshade Toy Factory are actually old character costumes from the park’s past. They have been modified to make them look more sinister, but they are almost all there in some form or another.
8. In 140 characters or less, why should someone visit Nightshade Toys?
Toys are really creepy when they are trying to kill you.
What was your favorite toy as a child? Did any of your beloved toys make appearances in your nightmares? Please share your stories below!