Halloween weekend featured many spooky-themed activities on campus, but Ellingson Hall’s haunted house caused the most frights. Ellingson’s annual event returned on Oct. 30 after its cancellation due to COVID-19 last year.
This year’s theme, “Ellcatraz,” drew inspiration for the real-life Alcatraz prison and threw guests into a prison breakout scenario. Ellcatraz was well designed and executed from the beginning to the end.
The photo booth entertained guests while they waited in the line queue. Following the prison theme, the photo backdrop was a prison-style height marker. Props included signs indicating various felonies. The majority of the signs were related to St. Olaf culture, from “impersonating President David Anderson” and “Stole $3,000 worth of St. Olaf merch (2 hoodies)” to the much darker “Killed Stumpy.” This addition was a clever way for people to spend their time while waiting to enter the haunted house.
Groups of about six people entered Ellcatraz about every five minutes. After entering the Ellingson tunnel, students were handed a fact sheet about Alcatraz that detailed statistics, conditions, and reports of haunting at the prison. There was no time to read the sheet before the prison tour guide led groups into the underground tunnel. From there, various characters led students on a five-minute tour around Ellingson’s basement and lounge.
The structural design of Ellingson allowed a seamless walkthrough experience and was incorporated into the Ellcatraz theme. The basement storage room has wood frames that are not covered by wall space. The Ellingson residents cleverly used this feature as jail bars.
After exploring the basement, groups walked up the stairs to the lounge. There, inmates popped out behind empty bed frames, were watching static television, and were eating repulsive food. Eventually, a police officer character caught the group and chased them out of the building. Groups continued to run around behind Ellingson, encountering a few more jump scares along the way.
The costumes, plotline, and set design were incredible, but the real stars of the evening were the performers. All residents from Ellingson, these first-year students embraced their roles wholeheartedly, creating a creepy evening. Some students even exclaimed that the acting was better than haunted houses they had paid to see. Without the successful performance by Ellingson residents, the haunted house would have not been as entertaining to its audiences.