Halloween is an oft-misunderstood time of the year with steep traditions in Gaelic and Celtic lore (among others), conjuring imagery of our world’s veil being lifted and allowing for Aos Si and other remnants of pagan beliefs and nature’s spirits to walk among us.
For many, it is and was simply a time to celebrate the harvest and the cyclical nature of life and death. The Earth replenishes itself (and us along with it) with the death cycle that is necessary for new life to spring forth.
For others, it is and was a time to honor our departed loved ones, offering them a safe place to rest, if even for just one night, whether it be through the Christian traditions of All Saint’s Day and Hallowmas, the Wiccan beliefs of the festival of darkness, Sabbats, and the wheel of the year, or your own personal belief system.
For some, it’s a time of mumming and guising, now known simply as trick or treating, and going door to door in costumes to collect various treats and candy (and maybe even soul cakes and Calaveras), while being illuminated not by the turnips and mangel-wurzels of the past, but with pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns (which may or may not still represent spirits and/or ward off evil spirits).
It can be a time of fun and laughter, gathering with your friends and others in your community, and celebrating one of the United States’ (and the world’s) longest-running and most popular holidays.
The Halloween Preservation Society is dedicated to the education, appreciation, observance, and recognition of the diverse history and practices associated with the holiday of Halloween.
Halloween has quickly become one of the largest holidays in the United States, but its history and origins still remain a mystery to so many. We want to ensure that Halloween’s origins and rich bloodline aren’t lost in the decorations each year, all the while celebrating the fun and pageantry involved with this great holiday.
The last day in October has become the source of so much joy to so many, is a mix of both religious and secular importance, and continues to bring together people from all walks of life through its customs and sense of community.
Cutting Edge Haunted House (CEHH), located at 1701 E. Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth, is one of the most popular attractions in the DFW area during the Halloween season, and for good reason! The Haunted House is amazing, but for people who are in line, or are just not comfy with the idea of going through the actual House (weenies!), there are so many things to do and see.
CEHH was named in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015 as the longest haunted house in the nation and was voted “Best Haunted House” AND “Scariest Haunted House” this year by USA Today. They have also received a plethora of other awards.
CEHH offers a drumline (or Drum Corps if you are a band geek like me), concessions, a pumpkin patch with hay bales to sit on (but don’t be too surprised if a zombie comes by to eat your brain), and plenty of other displays that are excellent for pictures, such as an old hearse, giant spiders and a giant rat.
The actors in the attraction are not allowed to touch or speak to customers, so you need not worry about being accosted during your trek through this amazing maze. However, if you fall or hold up the line, an actor may signal you to move to the side so that other patrons can enjoy the House without waiting behind you. I write this from experience…and no, for once, it wasn’t me who fell! My weenie friends who fell were immediately attended to by actors to make sure they were okay. It is a very safe attraction, thankfully.
I got to speak to some customers that were in line to get into the attraction.
A young gentleman, who gave his name as, “Mason,” (maybe he knows Cher or Madonna?) said that this was his third time at CEHH in the last three years.
“Oh yeah, I’m ready to go in!” he said. “I’ve actually done this twice before two years ago! It was scary last time but I’m ready!”
His companion, known only as “Justine,” said that this was her first time at CEHH and that she was feeling nervous; however, when she came out, she was all smiles and said, “Let’s do it again!”
As people exited the House, expressions on their faces ran the gamut from giant smiles to tired smiles. No one came out looking terrified or traumatized. CEHH takes almost an hour to get through, so it can be tiring. If the trek inside is too much for you for any reason, exits are all over the place, allowing you to leave if you need to. But try to hang on…they use similar illusion techniques to Disney’s “Tower of Terror” and “Haunted Mansion” in addition to great actors, excellent subject rooms, and great music!
As she exited the attraction, another singularly named person called “Emily” said, “At first I didn’t think it was gonna be scary, but once I went through the second phase and the third phase, I started screaming more.”
Her companion, Billy Baker, added, “It wasn’t that scary for me, but I enjoyed it because they scared [Emily] a lot!”
Theresa Brewer braved CEHH for the first time with her companions, Kevin and Dan Brewer.
“This is our first time here and I loved it!” Theresa said. “I don’t like clowns. They are too creepy! But yes, I would definitely do it again.”
Co-owners Todd James and Jesse Beck have learned how to streamline the queue over the 30 years that they have been in the Haunted House industry, reducing wait times for customers. “Regular” tickets provide a 30-minute window to come get in line, and the typical wait on a busy night is 30-45 minutes.
“We had our time slot, and we waited there for maybe 15 minutes. It was really easy and really quick,” said Kevin.
Dan explained what his favorite parts of the House were.
“So, there’s a couple different times where some of the performers were elevated. I’m walking and they’re looking around me and they stick their hand down from above or something like that. Those caught me off guard several times. That was awesome!
“There was this one guy I could hear. He was dragging his claws on the wall. So, I could hear that coming and getting closer and closer. I turned around, but as I turned around, he had those claws right in front of my eyes. His timing was perfect!” Dan said.
Hello, Boos and Ghouls! If you get a thrill out of horror movies and love jump scares, then Cutting Edge Haunted House (CEHH) in Ft. Worth is for YOU! Even if you have coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and/or tend to gravitate toward romantic comedies, prove your mettle and take a chance on this haunted house anyway!
CEHH is more than 30 years old. It had humble beginnings and grew to be the place it is now, where you don’t mind the wait or the price, just so you can get a peek into this amazing spooky offering. The actual Haunted House is the main attraction, of course, but patrons are also entertained by a drum line, complete with a zombie drum major, a pumpkin patch, food, drinks and much more!
CEHH was named in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015 as the longest haunted house in the country and was voted “Best Haunted House” AND “Scariest Haunted House” this year by USA Today. They have also received a plethora of other awards. Visit their website if you’re curious, but remember, “curiosity killed the cat!”
Owner Todd James explained how they’ve streamlined the experience over the years, including dealing with COVID in 2020, from the time a customer parks until the time they leave.
“People text [co-creator] Jesse [Beck] from their cars, and when we get room for more people to go in, we text them back when it’s their turn. This stemmed from dealing with COVID, but some people seemed to like it instead of standing in a queue. We use the pumpkin patch [in front of the entrance] to let people sit and wait, and of course we have the Drum Corps show for folks to watch while they are in line,” James explained.
“[The Drum Corps] get about three months of rehearsals on Sundays,” said Corps Director Brandon White. “Some of them have marched in Drum and Bugle Corps that have performed all over the country, so when this wraps up, they’ll head back to college. They have to audition every year. We’re going to put flag and color guards with them in the next couple of years.”
The drummers are not the only staff who have to audition. Actors, wardrobe and makeup artists also have to pass the quality test that CEHH demands.
“Every single year, you audition for your spot. It is never ‘safe.’ It keeps us on our toes,” said wardrobe and makeup artist Laney Honeycutt.
CEHH started using timed tickets in 2020, and they also offer “Speed Pass” tickets, in which the customer can skip the line and be admitted into the attraction immediately, as long as they come on the date and time that is on the ticket. “Regular” tickets are timed, and they give customers a 30-minute window to show up and get in line. The wait time is usually 30-45 minutes, which most people find much more tolerable than the one to three hour wait that patrons have experienced in past years.
“We pretty much only sell timed ticketing these days,” said James. “So, you buy a time slot and that’s when you can go in. That avoids any drama in the queue. We will also start running two shifts closer to Halloween. Our goal is to have 80 actors total over two shifts to make sure that people don’t have to wait too long,” he said.
Most patrons don’t mind the wait or the price.
“It was so awesome! From the Drum Line outside to the cast inside, it was amazing,” said Haunted House enthusiast Jasmine Merchant. “It’s definitely scary and super fun! I highly recommend it and would totally go again several times!” she said.
Her brother, Sam, also had a scary good time. “It was very fun and scary at the same time. This is the best haunted house I have ever been to, and I have been to a lot of them! In a way, I felt like I was in another world,” he said.
The Guinness award for “Longest Haunted House’ was awarded to CEHH in 2015, when it could easily take over an hour to get through the attraction. In 2020, things had to change a bit.
“Getting through the attraction still takes about 40 minutes, even with COVID measures,” James said. “We were one of the houses that stayed open in 2020, but I was part of a Task Force for the Haunted House industry. So, I went all over the country to places like Disney and Universal [theme parks], stadiums and hospitals to see the COVID precautions that they were using that we could use as well. So, through that COVID exercise, we learned a lot more about our show and how to keep people safe, which is a priority,” James explained.
Of course, James can’t run this type and size of attraction all by himself. His co-creators/buddies and invaluable helpers keep the Haunted House moving along.
“I help with all of it: Security, cast training, property management, and whatever happens in between,” said CEHH co-creator Anthony Littles, as he hung out in a hidden alley with James and Beck (sorry…I was sworn to secrecy…can’t tell you where it is).
Beck, who also co-created the business with James, said, “I’m the cast coordinator. I keep track of where all of our actors are, and whatever their assigned roles are, making sure that they are where they need to be and keeping track of them throughout the night. I also do cast training, and generally, I put out ‘fires,’ along with Anthony,” he said.
“[Jesse is] an amazing actor,” James added. “When we started this, there were only about six of us acting in a small show in Austin, and we rotated rooms and we all did everything. Jesse does a bird character that is just weird and creepy.”
Delina Wiliiams, who has worked at CEHH for 13 years in several capacities, but is currently doing wardrobe and makeup said, “The actors need wardrobe and makeup every weekend. They keep the same characters all night but will maybe switch to a different one on a separate night.”
Williams currently works with Brescia Rodriguez, who has been at CEHH for eight years and Laney Honeycutt, who first started working with CEHH at age 14 and has now been there for ten years, to keep the wardrobe and makeup current and fresh. These ladies often visit vintage shows and thrift shops. “It’s like collecting,” said Williams.
They also make molds of actors’ faces so they can create latex forms of that particular actor’s character and then add special details to make the look more authentic and scarier.
“I started off as an actress 10 years and then five years in, I transferred into makeup. So, I got to be on the ‘other side’ for five whole years to learn,” Honeycutt said.
The makeup process can be very elaborate, depending on the actor and where he or she will be performing,” said Honeycutt.
“It takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to get an actor in makeup, depending on how complicated the character is. It also depends on where they’re going to be because if they’re going outside, you’re obviously going to have more detailing. But if they’re going to be inside, you’re going to have to have more contrast because you have to be able to see [the character] in the dark. So, it’s like two different aspects to think about; like there’s two characters for each actor, but they trade off,” Honeycutt added.
Along with the amazing characters and drum line, CEHH offers “Cutting Edge” technology in some of the rooms that are on par with Disney World’s “Tower of Terror” and “Haunted Mansion.”
Every person, horror fan or not, will find something amazing about Cutting Edge Haunted House. October isn’t over yet, so Cutting Edge is still open Friday – Sunday (and some Thursdays). Check out the schedule HERE.