Turns out, people really like their haunted houses. Five years ago, “Spooktacular” at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAAS) Public Charter School started out as a fundraiser for the Behind The Scenes Drama Club. The annual event has become such a hit it has helped the drama club evolve into a bona fide Theater Arts program at the Puna charter school. Spooktacular is no longer about raising money for drama kids to take trips to see broadway plays or build a theater, it’s about providing a safe environment to celebrate Halloween, according to Maiva Blaisdell, the HAAS Theater Arts program director who first thought of the event.
Blaisdell spends hundreds of hours watching researching other haunted houses. She watches a lot of YouTube videos, looking at set design and special effects, trying to figure out how she and her students can incorporate some of the ideas used elsewhere. Their challenge is that the space they use on the HAAS campus does not have electricity, so their special effects have to be battery operated.
“You’ll see this year — we’ve added to this one. It’s very, very scary. Startling,” Blaisdell said.
Blaisdell hails from Hollywood and both her parents were in the entertainment industry. Having grown up around movie sets, danced from 3 to 18, started “costuming” and applying makeup on the neighbor kids at 8, Blaisdell never imagined how much of that would prove useful in her life — that is, until she went back to school at 34. At the University of Hawaii, she started out in political science, then moved to English and finally settled on theater performing arts. She worked at the costume shop at UH and Keaau High School part time as the drama teacher before joining HAAS seven years ago. HAAS Spooktacular has evolved into the Theater Arts Program’s fall production. And next school year she hopes the Theater Arts Program will add a spring production.
Pressed to offer a sneak peak of this year’s haunted house, Blaisdell escorted this reporter and a couple handfuls of students past a blood spattered chain saw and a the words “help me” scratched into one of the false walls to a room Blaisdell said is reserved for a “troll.” A cage consisting of pvc pipes filled the small room. It was seemingly benign until Blaisdell got inside the cage and demonstrated how the troll would be situated inside. Suddenly the reporter became aware of the green glow of the room, and started to get a sense of the eerieness that Blaisdell and her students have sought to create. The reporter suddenly had the urge to vacate the premises.
Visit Spooktacular from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Those with small children can visit Keiki Karnival in another area of campus than the haunted house. A $6 donation for both the Monster Madness Haunted House and Keiki Karnival is requested. Bring a canned food item for Hawaii Food Basket. HAAS is located at 15-1397 Homestead Road in Pahoa. Locals know the road as “Post Office Road.” The school is located on the makai side of Highway 130. Call (808) 965-3730 for more information.