Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An Interview With Pandora and August from Darkrose Manor

I now have the privilege of presenting this interview with August and Pandora Rose of Darkrose Manor, a haunt located near Denver, CO. I had first become aware of the Manor after seeing it featured on Pumpkinrot's blog. I followed the haunt over the next several years, but DRM really grabbed me by the balls upon releasing the video of its 2013 haunt - Glaschielverto. I have a minor obsession with caves and the idea of underground dwellings, so seeing that years incarnation of the Manor was nothing short of mind-blowing. I maintained regular contact with the Roses throughout 2014, eagerly awaiting updates of that years undertaking - "Dark Carnivale of the Twisted Poppets". The result of which was the best damn version of the dark carnival theme I have ever seen. In November, I contacted the Roses about doing this interview, and they graciously agreed. We originally did it over the phone; however, due to a series of technical screw ups on my part, the audio was lost. However, the Roses were kind enough to re-do the interview via email. And so, after many delays, I now present An Interview with the dark minds behind Darkrose Manor: 

1.      First things first: What is Darkrose Manor?
Darkrose Manor started as a yard haunt. When we decided we wanted to actually attempt to do something more creative and, well, less ‘cheesy’, we assumed it would need a name as well. After much deliberation (and Pandora’s insistence that it include ‘Manor’), we agreed to go with Darkrose, which has a story of its own…. DRM has since grown into something more than just a haunt. The Manor is not only the house we live in, it is also the setting for the first back-story. Moreover, it has become the place in which all of our artistic passions and projects now reside.

2.      Tell me about yourselves: just a little background info on yourselves?
We feel we are a little strange, to say the least. Regardless of how we’ve earned income in the past or today, we consider ourselves artists on many levels. We draw, sculpt, write, sing, dance, etc. We’ve worked many types of jobs, been part of several types of communities, lived all over the country, met and befriended many different people. We’ve had children, but our personal time spent as parents has been seriously limited…. When we eventually became a couple, it was like the whole world changed. In each other, we found that not only did we feel acceptance, but also we discovered ways to engage and draw out even more….

3.      How did you initially get into Halloween?
In our past, we were both part of the Gothic scene. As you’d expect, we have always had a passion for things that had a ‘darker’ tinge to them. Halloween has always been that one holiday that speaks to those elements. We used to go to the clubs, and any chance we got (but especially at Halloween) we would dress up in costumes. We have always enjoyed that. When we decided to get married, it seemed right for us to do it on Halloween. It’s been our holiday all along.

4.      What was it that made you initially want to start a haunt in 2007?
The simple answer is nothing. We had never decorated before. In 2007, we had entered a costume contest with some pretty elaborate costumes, but this was a week or so before Halloween. On Halloween day, August was at work. We had absolutely no plans for the night. Pandora had gone to the store for some things and had seen all of these silly decorations on clearance. On a whim, she bought a lot of them, came home, and went crazy putting them up on the porch and out in the yard. It was a surprise to August when he came home and saw all of this. It was definitely ‘cheesy’, but it was just so much that it just made us feel good inside. We sat out on the porch in minimal costumes (the witch and the vampire) with a bowl of candy, and despite the fact that we didn’t get even one TOT (that house was in a neighborhood that didn’t have a lot of kids), we had a great time together.

5.      Between 2007 and 2008, your haunt really went from zero to 60! What inspired that?
As we sat on the porch that night and talked, we discussed how silly everything looked. Our artistic hearts and our innate drive, if you will, to do things bigger and better (costumes, for example) led us to think about how we could actually decorate for Halloween without it looking ‘stupid’. We had never heard of home haunting before, but the conversations that night and the next morning led us to the internet to research ideas and inspirations. It didn’t take long to find out that home haunting was a real thing and that there were forums, etc where people shared ideas, stories, and resources. So, in essence, we simply made the decision to do a home haunt the next Halloween. Taking cues from others, adding our own flair to the ideas, we spent only about a month or so the following summer/fall building all of our props and writing a back-story. Darkrose Manor was born.

6.      How did you feel when you first discovered the Haunting community?
When we decided to costume the house instead of ourselves, among the reasons was that we had begun to drift away from the scene somewhat. We had begun to feel a little isolated. The forums had a way of making us feel more included in something again. It certainly didn’t take long to figure out that haunters were a special group of people. As the years went on, the forums led us to the YouTube and Facebook communities. There has always been some drama, etc, but for the most part the haunter community as a whole is one of kindness, caring, and mutual support. To this day, most of our true friends are haunters because of that.

7.      2008 seems to have been a very traditional-style haunt. Can you talk about that?
Well, as we said, our research on how to decorate for Halloween showed us more of the traditional. It only seemed natural to do the jack-o-lantern, spider web, tombstone, witch, graveyard kind of thing. We wanted to do it ‘right’…at least at that time….

8.      Tell me about 2009 - Swamp Witch?
In 2009, we bought the house we currently live in, and it has a huge backyard. Although DRM ’08 only had about 50 TOT’s, we knew we had created something special. In true Rose fashion, we, like so many others, felt we could expand on it. We not only made the decision to haunt again, in our new home, but also to include the backyard. We made more props, but we didn’t really expand the back-story or unify the whole thing within one theme. We definitely feel we learned some lessons that year. We realized, for us anyway, that everything needed to be consistent. We felt it was just a series of scenes that didn’t really work together—a mish-mash of stuff. That, combined with several snow storms that delayed builds and set-up, left us feeling like we weren’t succeeding the way we wanted. We even almost cancelled the whole thing, but we pulled it together the best we could. The actual run nights saved haunting for us. Our new neighborhood had figured out what we were doing. New friends rallied around us. The attendance that year just blew us away. Mama Rose had caught the haunt bug herself that year and has been a major part of it since. We weren’t real thrilled with our production, but the lessons learned, the new directions we were only beginning to understand, etc, led us once again to conversations, ideas, and new commitments.

9.      2010 was very Sleepy Hollow-esque, with a new walkthrough section. What can you tell me about that year?
The lessons learned in 2009 were not wasted on us. And, like so many, Pumpkinrot had a major impact on us. We made the decision to only haunt the front yard, but we also decided to change the theme. We left the graveyard out of it when we came up with what we called an homage to Rot. We wrote the second back-story to explain and describe it. By expanding the story to include Darkrose Hollow, we had a theme that we could stick to, and by concentrating solely on the front yard, we were able to spend more time on the details, new props, and even ‘structures’. We were able to enjoy it more as we ourselves became immersed in something meant to be immersive. We went to great lengths to make sure that all of the normal disappeared from our haunt. August even ended up writing an essay about what we decided to call art-haunting. DRM ’10 was a watershed year for us. We knew we would never do the same haunt from year to year. We knew that we would redouble our efforts to detail everything. We felt we had come into our own by developing a DRM style, so to speak.

Darkrose Hollow

10.  2011 seems to have been inspired by old Hollywood-style movie cemeteries, like you would see in the Universal Monster movies. What made you go in this direction after the past years more “traditional” themes?
Having put the graveyard away in 2010, but also having done what we did in 2010, we felt that the next year would be an opportunity to revisit the original Manor theme, which is rather ‘traditional’, and make it better, or at the very least something more in line with that DRM style we felt we had created. We refurbished our first props, utilized structures again, and once more detailed the hell out of it. We also included actors (outside of us and Mama) for the first time. Our niece and youngest daughter played large roles within the haunt, and several friends and family also played characters or served as DRM’s first Security Team. Our numbers had grown so large since 2009 (we’ve had as many as 2000 come through our yard) we knew we needed help, and we got it. Our reputation had grown as well. More people helped by building, contributing materials, spreading the word, etc. DRM had really ceased to be just a haunt by now. It was a phenomenon. It was a family. It was an idea, a goal, a process; and yet….

DRM 2011

11.  2012 Was pretty scaled back from years previous; what was the reason for this?
Haunting, especially at the extremes, costs money. 2012 wasn’t the best year for us financially. There were personal things that happened that year as well. We never even contemplated the idea that it was okay to take a year off, but we also knew we wouldn’t be able to do it that year in a way that would make us feel satisfied. We thought we were done; we really did. However, on Halloween night, we took a cue from our past and thought we would just put out a couple of things, sit on the porch with a bowl of candy, and enjoy the night. Well, a couple of things turned into more and more things. We had props, so we just kept grabbing things from the garage. We only spent the day doing it, but by the time we were done, we felt we had done enough to not totally disappoint the neighborhood. (Many were kind of sad we weren’t doing the haunt that year.) Ironically, the scaled-down version of 2010 seemed to be just as special to us and everyone else as the larger haunts.

12.  2013’s Ice Cave was INSANE! I have never seen a haunt like that before! It was also pretty elaborate! What is the story behind this haunt?
Ah, 2013…! Well, 2013 was not much better in the financial aspect. We knew we would do something for Halloween, but we figured it would also be scaled back like 2012, only a different theme. We considered some ideas, one of which would center on webs and ice. We never really settled on anything though and even felt kind of dismayed about the whole thing. And then, as fate would have it, we were contacted and asked if we’d like to be part of a TV show about haunting. Long story short, this ignited the fire within us and Mama. In a way, we admit we were blinded by the stars in our eyes. Mama primarily funded the haunt that year to a massive degree. We still didn’t fully know what our theme was or how it fit into the larger narrative of DRM. We kind of liked the icy web idea and eventually revisited some of our own arts and writings on other subjects. Instantly, we knew. We would expand the back-story to include characters and settings from all of our once disparate arts and create a larger world in which they could all live together. We went all the way back to the costumes/characters we came up with for that last costume contest in 2007 and set about building the world of the Glaschielverto. It was no small undertaking, but we were revitalized as haunters and felt we had something new. Oddly enough, the TV show potential was also a big part of why we started vlogging that year. The show never happened, but DRM was reborn.

The Glaschielverto Throne Room

13.  2014 was the year the Carnival came to town. Walk me through this year’s haunt? What did this year's haunt consist of?
Oddly enough, we’re not huge fans of circus haunts, clowns, etc, but having ventured into the realms of using our own arts as haunt concepts led us straight back to the world in which the Glaschielverto lived. Pandora had also always thought about an Alice in Wonderland sort of haunt, though August wasn’t really into that. The eventual compromise landed squarely and naturally on the Twisted Poppets, the one-of-a-kind art dolls that Pandora creates. August had written a back-story for them years ago and with some revisions and additions, we had a full-blown concept that just happened to be a dark carnivale. This year also included being contacted by a TV show, only this one got to the point of being cast for it. In the end, we obviously decided to not be on the show for our own reasons, but at first we knew we were going to have to go all out. We had so many ideas, and we knew we had a ton of props, materials, people, and help. We even agreed finally that we would expand the haunt into the backyard again and, as if that weren’t enough, use the garage as well. In some ways, we felt we were redeeming ourselves for our failures in 2009. In the end, our patrons walked through a portion of the dead woods of Bramblerose Brook, the land of the Glaschielverto and the Briar faeries, and came upon the carnivale itself. They entered the funhouse maze which included mirrors, stripes, checkers, strobes, etc. As they left that dizzying area, they came into the apothecary and oddities shop from which they exited into the webby, spidery, tunnel area that is just one part of Darkrose Hollow. Once they went through that they came fully into the Midway of the Carnivale. In this area, they saw the façade of Darkrose Manor itself, the carnivale’s pavilion area, haunted house, and fortune teller’s tent. This area was also home to the vardo that was Max’s home and the broken doll factory as well as the main stage upon which the Twisted Poppets perform. As they left the midway by walking through the overgrown haunted house, they came upon the freak show and games booths and the gypsy vardo/stage. They exited finally through the Rotten Candy Lady Tent. And most importantly, our oldest daughter, Ali, and her bestie, Victoria, were able to be a part of it this year. Meaning that, in the end, all of our family have now participated in the haunt over the years. We accomplished every goal we could have, as home haunters…

The Dark Carnivale



14.  You say you wanted to go more “adult” with this year’s haunt. What do you mean by that?
Over the years, we had said we were kid-friendly. We didn’t have blood, gore, etc. We felt that the Poppets theme was going to have to be a little more gruesome and, well, possibly risqué. We never actually did anything that was too inappropriate for children; we just wanted to make sure everyone was aware upfront that it was possible the final production could make it more ‘adult’ in nature. We also had begun to feel that the DRM style and directions we were going were leading us to include more burlesque themes and to become more interactive with our patrons. However we move into the future, DRM will be decisively more ‘adult’….

The Twisted Poppets

15.  You have created a very elaborate mythology for the haunt. Could you explain a bit about the mythology, and what exactly the Manor itself is?
Without retelling all of the back-stories we can say this. We have combined all of our own stories, creations, books, poems, and every other part of our artistic expressions into one world. This world includes faeries, elves, monsters, witches, vampires, werewolves, humans and so on. The primary landscapes are Bramblerose Brook, wherein live the faeries, pixies, and elves; and Darkrose Hollow, which is where the surviving witches, pumpkin creatures, etc all live. The borderland between these two is an even more magical place, in and of itself, where many a strange folk and creatures coalesce and where even stranger things happen. Darkrose Manor, the home itself, sits within Darkrose Hollow. Obviously we live in the Manor, now and always. Darkrose Manor is our home. And again, it is also the repository of all of our combined passions, arts, and creativity.

16.  You incorporate a lot of fantasy themes into your haunts, whereas most haunts stick to traditional horror themes, such as ax murderers and zombies. What was your inspiration behind doing this?
Like we said, DRM became more than a haunt to us. It became everything. Without taking anything away from the more traditional haunts, we just figured out that the only way for us to continue to be inspired and feel that personal sense of fulfillment and satisfaction was to always expand and create something unique.

17.  What are your biggest sources of creative and artistic inspiration?
This is tough to answer briefly. We don’t want to merely list the names of people, movies, or music because inevitably a few would be inadvertently left out. There are so many. Suffice it to say, we have a dark side. Our creations always seem to express that side of us. Fantasy, the supernatural, the maligned…the twisted…is just who we are….

18.  Every year you guys work with a different charity through your haunt. What are some of the different charities you’ve worked with?
We’ve only affiliated ourselves with charities this one year, 2014. Horizon Middle School is our community’s school which is just up the street. The principal and the faculty have always been so supportive and helpful to us. Stop CMV just has that personal connection.

19.  I know that the charity work you did this year had much personal meaning. Would you care to talk about it?
This is hard to talk about. The website includes most everything you could need to know. We can say that we felt it important to use our reputation and our events to give back something positive because that is also who we are….

20.  I know that the Manor has faced much adversity over the years. What can you tell me about that?
We have been privileged that the haunt itself has not had to experience much adversity. Most people have been accepting and supportive, and we are grateful for that. It is true that in 2014, Both the city and the HOA became concerns for the first time. DRM was vandalized and experienced some drama that was more personal in nature. We, the owners and individuals, have experienced adversity and hardships, but we are not alone in that. We all do at one point or another, and we all survive. Our friends, and the haunt community, stand by one another and assist one another in ways like we’ve never experienced elsewhere. We are proud to be a part of that community.

21.  I know you’ve said this is Darkrose Manor’s last year as a home haunt. Will the Manor live on in a new form, perhaps as a pro haunt?

22.  What themes do you see yourself tackling with the Manor down the road, if indeed it does rise from the grave?
In a word, coined by one of our own DRM family members: Macabaret. We intend to continue exploring and creating the fully immersive, fantasy world that is DRM.

More Twisted Poppets

23.  If you weren’t involved with haunting, what would you be doing to fill the void?
We hope we never have to find out…. It will be simultaneously sad and relieving to not home haunt in 2015, but we are always working on DRM, so there is no void. We’ll continue to create in one form or another, always.


24.  If someone said to you they wanted to be a Haunter, what advice would you give them?
This is also tough because there are so many levels of haunting. I guess we’d start by having them ask themselves this question: Why do you want to haunt? The answer to that question ultimately decides everything. Beyond that, the advice from DRM is know what you’re doing and why, be true to yourself, and stay positive no matter what. 

Daylight Details

25.  Any questions you wish I had asked?
Just one: Can I move to Colorado and join the DRM family? The answer to that would be ‘Absolutely!’

26.  Where can people go to get more information about the Manor?

A big thank you to August and Pandora for agreeing to do the interview. If you haven't done it, go check out their site and their haunt videos. You won't be disappointed! DRMFL!