Reporting Natalie Nyhus
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – From an old factory filled with artificial limbs to a plant for turning animal fat into soap, the Soap Factory in the old milling district of Minneapolis has a long and somewhat haunted past.
It is emerging as a non-profit arts gallery, but many people in the Twin Cities know it for the annual Haunted Basement.
For the last five years, the bowels of the Soap Factory Art Gallery morph in autumn from a creepy basement to terrifying haunted house.
“This is not your average haunted house where you have a mummy, where you have a Frankenstein, where you have a werewolf. This is real fear,” said Tom Loftus, one of five Haunted Basement directors. “Some of our early discussions are, what do you have nightmares about? And that is the inspiration for the project.”
Another inspiration comes from claims that the basement is already haunted.
“Grand Avenue Paranormal Society and a number of other paranormal societies have went through and recorded EVPs — electronic voice phenomenon — and they’ve done this for years,” said Loftus. “They’ve come through and they’ve recorded things and given it to us, and it’s some creepy stuff.”
It’s so creepy that Tom says even the actors get freaked out.
“Weird acoustics, weird temperature changes,” said Loftus. “Weird things have happened where we are moving things around and lights will turn off totally unexplained.”
This year the Haunted Basement has about 20 actors who will work up to 120 hours each during the month of October. By 4 p.m., they arrive to get their costumes and makeup done, and then it’s scaring time.
“Everybody wants to say they got through it, but not everybody does,” said Loftus.
That’s when the safe word comes in. If you yell “Uncle,” the madness stops and you are escorted out. The only catch is that you have to take an “Uncle mugshot.” In 2009, a record 200 people screamed uncle.
This year’s theme is darkness, both literal and figurative, but the exact details of the Haunted Basement are top secret.
The Soap Factory Haunted Basement is open through Halloween and costs $21, but most nights are already sold out. You need to be at least 18 years old to get inside and must sign a waiver before entering.