Brother Cobweb on the short bus to perdition ©2015 Alfred Eaker
When I moved to Portland, the last thing I expected was to get involved in another haunted house attraction. However, upon seeing an advertisement for the full contact House Of Shadows seeking a casting director, I contacted the owners: Ashley Ries, Nathan Fultz, and Troy Carpenter. In the previous full contact haunted attractions I had worked, my primary position was in casting and I often assisted in commercial painting. However, when I involuntarily was expected to assist in building, it was a case of oil meet water. After my initial interview with the House Of Shadows team, I was elated to discover that the House Of Shadows wanted me strictly for casting.
I soon found that The House Of Shadows redefined a new meaning in Full Contact, being far more intense than previous experiences. Their numbers (three to four times higher in Oregon than previous locations) reflected West Coast taste for amped contact. Over the course of pre-season (and getting down to the wire, as usual) I volunteered to assist in commercial painting as well. During the next two weeks, I was able to engage in much dialogue with Nate Fultz and discovered that he too sprang from an intensely negative evangelical background.
The Demon Frogg, on Brother Cobweb’s Bus To Perdition at the House Of Shadows, Gresham © 2015 Alfred Eaker
With Nate, I shared slivers of my Brother Cobweb narrative, a novel I am working on. The title character was a comic strip I created in the early 70s, which was my private, horrific parody of the visiting evangelist preachers who frequented my mother’s Pentecostal church (one of whom was Jim Jones). Shortly after that, Nate viewed my online video performance of the character and asked me something, which took me by surprise: “Alfred, would you be willing to perform the Brother Cobweb character on the bus?”
The bus is the customers’ passage into the attraction, not within the haunt itself. Still, I was initially skeptical. “I thought this was straight up traditional horror?” “Alfred, you and I both know damned well that charismatic fundamentalist shit is true horror.” Nate was not only right, but his proposal was one of such obvious simplicity, that the idea might have flown over my head a few years back. I agreed to perform the character. Needeless to say, there were a few provoked patrons, but Portland has a solid reputation for embracing weirdness and the reception was far more positive than I could have imagined.
Naturally, I tweaked the character to fit part of the haunt’s narrative, which was relatively easy given that we had zombie go-go dancers, demons, and fortune tellers. All of these are iconic elements of fundamentalism’s wave of hysteria run amok; anti-superstition superstition.
Although I have not done performance art in a public setting for years, this was akin to a jumping back in the water experience. Many of the crowds erupted into applause after I grabbed a patron and engaged them in Brother Cobweb’s Holy Ghost Takin’ Over The Service Dance. I could never have done this performance in the midwest, so it was a helluva lot of fun (although requiring plenty of throat lozenges). Better yet, the experience was exhilerating enough to gift me a reshaped ending for the upcoming novel. Included here is a visual scrapbook from our 2015 House Of Shadows season (with our Christmas haunt as well).
Frogg, Demon from the Bowls Of Hell ©2015 Alfred Eaker