Since 2006, the Haunted Basement has been a must-do for people who love a good freakout. Each year, the brave souls who chose to sign the legal waiver and walk through their uncharted hellscape were treated to pitch-black rooms, curated bad smells, close-up upsetting settings, and full-on touch from the spooks and specters–an intense experience for sure.
And then Covid hit, and none of the things that made the Haunted Basement so uniquely terrifying were possible. In 2020, they canceled their big event, and the small, volunteer-based nonprofit has been waiting out the plague ever since.
“We’ve given it a lot of thought,” interim executive director Walker Friend says of the pause. “We could put on a safe haunt with the right precautions, but we’d have to do limited capacity. We couldn’t do the full touch. It would be hard for us to make a profit and there are just so many unknowns right now.”
But the Haunted Basement isn’t dead. In fact, it’s very undead. Like many businesses, they’ve pivoted to other projects while they wait for the day when it’s safe to terrify people again. They had a hand in Travail’s Haunted Basement Bar, helping to create an immersive environment and training servers in the art of horror. (Friend warns us that there are some blood rigs on loan–gross and scary!)
The Haunted Basement is also part of Twin Cities Horror Fest; their show debuts tonight and runs through the weekend.
“This year we have an hour-long scripted play called Ted’s Talk,” says Friend. “It’s about a demon giving a talk about all the things the demons this year have come up to torture people.”
But putting the Haunted Basement proper on hold means expenses have added up. To keep things afloat, they’ve started a Patreon with the hopes of securing sustaining members at the (very appropriate) price of $6.66 a month or the (less spooky) price of $31 a month. The goal is to get to $2,000 a month. At a little under $500 right now, they’re about a quarter of the way there. Typically, planning for the Haunted Basement begins each year around January.
“We still have a lot of our props and equipment, so we need to pay for storage of that stuff,” says Friend. “We’d also like to save up money. Our show is a very expensive show. We have 20 to 30 actors a night. We take up a lot of space, even though we’re not ‘40 acres of haunts.’ We have bills, insurance, we have to pay rent. All those things.”
The Haunted Basement isn’t new to change and adapting to circumstances. In 2017, the crew moved from the Soap Factory’s basement to their own space on 2010 Hennepin Ave. in northeast Minneapolis. In 2019, they hit the big time, taking over a huge department store space in Rosedale Center.
“The only reason we got in that space was because they were already planning to tear it down,” he laughs. “Oh, what if we let these scrappy horror kids make a muck in our Herberger’s?”
But, at least for now, the final fate of the Haunted Basement is up in the air.
“We still have a strong community,” says Friend. “We’re still hoping to create horrible things far off in the future. We just don’t quite know what and when that will be.”