Marsh Haunted Haus is a beloved Halloween tradition at Amherst, and this year’s haunted house exceeded all expectations. The masterminds behind Saturday night’s event, Helen Montie ’18, Julia Pretsfelder ’18, Antonella Dominguez ’18 and Brian Beaty ’17 created a story that threaded together the various horror scenes displayed throughout Marsh.
The elaborate story was based on a protagonist named Emily and her nightmarish emotional projections. Montie said in an interview that the group wanted to combine jump-scares with the bone-chill of a more deeply unsettling psychological thriller.
Perched on the top of a hill, the white, stately Marsh House, with its banisters severely in need of renovation and floorboards that squeak eerily, is perhaps an ideal location. Greeting guests at the door on Saturday was a deranged janitor mopping the floor and setting the stage for horror. Lauren Horn ’17, who portrayed a maniacally animated tour guide, led visitors through the rooms that depicted various scenes of Emily’s chilling past.
The tour began with Emily, portrayed by Pretsfelder, screeching and dancing about in a dark room, yelling at the visitors to “please stop looking” at her. The next room was strobe-lit and filled with grotesque clowns, who pawed away at the visitors.
The haunted house culminated in the scene of Emily’s mother’s death — the story goes that she died while giving birth to a set of twins. Emily’s father, in an attempt to avenge this tragic death, brutally murdered the twins and swore to protect his beloved daughter, Emily.
Nothing was left to our imagination as we tiptoed around the bloodied corpse of the mother and skirted past the aloof, ashen-faced and yellow-eyed doctor. The twins were resurrected with a creepily immaculate innocence, and they asked the visitors to “come play with them.”
Montie said during the month of planning for the event, she and the three other planners created and delegated different roles to Marsh residents.
For some, such as sophomores Alisa Bajramovic and Noor Qasim, who portrayed the twins, the roles involved pulling together the items in their closet to fabricate their imagination of what creepy, undead twins might look like. For others, this involved some creative filmmaking, repeated attempts to prevent the fire alarm from being set off by the fog machine or simply impressive acting.
For Montie, the Haunted Haus was a perfect opportunity to complete her Marsh project, a required artistic project for all Marsh residents to live in the arts house. Montie, who is gifted with costume makeup, spent her Saturday diligently transforming her co-residents into the grotesque clowns and ghouls that animated the Haus at night.
The event ran from 8 to 10 p.m., and during all two hours, a line of jittery, costumed Amherst students wound down the hill. As I waited with my friends in line, we could clearly hear the petrified shrieks of visitors from inside.
It was approximately a half hour before we were finally permitted entrance. The wait was well worth it. Throughout the tour, my friend and I found ourselves clutching each other’s arms in fear. This year’s Haunted Haus was even more frightening than I expected.