Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Haunted Swamp

I went to the Enzian Theater (1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland), to go to the opening night of the Haunted Swamp. I walked around the property looking for hints of what was to come. As the sun set, I decided to sketch these volunteers who were ripping and cutting up strips of fabric and throwing them in a bucket. I was told they were creating a bucket of gore. The strips of fabric were to become intestines and eviscerated flesh. One of the girls was saying, "I have no idea what is going on. A friend asked me to come down and I said, what the heck, why not?" Later as I was working on color washes in the dimming light, the fellow with the red beard came over to see what I was working on. I didn't recognize him at first since he was now dressed as a demonic clown. I watched as a volunteer got dressed as the extra tall clown. The head and shoulders are worn resting on his head and the large hands are on sticks held by him with the clenched fists inside the sleeves. A women shouted out, "Megan can you get your machete and clear a path down by the weatherman?" Megan ran off in the direction of the hearse.

With the first sketch finished, I realized there was about an hour until the Haunted Swamp came to life. I decided to get a beer and relax for a bit. As I reached for a chair, a man walked up and said, "Were you sitting there?" I decided I had to say, "yes." He went on to explain that the table was his mothers. He and his friend ended up finding seats right across from me. The friend was saying, "If you had to pay real people to do this, it would be real expensive." I suddenly realized these to knew what was going on. I asked the fellow I had played musical chairs with, if he knew who was in charge of all the actors. He introduced me to his son named Alex.

I explained to Alex that I wanted to do a sketch on the swamp route. He responded, "Well, I have to do one more walk through, follow me." I almost had to run to keep up. At the entrance, a channel 13 anchor woman was trying to park in an impossibly tight spot. Alex offered her help in parking. The swamp was illuminated and ready but there were no actors in place yet. As soon as I saw the blood red clearing with a TV playing an interview with a demonic looking child, I knew I had to return to sketch. I told Alex where I planned to set up and he said, "Go for it."

Terry was looking for me on the lawn next to the Eden Bar. We got our wrist bands and were the second people in line. They were the GAB girls from be_local. Their names were Destiny Bianca Lopez and Sharon Baumeyer, they shot video the whole time with night vision turned on. I looked over Destiny's shoulder, the footage looked like it was from the Blair Witch Project. These two squealed and shrieked the whole time. Sharon fell down elbowing Bianca in the lips in the process. The blood red interview spot was one of the scariest parts of the swamp tour. Just as I focused on the strange child on the TV, a swamp creature jumped out with a loud howl. Terry clutched my arm, screaming. This was definitely the spot to draw.

When I returned to sketch I found out the creature was a beautiful young woman covered in military style grass camouflage. Whenever swamp guests would approach, the man in the straight jacket would stare at the TV and rock forward and back. The actress I was seated behind would crouch down like a cougar about to lunge for its prey. The TV interview repeated over and over... "Are you feeling OK? Can I get you a glass of water?" The alien baby made strange cannibalistic sounds. "what do you see there Johnny? What's this about your mama?" Johnny, who's eyes had no pupils, made juvenile "Ma ma" sounds. He breathed quickly and maniacally, his face filling the screen. "Don't breath like that, it will make you feel real strange. Do you mind if I give you an injection or something like that?" Johnny thrashed about and the screen blacked out.

It was fun watching all the different terrified reactions. When it was time for all the actors to take a half hour break, I decided my sketch was done. They all walked through the final section of the course when suddenly all the lights went out. We were all subjected to the most frightening experience of our lives. Actors and volunteers screamed in terror and when it was over we all whooted, hollered and clapped in appreciation.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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