The Blackwood Mausoleum

Mausoleum
Blackwood Mausoleum

Rising out of the mists of the Carnival of Souls, a crumbling stone mausoleum houses the decaying remains of the vile and covetous Blackwood clan. So greedy were these nasty breed, they took their gold with them to the grave. Even now, this mausoleum houses these restless dead, for their greed has survived them, animating their bones to defend their gilded stash from would-be grave robbers for eternity, unable to rest in peace.

Carved into the stone walls of the edifice is the following warning:

Interred within stiff and cold
The Blackwood Kin hoards their gold
Seek ye not to claim their prize
Lest ye be caught when corpses rise

"Dead Bob" Tells the story

Standing before the Mausoleum was "Dead Bob," a tall, rather unhealthy-looking man who looked to be a cross between an undertaker and one of his clients.

He would tell curious visitors the story of the Blackwood clan, that riches were inside those crypts for those brave enough to reach inside. But he also warned them that "they were very greedy in life, and very greedy in death," and that the interred remains of the Blackwood family may still have the power to hold onto their gold a while longer.

"Dead Bob" was played by none other than local legend Bob Diven - artist, actor, comedian, and musician. He did a fantastic job bringing a sense of apprehension and dread to the mausoleum, while still motivating visitors to actually go inside and brave the crypts. Visit his web site for more about his other creepy performances such as the monster in "Frankenstein," the beast in "Beauty and the Beast," and the long-toothed "Robert the Ratcatcher" in the yearly Las Cruces Renaissance Festival and Craft Faire.

Entering the Mausoleum

Lonely crypts, three by three
Inside the Mausoleum

As "Dead Bob" pulls back the curtain to allow you entrance to the mausoleum, you find yourself in a claustrophobic six foot by eight foot cell, facing a wall of crypt doors. Inscribed on the crypt doors are the names of the deceased who slumber within each stone chamber:

(The ghost of Marius Blackwood is a key player in the drama that unfolds in Madame Sarita's Spirit Parlour.)

Selecting the Crypt

Out of the shadows comes a crypt keeper dressed in black to assist you in your quest to snatch some of the Blackwood treasure from their cold, dead fingers. (The crypt keeper was played wonderfully by Jim, who flew in from Oklahoma to help out at the Carnival of Souls.)

With his eerily crimson-hued flashlight, he shines a light at a crypt to suggest one for you to open, warning you to be careful not to wake the resident up. Slowly, you reach forward to open the crypt door. Fearing that something will pop out at you, you move slowly, and the hinges creak ominously.

(This video was shot by Daniel, who helped me design and build the mausoleum. Or rather, I helped him design and build it - he's far more skilled at carpentry than I am. His kids all saw the evolution and construction of the Mausoleum - they even watched us erect it onsite...but they were still scared of the crypt denizens. We had some people do a fair amount of screaming, enough to stop the action on the midway at times.)

Looking into the Crypt

Looking inside, you see the awful corpse of the Blackwood family member lying in the crypt. Hanging down all around the corpse are dusty cobwebs and the moldy remains of tattered funerary wrappings. An eerie light makes the crypt glow spectrally.

Crypt interior, top rows
What big kids saw
Crypt interior, bottom row
What little kids saw

The crypt keeper shines his light back behind the corpse's arm, saying, "I think he keeps his treasure back there." Looking into the dark crypt, you begin to wonder if it's such a good idea to go sticking your arm into places like that.

So you slowly move your hand back into the crypt, reaching for the treasure. Inch by inch, you advance, barely breathing, absurdly trying not to wake the crypt's occupant. As your fingers brush the treasure, you watch in horror as the corpse suddenly rattles to life!

Exiting the Mausoleum

Assuming you survive your ordeal in the Mausoleum, "Dead Bob" gives you one last reward.

If you were brave enough to reach into one of the crypts and extract some of the Blackwood family fortune, he presents you with a certificate of bravery for having the courage to stick your arm into a crypt known to house the restless dead:

Certificate of Bravery

On the other hand, if you did not reach into one of the crypts, he presents to you a certificate of wisdom for having the good sense not to go around sticking your arms into crypts known to house the restless dead:

Certificate of Wisdom

Behind the Scenes

The Blackwood Mausoleum was built over the course of four months by a dedicated team of talented people. Daniel and I built the frame of the mausoleum (Daniel gets most of the credit here, as he is the skilled carpenter between us), and it was detailed by a large team of probably ten to twelve people who carved foam, painted foam, built corpses, "corpsified" corpses, hung fabric, glued coins, built lighting, and all manner of other odd jobs necessary to bring the details to life.

The mausoleum consists of a wooden frame covered with foam that has been carved and detailed to look like stone. The crypts are basically wooden shelves with doors that have no backing so that the "scaremaster" can add candy and scare people. Four LED's illuminate each crypt to give it an eerie glow.

For photographs of the construction process that the mausoleum went through, visit our flickr set showing the construction process, corpsification parties, and general setup.

Our behind-the-scenes scare master
Scaremaster Holly

Behind the scenes, Holly acted as our Mausoleum "Scaremaster." It was her job to scare the pants off of the visitors who were foolish enough to go sticking their arms into the mausoleum crypts.

We gave her plenty of things to use to scare people. First was a giant spider that could suddenly climb up the wall when someone enters or leaves. Unfortunately, the wires broke at some point during the evening, so some visitors did not have the "pleasure" of being scared by this prop.

We gave her some skeletal gloves which she could use to reach out at people, and the corpses and skulls themselves often provided enough of a scare when they were shook (or even slightly moved) when someone was reaching inside.

It was also Holly's job to restock the crypts with candy to tempt people into reaching inside.

One thing that worked very well was the fact that the scare level of the Blackwood Mausoleum could be tailored to each visitor. Because we had three rows of crypt doors, we had a natural manner to do this. The bottom row, really only convenient for small children to open and reach into, was kept very tame, with little or no active scaring - often, the creepy skull sitting in there was enough to challenge the small kids. The middle row was for older kids around middle-school age, which we would scare a fair amount. The top row was for adults and belligerent teenagers, and we would pull out all the stops to scare them.

Combined with the talented and thoughtful cues from Jim, Holly was able to tailor the scare level for each visitor, so that everyone got a little spooky fun, but it didn't seem to be too much for any visitor.

Bonus fun fact:
The mausoleum wasn't our first concept for the attraction. Originally, we were discussing a Tree of Death, but since storage space is at a premium, we opted for something that would collapse and store into something smaller.