Maybe Christmas’s lack of terror and mayhem is a flaw and not a feature. I’d never considered it. Then again, why would I?
But someone has. In fact, they’ve gone way beyond idle deliberation.
Etna’s ScareHouse, purveyor of overly intense first-date experiences since 1999, is bringing the terror of Halloween to Christmas in a slightly uncomfortable mashup that’s either an abomination or long overdue, depending on who you ask.
See it for yourself 7 to 11 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8.
It’s called A Creepy Christmas, according to a creepy video posted to ScareHouse’s Facebook page Monday. That video, perhaps best described as “George Romero’s director’s cut of The Polar Express,” shows zombified elves, a demonic snowman, the already terrifying Krampus, and what appears to be a meth-addled Santa Claus, all waiting to put your holiday cheer on tenterhooks. Here it is:
Katie Dudas, ScareHouse’s director of sales and marketing, said there have been Christmas-themed horror shows there before, but never in the main building or this long after the Halloween season.
In 2012, Creepo the Clown came to ScareHouse to launch a literal War on Christmas as revenge for that holiday’s intrusion on his beloved Halloween’s chunk of the calendar. In a press release announcing that event, ScareHouse Creative Director Scott Simmons warned against bringing children, explaining, without irony, “If your child still believes in Santa, they may not be ready to see his bloody corpse lying on the floor with an axe buried in [his] face.” For the record: I’m sure most adults aren’t ready for that either.
At this year’s A Creepy Christmas, attendees “must be 7 years old or older” to enter. But Dudas insists this one isn’t watered down. “It’s just as scary as the regular season,” she boasted.
There will be a few reimagined holdovers from ScareHouses past. “Pittsburgh Zombies: Re-Animated, Nocturnia 3-D, and Infernal Darkness with a holiday twist,” as Dudas put it.
You can also take a photo with a creepy Santa — they’re all a little creepy if you ask me — or head down to the waiver-requiring immersive experience of The Basement where you can join “the family” for a holiday party that will make your actual family functions seem suddenly more palatable and maybe even a little Partridge-esque.
“There was a gap, obviously, between Halloween and next Halloween, and so we really wanted to do something fun and a few of us are big fans of Christmas and thought this would be the perfect combination,” Dudas explained of the origins.
If you think all of this is lunacy, it very well may be.
ScareHouse says this year’s Christmas show is a two-day trial balloon.
If it’s a hit, maybe it returns next year. If not, we all go back to spending Christmas with more wholesome forms of entertainment, like reading about ghosts terrorizing an old, rich misanthrope or watching a suicidal Jimmy Stewart teeter on the edge of a bridge.
But based on the responses to Monday’s Facebook video, A Creepy Christmas will do just fine.
It’s also worth noting that Christmastime holiday haunts aren’t just here, they’re nationwide. In fact, ScareHouse is sharing the “A Creepy Christmas” title with haunted houses in Indiana and Ohio this year.
“We are seeing more of these pop up,” Dudas said. “People love Halloween so much they seem to seek it out in the off season.”
ScareHouse also does a Valentine’s Day feature in The Basement that’s likely to return.
In the meantime, Christmas is calling. And it sounds terrified.
As usual, free parking and shuttles are available at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Tickets cost $20 and up for A Creepy Christmas or $31 and up for the Basement.