Science, Fear, and Film: A Month of Adventures
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Science, Fear, and Film: A Month of Adventures

1 year ago 0

When I finished my book I made a promise never to stop exploring this incredible world. I learned so much about myself, culture, and other people by choosing to “opt in”, to say “yes” even when it’s scary or the outcome is unknown, by choosing not to fear change. April has really put my new commitments to the test, and repeatedly reminded me how easy it is to say these things without actually living them. Because, when you do, it’s messy, hard, and not everything always works out the way you think it will. For example, sometimes you have to take a beat to have two of your cervical vertebra fused together. I didn’t have an accident or anything, I apparently have really crappy bones (cue “Facts of Life” theme song).  But then, some things work out way better than you ever imagined (and you end up with one of the coolest photos of

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ScareHouse - Creepo's Christmas in 3-D

Confronting Holiday Fears

1 year ago 0

Holidays are a time for coming together, a time for reflection, celebration, and a renewal of shared values (check out my Salon article on that here). The warmth and comfort that comes with spending time together can leave us feeling wonderful and motivated to be a better person and do more in the next year. But for some, the very things meant to bring us joy are the same things that stress us out the most.  For those feeling less than confident going into this holiday season, here are a few tips that might make dealing with Food, Friends, and Family a little less scary. Download PDF here: Confront Holiday Fears  

amy bruni2

The joy of the hunt

1 year ago 0

This past weekend ScareHouse was lucky to have a visit from Amy Bruni. Amy is known for her work on the show Ghost Hunters but  she is also a multi-skilled and talented entrepreneur. Amy founded Strange Escapes, a company built to bring guests with a shared interest in all things paranormal, or just out of the ordinary, together for unforgettable experiences. It’s pretty awesome. It was one such Strange Escape that brought a whole group of folks to ScareHouse for an evening of history and paranormal investigation. Of course I took this opportunity to sit down with Amy and ask her what she is afraid of–in an unusual and somewhat disturbing way– as I like to do. Her answers were….fitting for someone who spends a lot of time in dark creepy places ScareHouse will post the video of it soon I’m sure. After an evening of hanging out with hunters (which

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Photo Rachellynn Schoen, from ScareHouse

Adventures in Emotions: Society for Affective Science

2 years ago 0

In 2008 I ran screaming from the world of academic research. Nothing could have convinced me to stay inside isolating and impersonal research wing of the hospital. Locked to a desk for 40 hours a week with little hope that I was actually doing anything to make  lives better, I decided for my own well-being I had to walk away.  It wasn’t that I hated research, it was the opposite. I love exploration and discovery, but the sterile cubical walls were sucking the curiosity right out of me. I found my thirst for life again at ScareHouse, writing my own surveys, investigating my own questions and making people (and me) happy through scaring.  This is all to say, if someone had told me in 2008 “Margee in seven years you’ll be presenting at an academic conference” I would have laughed in their face. Yet there I was, about to stand

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Bogota- Zombies, Ghosts and Coffee

3 years ago 2

When I went to Japan last month I blogged and posted everyday about my various adventures and activities.  I’m in Bogota now and I’ve been here since Saturday and I’ve been writing a ton, but for some reason I haven’t felt like it’s anything I can share..yet.  I’ve learned so much and quite honestly I’m overwhelmed and just starting to make sense of everything. Before I get into some of the heavier stuff and Big Questions I want to mention the AMAZING interviews I’ve had with some key folks who know about fear in Bogota. First on Monday I met with Rodrigo Duarte  who is the director of the Zinema Zombiefest. He and the festival are dedicated to bringing independent horror films to the people—not just in Colombia. He travels internationally working with other film festivals, film makers, and producers to provide a venue to show great independent work. Evolving out

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Over the Edge

My walk on the Edge–CN Tower EdgeWalk

3 years ago 1

I remember when I found out about the CN Tower Edge Walk— I was Googling ‘terrifying experiences’ and it was the first to pop up (well that and the water slide I’m going down in a month). I honestly thought that it would be one of the easiest adventures, easy in that I didn’t feel very scared. Coming out of my last adventure though, I was ready for some physical thrills. By the way, my sincere apologies for not giving photo credits to the amazing Amy Hollaman, a haunt and prison expert in her own right (she’s creative director at Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary, a place you’ll learn more about next month [spoiler!]).   But historically I’ve never really been afraid of heights, I had been repelling, rock climbing, and done my fare share of climbing trees as a child so I felt confident about my resolve hundreds

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"Her Things" at Modern Formations Gallery In Pittsburgh

“Her Things”–Get into interactive theater

3 years ago 0

  Last night I went to “Her Things: An Interactive Estate Sale”  (Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers about Mrs. Willa here). It was such a great time! Ayne Terceira, who built this interactive immersive piece really created a special experience  (you can listen to a podcast with Ayne here). The nights events really made me think.  I’m no stranger to immersive theater, I’ve been to “Sleep No More”  in New York City twice, and explored my iconsciousness at the enlightening, confusing, and fun  STRATA (btw Ayne was  a cast member in STRATA) which was put on by Bricologe here in Pittsburgh a few years ago. I love it, I love the interaction and the surreal feel of these theatrical experiences. They have been a big influence on the creation of the ScareHouse Basement (and yes Ayne was the FIRST cast member in the Basement two years ago when it was called ScareHouse

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Adventures at TransWorld, AKA “The Haunt Show”

3 years ago 0


The past two weeks are definitely  one for the record books. I just got back from TransWorld (also known as the Haunt Show ) in St. Louis. This is my second year attending and it is always an adventure.  While it is not quite like the ones I’m undertaking for my book it certainly is full of thrills, chills, and scary material.


For a lot of attendees their favorite part of the convention is walking the show floor and seeing all the amazing new props and effects for the haunting world, and I love that too. But for me I really enjoy the seminars (h/t to Jenn Braverman, Ann Marie and Tim G. for organizing them every year) and after hours networking that happens off the show floor. Going to the seminars (and they had a ton ) gives you the chance to sit front and center and learn from those in the industry who really know what they’re doing. You can learn from people working in the TOP haunts in the country–Mike “Tattoo” Krausert, Ann Marie & Timothy Gavinsk Ben Armstrong, Ed & Jim Terebus,  Scott Simmons, and yes me too.

Attendance for these seminars was great, but I am always shocked that they are not overflowing. Thousands and thousands of people go to Transworld, who would not want to find out as much as they can from people who are doing it right? You know who is going to the seminars? All the other top haunters! We all have more to learn and you never know when something is going to inspire you, or someone will say something that takes you to that eureka  moment.

Some of my favorite moments—Ed Terebus’s fresh take on old scares, he and his brother had some  fun and innovative ways to turn the traditional ‘startle’ into a truly terrifying scream. Tattoo’s seminar on deep theming was also incredibly inspiring, the back story and profiling he does for his haunts matches the best fiction novels.  By the end of the convention I would say I definitely spent most of my time in the classroom and now I have a stack of notes from the best in the business.

Scary Characters

One really awesome trend I noticed this year, and in fact many commented on this–it has become so international. Coming back from Japan it was great to see a representation of haunters from all over the world. I got to sit down and talk with the folks over in Ireland who run The Nightmare Realm . Talk about doing it right—wow are these guys impressive and I think I need to add a pin to my adventure map.  I also made connections with haunters from Bogota  that I hope to get to know better in advance of my trip there next month. There were haunters from New Zealand, China, Japan, Mexico, and Chile.  It’s really exiting to see and I can’t wait to observe how haunted attractions are going to take off and evolve in other countries, especially countries that do not have the strong tie to Halloween (Americans always assume the connection).

With Amy Hollaman from Terror Behind the Walls and Scott Simmons from ScareHouse

With Amy Hollaman from Terror Behind the Walls and Scott Simmons from ScareHouse

On a personal level it was really great to see old haunter friends, get to know them better and make new ones at all of the networking opportunities ( I say networking opportunities because that sounds a lot better than “lets just take over the hotel bar and lobby every night” (seriously huge thanks to the Renn for dealing with us every year).

Finally, the great thing about TransWorld is that everyone is a bunch of crazy fun loving folks. I’m very lucky to know a lot of the top haunters and feel even more lucky to call them friends, but even those I don’t know seem to be aware of and appreciate the fact that they get to work in such an amazing industry—they get paid to scare people who pay to be scared. That’s not a bad job.

To get an idea of the fun we all had, check out the #hauntshow twitter stream.

Next up for me, I’ll be speaking at the Carnegie Science Center for their Café Scientifique on Monday April 7th from 7-9. You can reserve your spot here!