I just uploaded the behind-the-scenes video of my very first Haunt to YouTube and I've been really excited to share it with you guys, so check it out below if you'd like!
Although I've built exhibits in another haunted attraction over the past few years, Nyctophobia is my very first Haunt in the sense that it's a brand new attraction that I created that isn't a part of an already existing one. I think for a first year "test-run" effort, it came out fantastic.
We also got a nice write-up in the local paper, but it's no longer available online because they've changed their website or something so I pasted the article below if you want to check it out!
I thought of you guys many times while editing this video so I hope you enjoy it!
Local Filmmaker Offers A New Take On An Old Haunt
By Michelle Trauring
For years, Eric Striffler said he knew he wanted to change the face of haunted houses on Long Island. Now, he is finally watching it happen.
The 19-year-old’s exclusive haunted house creation, Nyctophobia, is booked solid—and it isn’t even built yet.
All he would share about this one-weekend only experience is that it is located somewhere in Eastport, and that it has several ground rules.
One, visitors must go through alone, with only a glowstick to lead the way. After all, nyctophobia is the fear of darkness.
Two, visitors must be able to crawl and maneuver through the pitch-black, medically themed maze.
And three, and perhaps most importantly, visitors must have an invitation.
“This is going to be unlike any haunted house on Long Island,” said Mr. Striffler, “No chainsaws, no monsters. We can scare you more than that with real life.”
The 360 visitors who will brave the house next weekend, from October 21 to 23, received the secret location via e-mail after applying for a spot at nyctophobiahaunt.com. Mr. Striffler isn’t charging any admission and doesn’t expect to turn a profit. Instead, he’s hoping that if the event is successful, he can do it again in future years with an eye toward making money.
The 360 slots only took a matter of weeks to fill up, Mr. Striffler said.
“I’m not sure these people know what they’re getting themselves into,” he said with a chuckle. “If I was going to open my own haunted house, I thought there was no point in doing it if wasn’t going to be different than what anyone here has seen.”
Mr. Striffler, who is something of a haunted house connoisseur, said he has visited every haunted house he can find on Long Island for over five years—and he tries to hit each of them on their opening nights. He also visits three houses in New York City annually, and has traveled as far as Missouri, Ohio and Florida to visit “haunts,” as the houses are commonly called in the business.
After digesting what he liked and disliked about the houses—while processing a slew of his own ideas—Mr. Striffler has decided to fight against the standard haunt industry by slashing typically high prices, shaking up the experience and slowing the tours down.
“I think a lot of people who run haunted houses want to torture you and scare you to death,” Mr. Striffler said. “Even though that’s what I want to do this year, for sure, my main goal is to make this a great experience, one that isn’t rushed and just like every other.”
Mr. Striffler, who earns an income off of his popular YouTube channel, is covering the cost of the haunted house himself, about $20,000.
“Everyone probably thinks I’m crazy, because I’m not making money this year, but I’m thinking toward the future,” he said. “And, really, there’s just more to it than money. There’s heart behind it.”
Mr. Striffler’s love for anything haunted dates back to his days volunteering at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck’s Spooky Walk, an event to raise money for the Center Moriches camp for special needs children.
But as Mr. Striffler reached high school, his scare tactic ideas outgrew the family-oriented walk. He began to entertain the idea of opening his own house, manifesting in his 11th grade digital media class, when, for an assignment, he designed a business campaign for five haunted houses in one. Nyctophobia was on the list.
“So it’s like, I actually came up with this years ago, and now I’m finally doing it,” he said. “The tagline—‘The only thing worse than being alone is finding out that you’re not,’—is even in the project’s radio ad that I did. I never thought that this would ever be something physically existing.”
But for right now, the house only exists as 100 4-by-8-foot wooden walls stacked in his garage. Mr. Striffler said the actual construction will begin today, and it should take him about three days to complete, if he estimated correctly.
The house will have a familiar layout of walls and sheets like many other haunts do, but it is what’s behind them that counts, Mr. Striffler said.
“We’ll see how many people don’t make it through,” said his father, Stephen Striffler, who has helped his son along with the project.
Nyctophobia has taken over the Striffler household—between the walls piled up in the family garage and a set of mannequins donning latex gloves and surgical masks looming in their living room.
“Nothing surprises us anymore,” said Eric’s mother, Cris Striffler, “but we couldn’t be more excited about Eric’s haunted house.”
Never having built his own haunted house, Mr. Striffler said there was only one way to make sure his scare tactics worked, and that was by testing them on his family.
“He’s gotten me a bunch of times,” said his sister, Jillian, 18. “But there’s one I won’t forget.”
Mr. Striffler said he had imagined one idea perfectly in his mind but couldn’t decide if it would work in the dark. He convinced his sister to be his guinea pig in the garage.
“I tested it out, and she had the perfect reaction,” Mr. Striffler said. “I’m more into the psychological scare, but this was definitely a startle scare, right there. It’s the spot in the house where I wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to wet their pants, which is just a physical reaction.”
All three of his family members are going to make their way through the Nyctophobia experience, which will last at least 20 minutes, Mr. Striffler said, longer than many of the other houses he’s attended.
There will be cameras planted throughout the house—shooting in night vision—to capture reactions that Mr. Striffler will edit together and post on his YouTube channel.
“Haunted houses are my second passion,” he said. “My main thing is filmmaking. There’s no correlation, I guess, but it’s always great to bust the people who are trying to act all cool. We can see you. They say, ‘You didn’t scare me.’ Actually, yes we did.”
While haunted houses themselves don’t scare Mr. Striffler anymore, he said he does have some fears of his own.
“You’d probably expect someone who does this kind of stuff to be cool and collected through haunted houses, but I jump out of my skin—only because I get startled so easily,” he said. “But as far as getting scared goes, I’m one of those people who turns the lights off in the basement, thinks there’s someone behind me and runs up the stairs. That and heights.”
Mr. Striffler said he has high hopes for his house in the future and thinks it will be a success—and wants to keep it free as long as he can.
“At the risk of sounding extremely cheesy, I hope you can feel that there’s heart behind it, as opposed to just money,” he said. “This haunted house was made because I love it.”