Covid Halloween: Going back Into the Black

In the fifth installment of Halloween in the Time of Coronavirus, Larry and Cheryl Bones invite unwary trick or treaters to party in the House of the Devil.

Of all the Halloween Mazes and Rides to haunt Los Angeles in recent years, Into the Black seemed best positioned to survive Covid-19, because social distancing was more or less built into its approach even before the pandemic. For two seasons, the walk-through haunted house terrified victims by sending them inside one at a time. Multiple demons lurked within the darkened corridors, but much of the horror was generated by shadows, sounds, and anticipation - effects that, in theory, could be achieved while implementing precautions to protect against infection.

Additionally, after going on hiatus in 2019, Into the Black was not reconfiguring their old haunt; they were starting from scratch in a new location, constructing something that needed to pass safety regulations in order to open on October 1st. Announcements were made; dates were set; tickets were sold. Fans eagerly anticipated a visit to the new venue, Haven City Market in Rancho Cucamonga. And then...

Barely a week before opening night, Into the Black was postponed due to new restrictions implemented by the city. Though the event was not officially cancelled, previously purchased tickets were refunded while the haunt's crew continued to work with the city in hopes of opening later in the month. In the meantime, they are planning a Halloween party event for October 31.

What happened? How could a haunt whose scare strategy seemed almost designed to meet safety regulations not get the greenlight to open? To find out, Hollywood Gothique interviewed proprietors Larry and Cheryl Bones.

Hollywood Gothique: What were the major Covid-related impediments facing INTO THE BLACK?

Larry and Cheryl Bones: Initially, it was the state's requirements that didn't allow for group gatherings. Next was the fact that most property owners were always unsure of leasing space to a haunted attraction, especially now that we were in a global pandemic.

Once we found our home at Haven City Market in Rancho Cucamonga, we then faced the City, County and State with our complete Covid safety plan in hand. Into the Black was designed to be socially distanced from the start. Implementing Covid safety protocols were pretty easy but haunted attractions are under the microscope.

Hollywood Gothique: What were the strategies you implemented to overcome these impediments?

Larry and Cheryl Bones: There wasn't a huge list of things to implement. Since we were a timed-ticket, single-person haunted attraction, we started looking at things like doorways within the haunt. Anything people would be likely to touch. So we took them all out. We widened all the hallways throughout the haunt.

We also implemented measures like all guests and staff must wear masks at all times. We added touchless check in systems. We have hand sanitizer stations and regularly have staff clean the haunt throughout the night. Only about 15 guests would be in the haunt itself at one time.

Hollywood Gothique: Since you clearly went into Halloween 2020 with a plan to make your haunt Covid-safe, what happened with the new restrictions that led to the postponement?

Larry and Cheryl Bones: We have been playing "RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT" for weeks. There are so many agencies that need approval to let the next one approve you. All entities agree that we have a solid game plan and are doing way more than required to make a safe event for the haunted attraction fans.

Hollywood Gothique: What is INTO THE BLACK's status currently? Will it proceed in some form?

Larry and Cheryl Bones: We are currently on hold status at Haven City Market, but we are still working on Into the Black projects in the Bone Yard Studio. We are using this downtime to really dial in some of our new elements we are installing this season.

We don't know when we are going to open, but we are going to open! We have built a great relationship with the team at Haven City Market, and they want to have us stay and create new experiences in the Into the Black footprint. You may have to wait until November to visit the House of the Devil, but I'm sure our fans will be there, whenever our doors open.

Hollywood Gothique: On Facebook I have seen references to contortionists and bands available for Halloween Night - is there a plan to put on a Halloween Night party instead of or in addition to the haunt?

Larry and Cheryl Bones: We are currently working on an outdoor 21+ Halloween Party to take place on Haven City Market's outdoor patio! We couldn't let Halloween pass us up without some form of Celebration! We are in the beginning phase of the event, but things are moving fast! We have found a band and are starting audio-video elements! It will be a limited engagement of only about 250 tickets available to ensure social distancing. Make sure to keep an eye out on our social media outlets, as we will be announcing information very soon, not only the Halloween night event, but Into the Black dates once we are able to open.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.

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