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Students prepare to scare: Holland haunts with 8 spooky themes

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Video by UPTV

Video by UPTV

Video by UPTV

By Anna Bongardino | Contributing Editor

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Students covered in blood shrieked cries for help in the tunnels beneath the Schenley Quad residence halls Sunday night.

Other students filed through the tunnels, anxiously clutching each other’s hands and screaming in fear as they awaited lurking figures around each corner.

About 800 students gathered in the Schenley Quad Sunday night for Haunted Holland and Nightmare in the Quad, according to Ashlan Hudson, the resident director for Bruce, Brackenridge and McCormick halls. The student-produced haunted house is staged in the series of tunnels which lie beneath the four Schenley Quad residence halls. Its path begins at the Holland North entrance, winds through Amos and McCormick and ends in Bruce Hall.

Justin Vallorani, the resident director for Holland, described Haunted Holland — which has been an annual tradition for more than 13 years — as Holland’s signature program and one of the most stable residence hall programs.  

Holland residents scare students during “Haunted Holland” in the tunnels beneath Schenley Quad Sunday night. (Photo by Anna Bongardino | Assistant Visual Editor)

“Each year we add to it,” Vallorani said. “Every new group that comes in — RAs, Hall Council — they are the ones brainstorming ideas, so we do kind of make it fresh and new each year.”

Nine Hall Council members — residents of Holland Hall who plan building programs — joined up with 19 RAs to plan the event this year. The haunted house has developed a variety of themes in recent years, often based on TV and horror films, such as “Saw,” “American Horror Story” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” But the organizers decided to change it up this year — they split the tunnels into eight sections, each with a different theme.

Senior pharmacy major Sejla Jukic was a resident in Holland during her first year at Pitt and has been an RA in the building for three years. When she was a resident three years ago, Jukic helped with setup and recruited actors from acting classes as part of her duties as a floor representative. Jukic was in charge of setup, makeup and planning scripts for the house’s zombie section this year.

Twenty Holland residents volunteered to act in the building’s Halloween program, “Haunted Holland,” Sunday night. (Photo by Anna Bongardino | Assistant Visual Editor)

The eight themes this year — which included funhouse, graveyard, zombies, exterminator, supernatural, murder house, torture chamber and haunted hospital — were all decorated differently

“It’s hard to stick with one theme because the tunnel is very large,” Jukic said before Sunday’s haunting. “I’ve never seen it go this well and I’m really excited.”

Vallorani, in his first year as Holland’s RD, estimates the cost for this year’s production was between $800 and $1,000. He said the group tried to use the budget allotted by the Office of Residence Life sparingly. Vallorani and the team of RAs and Hall Council members were able to save money by reusing props and decorations from previous years.

Both RAs in Holland Hall, Junior Madyson Williams does Sophomore Jack Holmes’ makeup before Haunted Holland begins. (Photo by Anna Bongardino | Assistant Visual Editor)

“The remainder [of the money] went to get the things the RAs wanted. Anything they wanted to make it special or fun for their section. Like a helium tank with balloons — Liv wanted that for her clown section,” Vallorani said of one of the RAs.

Beginning in September, Vallorani met with returning RAs and Hall Council members for two hours every week to begin planning this year’s Halloween festivities. As the date approached, 20 Holland residents signed up to act, and 11 other Holland residents signed up to prepare the tunnels for the haunted house.

After attending a 90-minute training session which addressed ground rules and details surrounding set-up, the volunteers spent three hours Saturday morning and four hours on Sunday using the supplies the RAs had accumulated to decorate the tunnels beneath the Quad.

“I really enjoyed working with the RAs and Hall Council members and seeing their creativity. They went above and beyond my expectations,” Vallorani said. “They’re very busy this month with RA responsibilities, so the fact they could put that energy and that effort into making this happen — I’m very proud.”

But not all volunteers spent months planning for the event. First-year Riley McGrath, a computer science major, volunteered to act the week prior to the event. She learned of her part — a scary doll in the tunnels’ murder house section — earlier that day.

“I was happy I had a part that required some makeup. It didn’t take a lot to make it look really cool,” McGrath said. “I really like Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, so it seemed like a cool thing to do.”

Some students, such as junior environmental science major Jessica Brumbach, came to the event because they knew people who were involved, and were pleasantly surprised by their fellow students’ work.

“I was expecting it to be a walkthrough with decorations and stuff, but it scared the crap out of me and my friends,” Brumbach said. “I was really glad they couldn’t touch us. That would have made everything ten times worse.”

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Students prepare to scare: Holland haunts with 8 spooky themes