By Jonathan Baca, Staff Reporter
On a Saturday afternoon, a group of high school students were standing outside a North Valley nightclub, wearing all black and covered in blood and gearing up for a night of popping out from behind walls, doing their best to scare the wits out of people.
The House of Freakz and Beatz, a haunted house in Gravity Nightclub that was designed and built by the students of the Academy of Trades and Technology (ATT) charter high school, has a dual purpose, said Gravity owner, Andrew Cordova.
The brainchild of Cordova and ATT president Henry Lackey, the haunted house was a way to give the students real world experience in the trades they have learned, wh i l e giving them a real paycheck and creating a safe, all-ages place for young people to party during the Halloween season, Cordova said.
“Bringing them in here has been a blessing. They got to design and build it, and it stands for itself. It’s crazy to think that it was done by high school students, and I’m very proud of that,” Cordova said.
According to atths. com, ATT is a charter school geared toward students who have struggled with or even dropped out of other high schools. Students graduate with a diploma and experience in the trades of Construction Technology and Graphic Design.
After deciding to go ahead with the project, the students had blueprints ready a few days later, and after being paid to build it, nearly two thirds of the students stayed on as volunteer actors in the haunted house, Cordova said.
“The ones that have stuck around are the ones that are really, truly into it, and they’ve been great. It is great to see them have fun with the acting, scaring people,” said Kenneth Cornell, club promoter and one of the organizers of the event.
Cornell said he has had double duty as an actor himself, playing a bloody ax-wielding psycho, a guard in the house’s insane asylum room, and his personal favorite; wielding a real, working chain saw.
They had to remove the actual chain for safety, but Cornell said it isn’t any less terrifying.
“You hear that chain saw, and you can smell it, it’s right there in front of you and your brain doesn’t stop to think ‘is there a chain on that?’ You just freak out,” Cornell said.
The haunted house features ten scenes, including the Lonely Cabin, the Psych Ward, and The Graveyard, and at least a handful of zombies, Cornell said.
The sets were inspired by classic horror films like the Exorcist and the Omen, which Cornell said are some of his favorites.
Aside from the handmade sets and some lights and sound effects for atmosphere, the house relies mainly on the makeup, costumes, and skills of the actors for the big scares, said volunteer, Ashley Harris.
Harris said for her there is no better feeling than popping out and knowing she really made someone jump.
“It just gives you the jollies inside,” she said.
On Halloween night, in addition to the haunted house there will be a dance party and costume contest, with DJs, and go-go dancers, Cordova said.
Cash prizes will be given out to the scariest, funniest, and sexiest costumes, Cordova said.
On Friday and Saturday night after Halloween, there will be 16 and over dance party events, and on Nov. 1 Brazilian DJs Darth and Vader will be spinning house music at a Star Wars themed party, he said.
For Cordova, hosting events for the under 21 crowd is important, because when kids have nowhere to go, they will create their own events, where drugs and alcohol flow freely and people get hurt, he said.
“I believe that the kids should have a safe environment to come and party, with the right security policy and safe atmosphere. Instead of doing things out in the middle of a field in the West Mesa and overdosing, they’re in a controlled environment with supervision,” Cordova said.
Every night since the haunted house opened, ATT has had a booth outside, giving kids information about the school and letting them know that it is never too late to go back and get a diploma, Cordova said.
After running out of funds in the middle of renovations to the nightclub, Cordova said he spent $30,000 on the haunted house, hoping to raise some money to finish his club, and hopefully help some kids in the process.
“We’re really crossing our fingers that, one, we’ll get students to ‘drop back in’ to high school, and two, that we’ll at least get back some of our capital investment,” Cordova said.
For more information, check out houseoffreakzandbeatz.com, and for more information on the Academy of Trades and Technology, visit atths.com.