Lethal or lackluster? A look at Crawford Haunted House 2019

Two Hustler reporters check out the infamous Crawford Haunted House, a yearly student-led production that celebrates Halloween on Commons.

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Lethal or lackluster? A look at Crawford Haunted House 2019

A student volunteer dresses up as one of the many horrifying actors working at the Crawford Haunted House (Photo by Shun Ahmed).

A student volunteer dresses up as one of the many horrifying actors working at the Crawford Haunted House (Photo by Shun Ahmed).

A student volunteer dresses up as one of the many horrifying actors working at the Crawford Haunted House (Photo by Shun Ahmed).

A student volunteer dresses up as one of the many horrifying actors working at the Crawford Haunted House (Photo by Shun Ahmed).

Andy Carr and Jake Gordon

Every year, Crawford House on Commons kicks off Halloween weekend with its very own haunted house event. With the help of the RAs, the production is run by the facility’s residents who are delegated to one of three categories: set up, clean up or participating in the event as an actor. House staffers send up roughly 10-15 people at a time in the elevator to the sixth floor, where the haunting officially begins. This year, we decided to check out the famous Commons event for ourselves, and the dedicated staff set the scene from the very start — while waiting in line.  While first-years patiently awaited the elevator, one of the many actors loomed around the lobby dressed as a zombie witch, totally decked out in makeup and in a mask. It properly set the tone of the event, and while it wasn’t particularly scary, it was a solid effort by this student-run production.

Each floor has its own individual theme which varies from year to year. On our way up to the sixth floor, our “tour guide” through the hotel explained that we were on a campus tour through Vanderbilt, and Crawford was a model dorm for Vanderbilt’s “first year experience.” The sixth floor didn’t actually have anything outside of setting the mood for the rest of the tour– the lights were off and the door was shut. We walked down the stairs to the fifth floor, which truly started the event, and our guide somewhat abruptly informed us that the apocalypse had started and the end of the world was approaching on floor 5.

Some of the first-years that worked hard to make this year’s haunted house a success (Photo by Shun Ahmed).

This floor was probably my least favorite. It was appropriately frightening, but the flashing lights frankly hurt my eyes after a while. The acting itself on the floor was pretty good; the student actors followed us from behind as we wandered throughout the hall, letting out some eerie laughs. There was also a staff member imitating the Joker, repeatedly saying, “Why so serious?!” 

The journey continued onto the fourth floor: the medical wing. There were a ton of staff members here, all dressed as nurses and doctors with butcher knives. While not necessarily scary, it still had an eerie air as I find hospitals in themselves terrifying. There were multiple attempts at jump scares by the actors, but none of them were particularly frightening. 

The theme of the third floor was a graveyard, where actors loomed the halls impersonating the undead. Many students wore ripped clothing with blood stains and crawled around the floor, grabbing at visitors’ feet. While it was certainly a dramatic scene, the highlight of the night came in the basement of the Crawford house.

The basement was based on a survival camp. Us “tourists” spent a good amount of time waiting to enter before an actor came to the door to “lead us to safety.” The entire basement was pitch black, the walls were covered with tarps and the occasional actor would run by cackling. We were led into one of Crawford’s study rooms where our group leader informed us that we were finally safe, and we were all given a second to catch our breath. Then, in one of the best jump scares of the night, a group of actors covered in fake blood jumped out from behind the tarps, holding large knives. We “lost” the leader of our group to these actors, as he chose to sacrifice himself, concluding our tour of the Crawford house. 

We safely exited the building through the side entrance near Gillette house. Overall, Crawford’s student-run operation did not disappoint. We didn’t expect it to be quite as scary as for-profit haunted houses around Nashville, such the popular Devil’s Dungeon venue, but it did a good job of delivering that eerie vibe everyone craves on Halloween.

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