Mesa's newest haunt has plans that eclipse Halloween thrills - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa's newest haunt has plans that eclipse Halloween thrills

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Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 4:30 pm | Updated: 2:36 pm, Fri Oct 14, 2011.

To give people a sample of what to expect inside their new downtown Mesa business, its owners decided for just one night to perch a massive, animatronic angel of death at the front door.

It didn’t take long before the phone started to ring at Monsterland.

Neighbors weren’t sure what it was, but they wanted a peek in the still-unfinished place.

A teenage girl from Tucson asked when she could buy a ticket.

And couples asked about getting inside for wedding photos.

The angel of death is just the start of what’s inside Monsterland.

During Halloween, it’s a high-tech haunted attraction where visitors travel through elaborate sets. Computer-generated imagery can project ghosts in the cavernous space and actors lurk about while dressed in the kind of costumes and face masks used in Hollywood movies.

The rest of the year, Monsterland is a museum of science fiction and horror props, costumes and animatronics that were featured in movies.

Co-owner Breanna Wynn said she and her boyfriend are starting the ghoulish business based on trips to permanent haunted attractions that have been around for years in other states.

“We got really inspired by haunted houses that we’ve seen,” Wynn said. “They have had the time to layer and layer. Back east, all of their haunted houses look like Universal Studios sets. There’s props and eye candy all over the place.”

Monsterland is scheduled to open Oct. 7 at 18 W. Main St. The mostly-completed 15,000-square-foot space is full of creepy skeletons, skulls and monsters. The owners have invested more than $500,000 on the collection and interior design.

The attraction has more than 50 animatronics, marketing director Kristy Smith said. She estimates that’s more than all the haunted houses in the Valley combined.

The dungeon-inspired motif includes plenty of spaces for actors to hide and freak out people during tours, Smith said. Despite the horror theme, Monsterland doesn’t feature much blood.

“We’re more about creepy than gory,” Smith said.

Monsterland will close after Halloween and reopen in early 2012 with the museum in place. Some exhibits include an impaled Spartan from the movie “300,” fish heads from “Piranha 3DD” and the starring creature from “An American Werewolf in London.” Some items date to the 1920s.

Wynn’s boyfriend and co-owner Kyle Thompson has collected the props for about 20 years. The Mesa couple also makes the same kind of items through their other business, Midnight Studios. That company sells products to other haunted houses and occasionally to movie studios.

Monsterland’s haunted house is trying to capitalize on what the National Retail Federation estimates is a $5.8 billion holiday. Wynn said the demand is year-round, as some private collectors are always looking for the next movie prop or all things creepy. And while Halloween is most appreciated in the U.S., Wynn said she’s sold items to customers as far away as Poland, Singapore and Germany. Some items will be on sale in a gift shop.

Monsterland is the newest of several pop-culture businesses to open in a district once known more for antique stores. The change has been organic, said David Short, executive director of the Downtown Mesa Association. He expects it to draw visitors from across the state and perhaps beyond because there’s nothing like it in Arizona.

“When you go in there, it’s not a rinky-dink operation by any means,” Short said. “It’s high-tech, high-quality stuff that you’d see in Hollywood sets. It’s definitely first-class quality.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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