If you haven't yet had an opportunity to rendezvous with the undead or be emotionally threatened by a creepy clown, there's still time this Halloween season. House of Torment, Austin's iconic scare factory, is open nightly through Nov. 2.
"My goal is to just be as scary as I can be," said Tayci Miller, 19, who plays a "fast, twitchy, go-for-it zombie" at the scream-inducing haunted house. "When people cry, I feel really bad, but it's part of the job, When they do cry, I tend to stay in character and still go for it, but I back off a little bit, especially if it's a kid."
Makeup for the actors typically takes 10 to 30 minutes nightly. As a zombie, Miller wears makeup that makes her skin look "weird, rotteny and kind of gross looking" and sometimes sports whiteout contacts that add to her scare factor.
"I've always been a huge horror fan. I can't really watch a movie if it's not scary; I get so bored," said Miller, who visited House of Torment as a kid and has been a cast member for the past four years. "I love being able to get into character and scare people. I didn't actually think it would be that fun until I did it."
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House of Torment includes three haunted houses and a mini escape room as well as shopping, food and adult beverages. Anna Beth Trussell, House of Torment general manager, said the attraction doesn't have age restrictions but is considered PG-13. It’s open nightly through Nov. 2. It will also be open for a Blackout weekend — think haunted house, but total darkness — Nov. 8 and 9.
"This is an evening destination," she said. "It's not just a pass-through on the way to your party. We like to think we are the party. The three houses are completely immersive. We really want to take our customers to a different place and invite them into our story. We look forward to scaring everybody soon."
— Kristin Finan
Haunt the streets of East Austin with an interdimensional undead orchestra
On Halloween night, you can roam the streets of East Austin with a friendly cadre of musical cadavers as the Dead Music Capital marching band hits the streets of East Austin for the annual Krewe DCM Halloween parade. Musicians will gather at 7 p.m. at Pan Am Park, and the parade will roll out at 8 p.m. Neighborhood ghouls and goblins large and small are invited to join in the procession as it winds along the city sidewalks spreading mysterious merriment with dark carnival tunes written to suit the season.
It’s the 13th year for the parade led by Austin artist Chris McMillan. McMillan developed a love of ceremonial street processions in New Orleans, where his brother spent several years as a lieutenant in charge of one of the floats for the Krewe of Morpheus, one of the big super crews that parades during Mardi Gras. When his brother left the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, McMillan felt like he’d lost a creative outlet.
"I’ve lived in Austin for over two decades and had always wanted to kind of bring some NOLA-style parading culture to Austin," he said in late October. "You can’t really do Mardi Gras here, but Halloween is huge, and I’ve always loved Halloween. Everybody loves Halloween."
The theme for the first year’s event was a monster invasion.
"We had the four different divisions of the monster armed forces and paraded around sidewalks through downtown and up through Sixth Street," he said.
Over the years the event has evolved, moving from Downtown to the eastside, which McMillan says is a better fit for the small neighborhood parade. It also became more musically robust.
Originally, his spooky crew marched to beats from a skeleton drum line, but for the fifth year he wanted to expand the musical element, so he began recruiting horn players and writing music — haunted circus tunes infused with NOLA brass fanfare. The Dead Music Capital Band, now Austin’s premier crew of marching zombies, lumbered forth from the mayhem.
The theme for this year’s event is Dimension 13 Into the Void. According to Krewe DCM mythology, the Dead Music Capital Band was originally part of the Circus of the Seven Dawns, an intergalactic carnival that travels between dimensions. McMillan says the crew is using a piece of circus technology he calls the transdimensional portal projector "to send the parade out beyond the stars into the unknown."
With the space motif and the unlucky anniversary, McMillan says his crew always planned to work up some songs in tribute to Austin’s great psych-rock pioneer Roky Erickson as part of the celebration. When the local icon died in May, he said, it felt "especially appropriate" to honor his legacy.
"13th Floor Elevator costumes and references are absolutely recommended," he said. "The all-seeing eyes should be out there on the route as far as the all-seeing eyes can see."
— Deborah Sengupta Stith
Last-minute Halloween haunts for kids
If you haven’t yet done the pumpkin patches this season, check out these three that are open between now and Halloween:
Sweet Berry Farm. Hayrides, corn mazes, pick your own pumpkins and more. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Plus, the farm continues to be open through every day through Nov. 10. Pay per activity. 1801 FM 1980, Marble Falls. sweetberryfarm.com
Sweet Eats Fruit Farm. Fall Fest at the Farm. Corn maze, pig races, pony rides, a petting zoo, plus a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Plus they’ll be open 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $16 a person. Kids younger than 2 free. Sweet Eats Fruit Farm, 14400 E. Texas 29, Georgetown.
Elgin Christmas Tree Farm Fall Fun. Mazes, animals, pumpkin decorating, train ride, hayride and more. $8 admission. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Elgin Christmas Tree Farm, 120 Natures Way, Elgin. elginchristmastreefarm.com
— Nicole Villalpando