Last year I shared withyou my favorite haunted house in Nashville. This year, I wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make Monster Mountain happen. If you are like me and love to be scared out of your mind (but in a fictional, fun way of course) - you HAVE got to check this place out.
I've been a fan of Halloween and horror movies my entire life.. have spent years trying out different Halloween attractions in various cities throughout the US, and Monster Mountain has consistently remained on of my absolute favorites. Let's just sum it up by saying it is definitely not for the faint of heart.. and ya'll. It is one of the scariest, most intense haunted houses I've ever experienced.
SO. All that said, it was so interesting and fun for me to chat with Monster Mountain's Creative Director, Jason Kittrell, and get a look behind the scenes/hear what it takes to put on this massive production every year.
EN: Can you give me a little background on yourself? How did you end up getting into this role?
Jason: I grew up in a small town about 50 miles east of Nashville. I always remember Halloween being my favorite holiday because I got to dress up and play someone else. I would hide in the bushes around my parent’s house and try to scare people who came trick or treating. As I got older, I started dabbling with magic tricks and coming up with props to help wow and awe my friends. About 7 years ago, I moved to Hendersonville. I had always wanted to work for a haunt, and went to an open casting call for Monster Mountain. I came up and kinda stuck out due to my age. Most people are in their early 20’s and here I am right at 30. For a few years, I was an actor there. I would show up late and do my own makeup and apply my own prosthetics. I impressed the owners enough that they asked me to start helping out with the build team in coming up with ideas for the haunt.
This year, we got to a delayed start on the build due to some regulation that had to be addressed so the doors could open. Then we had a change in our build team, as the team that had been there for most of my career was moving on to their own ventures. So I was asked to take a bigger role and given the title of Manager of Creative Development. So this is my first 6 months in the role.
EN: Can you give us some info on this year’s theme at Monster Mountain?
Jason: Last year, Monster Mountain brought you Splatterhaus Studios. This year, we have cut out the middle man. Monster Mountain Horror Studios asks our guests to be extras in our macabre movie sets. We present over 20 scenes of horror. Journey into the Wilhoite family cabin and see what happens when you open the gates to hell. Avoid becoming a human sacrifice in Voodoo Bayou. Find out what it means to be on the “naughty list” in Krampus: Home for the Holidays. And avoid the walking dead in Zombie City 2: World of the Dead. These are just a few of the scenes awaiting you this year, because here at Monster Mountain Horror Studios, We know fear.
EN: How do you all come up with the theme?
Jason: We have a talented staff here. We draw from movies, comic books, tv shows, and pop culture to come up with the storylines each year. With the horror studio idea, we wanted to be able to present many separate scenes that normally would not go together. I mean, most haunts have one theme and it lasts from beginning to end. We do too, but the horror studio allows you to go from the land of Oz and then be in a nasty sewer scene, then find you way into a city full of zombies.
EN: When does the work begin to get the house ready for your opening day, and what is involved?
Jason: Work for Monster Mountain begins actually in November right after the doors close for the previous season. We start with removing the set pieces and scenes that either are not going to be reused or need to be stored for the off season. We also start planning the route and order of the scenes we want to bring for the next year. This year, we spent much of the early months trying to improve the guest experience by adding new features such as a paved trail.
Work for a haunt like Monster Mountain requires a lot of work and we have one of the best build teams in the business. Even after the doors open for the season, we are constantly looking for ways to add to the experience and give the best show around.
EN: What’s the average number of folks who come through in a night?
Jason: While I cannot speak on the actual numbers, I can say that in a season most haunted attractions see about 6000-8000 patrons yearly. In September, we see smaller lines and wait times for guests. In mid-October we have had lines that were up to 3 hours to get in.
EN: How long have you guys been in business.. And how did it all begin?
Jason: Monster Mountain opened in the late 90’s . The owners, Mike and Jan McMurtry, have been working the haunt industry for years before and decided to try their hand at it. They had a large property of land and decided to start their haunt here. Ever since, Monster Mountain has evolved. In the early years, the haunt did a lot a basic makeup techniques that, while scary, were not up to the quality people have come to expect from attractions. The owners took it upon themselves to become top notch special fx makeup artists and started moving out movie quality makeup effects. As time has gone on, Monster Mountain has kept up with the times by providing fresh and new content every year.
EN: What’s your favorite scene in this year’s house?
Jason: All the scenes are great. But I have a tie for two favorites. My first favorite is Cabin of the Dead, which is the 3rd scene in the haunt this year. Our build team completely changed our old barn set into an amazing looking cabin that looks very much like what you would see from a Hollywood set.
My second favorite is Zombie City. When I am not working on projects at Monster Mountain, I also run a fan site for the AMC show The Walking Dead called WalkingTheWalkingDead.Com. Zombies have a very special place in my heart so when we started planning this year, I thought it would be great to turn Zombie City into an actual city, rather than just one area. We now encompass 6 different scenes that tell the story of the post-apocalyptic town of New Hope. Last year, we even made a short film for the town, which you can find more info at our IMDB site http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2820032/
EN: What’s your favorite scary movie?
Jason: I have to say my favorite scary movie has to be The Exorcist. That movie still gives me chills when I watch it.
EN: Anything else you’d like to add?
Jason: I would like to extend a personal invitation to anyone to come see Monster Mountain Haunted Attraction this year. Also, head over to our Facebook page athttps://www.facebook.com/MonsterMountainHaunt?ref=hl and LIKE us. We will be giving away prizes all season long and will be posting photos and other updates. Keep up with us during the off season too, as you never know what we will be cooking up for our guests for the coming year. The horror fans are the reason we do this and we always want to hear what they want.
Thanks to Jason for taking the time to answer some of our questions—it was definitely interesting to get an insider perspective on what goes into planning and executing such a unique event! Monster Mountain is open every weekend from now until the weekend after Halloween.
Have you made it out to Monster Mountain? Let me know what you think!
273 McMurtry Road
Hendersonville, TN 37075