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Q&A with the masterminds behind Legends: A Haunting at Old Town

We got a chance to talk to co-creator Jim Shackelford and the haunt’s fictional undertaker, Archibald Ashdown



How long did it take you to actually construct the entire thing, from the moment you stepped on the scene?
JS: It was actually very quick for an attraction. We signed the lease at the end of February of this year and began work on it mid-to-late March. There’s a lot of new infrastructure work that you can’t see: The electrical has all been redone, there’s an all-new fire-suppression system. We gutted a lot of the space and started from scratch with the scenic, added all new special effects and animatronics. To us, it feels like we’ve been working on it for years because it’s been an intense project to work on. But everybody keeps telling me that nine months for Orlando is not a long time to turn a new attraction around.

AA: My turn! Will you be writing your own epitaph, or will we be writing one for you?

I’d really like to see what you guys come up with, so I think you could write one for me.
AA: So we’ll need a ghostwriter. Very good. Go on. Keep going.

What’s the biggest trial you’ve had setting all of this up?
JS: Honestly, it’s really been a work of passion, so it’s hard to think of one. I mean, lugging stuff up the stairs wasn’t very fun.
AA: I can tell you there have been incredibly long hours.
JS: Going home at 3 in the morning, and coming back at 10 a.m. and picking up where you left off.
AA: And many of us have families that we didn’t get to see very often in the process. Jim, this gentleman, was going back and forth from Dallas on a regular basis.
JS: I have so many flyer miles now.
AA: He wasn’t quite sure where his home was. But honestly, it’s a labor of love that you endure … or you die.
JS: That really is where the challenge has been, on a personal side. My mother calls me, and she’s like, “Why are you not calling?” I’m like, “You just don’t know the scope of what we’re doing.” So yeah, we’ve all sacrificed time with family and friends to make this happen.
AA: Are you allergic to any kind of flowers, or flower arrangements?

Umm …
AA: It doesn’t matter, you won’t be breathing anyway. Go on.

Where did you get the idea for a funeral home setting? Did you have any favorite movies or stories that contributed?
JS: This is going to sound kind of horrible, but I actually worked in a funeral home when I was finishing high school and starting college because it’s what I thought I originally wanted to do.
AA: Horrible.
JS: But death is pretty much a universal fear. People tend to be afraid of it. And something I observed working in the funeral home was how terrified people were to go in the room. While some were grieving and sad, others were just afraid. So it made me realize how strong a phobia exists with death and disease, and that sort of thing.
AA: Not only that, but all manner of phobias stem from that, too. This fear of ghosts and bodies coming back to life, just being alone with them and what could happen when you are. There are just so many terrifying ideas that come from death that it naturally lends itself to this type of thing.
JS: For a year-round show, we needed to find a theme that would be able to carry itself throughout the year. We’ve already had discussions that in three to five years, you may come back and it will be an asylum or something completely different. But we’re gonna let it run, let it be a playground, play with new ideas, and see how things progress as we move forward with it. It will be evolving. This is not a static project whatsoever, so when people come back, they should see some new things and ideas we’re toying with.
AA: New torches, ways of incapacitating people, body disposal.
JS: Hopefully the fire marshal doesn’t hear this.

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