Meet Robbie and Heather Luther. They’re the typical couple from Orange County, California. Well-educated, a beautiful family, financially comfortable, extremely motivated with multiple businesses that they own, and hell-bent on crushing souls this Halloween season and making adults scream for mercy.
The Luthers are the newest members of the Southern California haunt community, and admittedly, are quite the enigma thus far. They don’t fit the typical mold of what a “haunter” is; they didn’t grow up working or building haunted houses with friends, they’re not necessarily huge fans of the horror genre, and while they’ve attended major haunts such as Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood over the years (a few times as casual guests), they’ve never become involved in the haunted attraction community and are, by design, fairly oblivious to how it all works here and elsewhere around the country.
For a few years, Robbie thought it would be fun to create a haunted house, combining his skills and know-how learned from other businesses he has his hands in – including fabrication, sound design, and architecture. Basically, Robbie comes to the table with an incredible knowledge base perfect for designing haunted attractions. The idea of creating a haunt however, has always taken a back seat to “real” projects; it’s always been the “nice to have” thought lurking in the back of his mind. Recently, his wife, Heather, said that she wanted to start up a new project, and when they began brainstorming what their next venture would be – bingo! The 17th Door finally had a green light!
The Luthers traveled to TransWorld’s Halloween & Attractions show in St. Louis this year to dive into the haunt world head-first; after a bit of research, they felt that it would be the best stepping off point for them, and so they went for it not knowing anything or anyone there. While in St. Louis, they took in everything they could – met with vendors, looked at props, got ideas, and visited local haunts that were open for the event. They returned to California with heaps of inspiration, ideas for miles, and the determination to make The 17th Door as terrifying and polished as possible.
Here’s where the story gets tricky, and here is where you are going to have to go with us on faith. You see, the Luthers are very protective of their haunted house, and very few details have been leaked to the public. In other words, there aren’t going to be any spoilers here – and you simply have to trust us when we say how impressed we are by this team’s vision.
Robbie and Heather own a huge warehouse in Santa Ana, where the haunt has been fabricated one room at a time, from props to high-level detailing. In one corner of the warehouse, one can find mocked-up scenes, and in the other are tools for welding, cutting, painting – you name it. Stacks of flats are ready for transport to their rented space at the Tustin Marketplace, just about 10 minutes south of Disneyland. Once installed, The 17th Door will be a massive 5,000+ square-foot haunt that takes terror to the extreme – and is going to do nothing short of astound fans.
As professionals that work in the themed entertainment industry, Johanna and I are honestly blown away by the amount of effort, money and resources the Luthers are pouring into this first-year haunt. The level of planning and detail rivals anything we have seen here in Southern California, and we’re deeming 17th Door the one to watch for Halloween 2015. That’s something that we wouldn’t toss around lightly – but in the couple hours that we spent with Robbie and Heather, we are comfortable saying that they’re going to bring it, and bring it hard. You’re going to freak when you see this attraction, plain and simple.
One of the biggest points of discussion we had was the story and theme of The 17th Door. Robbie preaches about the worth of back story and immersive experience just as well as anyone I work with in the themed entertainment business does. He gets it, and is absolutely laser-focused on creating a unique and disturbing story for his guests to follow, terrifying them throughout their 17-room, 30+ minute journey!
That’s a big-ass haunt, kids. I’m telling you – this team isn’t messing around.
What I really love about Robbie and Heather, is that they are having a blast putting this haunt together. They’re obviously stressed and have a lot of work on their plates to make The 17th Door the success we know it’ll be. They have an amazing sense of humor, and a dark streak a mile long – they are absolutely planning on scaring the living hell out of everyone and they’re not pulling any punches. Robbie’s not afraid of offending people; it comes with the territory. Frankly, if people come out of the experience truly shaken up and rattled to the core, that means he and Heather have done their jobs. This is not going to be a family-friendly haunt. The 17th Door is pulling no punches, and the Luthers strongly encourage parents to use extreme discretion. No infants or toddlers will be allowed, and the haunt is not recommended for anyone under the age of 13; 16 years and up is the preferred target audience, as there will be very intense visuals throughout the experience.
In the weeks and months to come, more will be revealed about The 17th Door and its many secrets. We look forward to paying another visit before the Halloween season begins for yet another sneak preview, and we’ll bring you all along with another article here on TPA as well as perhaps a live Periscope broadcast from deep within the haunted house!
This is going to be a great Halloween, kids! Orange County won’t even know what’s hit them!
– Rick West