Long-time Theme Park Adventure fans will no doubt recall our love of a home haunter by the name of Sam Kellman. Not only is Sam extremely focused and motivated, incredibly driven, professional, highly creative, very articulate, and a perfectionist to the very last detail when it comes to creating haunted attractions – he won’t be graduating high school until 2020. He’s a teen haunter with just as much passion and operational sense as anyone we’ve ever met in this industry, and Sam’s just getting started! Actually, that’s not entirely true… Sam has been producing haunts for years; since 2011, to be exact. In short, Sam started doing this at an unusually young age – and he’s absolutely grabbed our attention.
TPA first visited Opechee Haunt in Glendale, California, was in 2014; click here to check out that review. Back then, we didn’t know what to expect – except a small home haunt put on by a group of youngsters that were all about 12 years-old. We were blown away by the enthusiasm and professional gusto that Sam and his team created and executed their haunt with. Very quickly, it was apparent to us that Sam was no ordinary Halloween fan – he has haunt in his blood and showmanship on his brain in such a way that there’s no question he is bound to do extraordinary things in this industry in the years to come.
In 2015, Sam and his team moved away from their traditional home haunt venue and tried their hand as a semi-pro haunt that was part of a Halloween festival that took place at a local community center. The Dollhouse of Death, like Sam’s previous endeavors, was mostly created and staffed by he and his peers; while there was some adult assistance, 95% of the show was made up of young teens. Normally, this wouldn’t be our kind of thing, as we’re not huge fans of kids or teens in haunted attractions. That said, knowing who was behind it and enjoying watching this team go for it simply made us grin like a bunch of Jack-o’-lanterns. It’s apparent that the Dollhouse of Death was on a very limited budget. It’s also apparent to outsiders that the haunt’s team is extremely young. That said, it should also be noted that the creativity and maturity behind this particular haunted house are extraordinary. Sam is keenly aware of the importance of story, as well as lighting, special effects, audio design and of course, talent throughout his mazes. Forget the age of the actors. Forgive the lack of highly-detailed set design. Instead, take note of the underlying excellence – flow of the attraction, variance in scenes while maintaining common themes, the use of music to perpetuate the feel/flavor of the maze, and the one thing you don’t see in our video… Sam not being able to do an on-screen interview with us because he had to tend to an issue that was impacting his haunt’s operation; yet again, an incredible example of how professional and dedicated he is to his craft, through and through.
We’ve seen a lot of haunters come and go in the past 20+ years that Theme Park Adventure has existed. After meeting Sam, it was apparent to me that he’s uniquely focused and talented for someone his age when it comes to creating haunted attractions. Each season, we watch as his skillset improves and he continues to surprise and deliver fun chills and thrills – but much more than that. I truly believe we are witnessing the evolution of a guy that is going to be one of the greatest haunters we’ve ever had here in Southern California. Give Sam a few more years, bigger budgets and polished venues – and the sky’s going to be the limit. I have no doubt. Folks that know me, know that I’m a gambling man. In this case, I’m all in on Sam and his Opechee Haunt endeavors for years to come.
TPA looks forward to many more Halloween adventures with Sam and his team, wherever his journey takes them!
- Rick West