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At City Tech, Gravesend Inn's haunted hotel is on the syllabus

Students at the Brooklyn school have operated the Halloween fright fest for 20 years.

The Gravesend Inn haunted hotel at the Voorhees

The Gravesend Inn haunted hotel at the Voorhees Theatre in Brooklyn is intended to be spooky, but still family-friendly. Photo Credit: Tod Seelie

This college class is so creepy cool, it’s scary.

Students at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn have designed, built and operated the Gravesend Inn, a haunted hotel, for two decades.

Each Halloween season brings a fresh fright. For the annual attraction’s big 2-O, it’s an animatronic Native American character, Oshkilonli, whose conflict with desecrating land-grabbers is revealed to be at the core of why the inn is cursed and condemned.

“Leave. Now... Go quickly,” she demands of anyone who enters her turf. “Save yourselves.”

AM New York got a sneak peek at the new attraction as finishing touches were being made in advance of opening night on Oct. 19.

“The curse seeps up into the experiences of all the people who stay at the hotel,” said Sue Brandt, professor of production management and general manager of Theatreworks, the resident production company.

Spooky stuff. And educational.

“She’s really fun. She’s an amazing animatronic,” said Brandt, of the new attraction that features 26 moving parts.

“The students will be learning to program her. She’s part of the curriculum,” Brandt said.

So it goes for 96 students enrolled in ENT 3320, or Technical Production, which is part of City Tech’s Entertainment Technology Department.

The degree program prepares students for careers behind the scenes in theater, concerts, theme parks, museums, special events and beyond.

The training is for “young aspiring students” and “seasoned industry veterans” looking to update their technical skills, according to notes in the Gravesend Inn program.

The haunted house is built to send shivers but still is family-friendly. (It’s for kids ages 10 and older.)  

“No one touches you, grabs you, or chases you,” said Brandt, 54.

But you can still get a chill as you go room-to-room and find yourself with talking paintings, photographs with changing faces, upside-down chambers (Tipsy’s Parlor, so it’s called), a dead bride, and a life-size prop who lives up to the name Boris B. Gruesome.

While much of the inn is automated, 20 students are needed to run it day-to-day.

For 22-year-old junior Daniel Santamaria, who ushered in 2017, the coolest experience this season was setting hidden motion sensors that audiences trigger by their movements.

“I had a lot more responsibility this year,” he told am New York.  

There’s plenty of responsibilities and duties to go around as sets are assembled and effects are created with sophisticated sound, video, lighting and other technical systems.

Some students get in on the act and perform as ghouls and zombies, who guide visitors through the hotel.

“For students,” said Brandt, “it’s a unique chance to work on a live production.”

If you go: Gravesend Inn, Voorhees Theatre, 186 Jay St., Brooklyn. Oct. 19-31, various showtimes; gravesendinn.org; $5 for students, $10 general admission.

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