A group of friends heads into the woods for a camping trip, only to find themselves terrorized by chainsaw-wielding monsters that cut through tents, kidnap their prey and lock them in coffins or throw them in the back of beat-up vans for their amusement.
Sounds like something out of a horror movie, right?
Well, life will imitate art – at least this weekend – in a new pop-up overnight adult summer camp out.
Fright Nights Camp Out is the creepy brainchild of Greg Walker and his wife, who own a haunted attraction company. After kicking off the event last summer, it already has drawn interest in many communities, including the Columbia area.
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“We’re very pleased to be bringing a unique concept that we fill is sweeping the country with people who are horror enthusiasts to South Carolina,” said Walker.
The concept is quite simple: when you arrive at the camp site you will check-in and be assigned a tent.
And then the games begin.
“We take it in steps,” said Walker. “We take people through a series of different games and activities and each hour it gets a little more intense, a little more immersive, all the way up to what we call ‘tent terrors,’ and that’s when we’re actually slicing tents open and pulling people out. We’ve been known to shove them in coffins that are tied to the back of trucks that take off and drag them. It gets pretty wild at that point.
“But we’re a very safety-conscious company and with something like this you have to be,” continued Walker. “Our Go Team always has a sealed package that has all the information for local hospitals and medical beyond 9-1-1 because a few of the places we go to are very remote. We’ll even call the closest fire department just to let them know we’re in the area and doing something very strange so they’re aware that if they get a phone call in the middle of the night they’ll understand a little more about what we’re doing.”
Walker’s inventory of more than 180 costumes and monsters helps him keep the monster roster fresh, but there are a few standout characters who are a cut above the rest.
“One of the characters that’s getting a lot of attention is ‘Schizo the Clown’,” said Walker. “He’s got split personalities, so one minute he’ll be your best friend and the next he’ll try to slice your neck open. And that’s what makes him such an interesting guy.”
Walker is admittedly not a horror-genre buff, but he’s surrounded himself with a team who is.
“Nothing really scares me,” said Walker. “When I got into this business, I learned I had to keep my imagination clear and free and open and fluid, and I can’t do that if I replicate what I see in movies. But I have an outstanding team of directors that helps with a lot of the creative. So when I come up with a concept, often times it’s up to them to make it feasible and doable. ... I’m more of the architect and those are the builders and creators of what we do.”
And though you can be assured that the night will be littered with terrifying experiences, if it gets a little too surreal for you, you can always evoke the safe phrase: “I’m a big pansy.”
“A lot of campers expect that they’re going to be scared miserably from the time they arrive till they leave, and that’s not really the case,” said Walker. “With Camp Out, we want people to have fun. Campers get the routine after one or two games that as it gets darker, the games get scarier. We start separating people out. Some of them even get kidnapped.
“We provide the pansy zone as a place where you can always go and just take a break,” Walker said. “If the action gets to be too much it’s a safe place. There may be monsters there but they’re different: they just want to play cards with you or make arts and crafts or just want to sit and watch a movie. ... And some people end up sitting in the pansy zone and just watching the horror and they think it’s great. It’s like the best television set in the world.”
THE VIBE: “The cool thing about Camp Oout is that it’s always evolving,” Walker said. “After each tour I sit down with my team and we evaluate everything. We’re always trying to do different things and experiment with the program to make it better. We will never get too comfortable with the program. We’re always going to be changing it up. We have to keep things interesting. We want repeat customers and they’re not going to want the same program, so we’re constantly evaluating and evolving.”
THE VERDICT: This for sure fulfills a fantasy for anyone who has ever yelled at a character in a horror movie and thought to themselves that they could survive much better. But in this case, if the fantasy turns into a real nightmare, you can always scream out the safe phrase – emphasis on the scream.
Fright Nights Camp Out
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, June 24 through 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 25
WHERE: Goodale State Park, 650 Park Road, Camden
COST: Chicken Leg Tent, $65 per person, four-person tent; Blood Tent, $75 per person, four-person tent; and Guts Tent, $85 per person, two-person tent