All Hallows’ Haunts had the pleasure of chatting with Abel Horwitz (@abelhorwitz, http://abelhorwitz.tumblr.com/), Los Angeles Haunt enthusiast, performer, writer, and creator of one of the newest events hitting the dating scene in Los Angeles- Serial Killer Speed Dating (@skspeeddating, http://www.serialkillerspeeddating.com) . With the Valentine’s Day edition of Serial Killer Speed Dating coming up, Abel took some time to share with us some of his thoughts on the Haunt Community, haunts and the creation of Serial Killer Speed Dating.
All Hallows’ Haunts: Abel, Thank you for taking some time with us.
Abel Horwitz: You’re welcome.
AHH: You describe yourself online as a haunt enthusiast. How would you describe someone who is a haunt enthusiast and where did your love of haunts get started?
Abel: In high school I acted in the local mall’s haunted house. I really loved it. I dressed in a doctor’s coat and shoved a drill in my friend’s mouth as he screamed. We both lost our voices. I felt like a badass.
I didn’t think much of it, though. It was a pretty crappy haunt. It had no story. It was just a thing. It didn’t make that deep of an impression on me.
After college I learned of a Halloween haunt in town (I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico) that was taking place in someone’s house. I went with my sister and it felt like we were brought into a world. Real actors, real scenes being played out in front of us. It was incredible. I loved it and begged to go through it a second time just to see what I’d missed.
The same acting troupe did a Valentine’s Day one as well, making their haunt into a perversion of the horrors of love. Actually, now that I think about it…that haunt probably was in the back of my mind when I thought that I could do a “Serial Killer Speed Dating” event and tie it to Valentine’s Day.
But this wasn’t a direction I was going in, not at first. I had fun going through these things (or, honestly, I had a lot of anxiety going through these things but would laugh about it afterwards) but I didn’t think to myself, “Oh, this is art. This is theater.”
In 2010 I moved to New York. While there a friend insisted I go see “Sleep No More”, telling me it was like nothing he’d ever seen. I reluctantly bought a ticket, and as soon as I stepped through their doors I realized he was right. I’d never been to an immersive play before. It blew my mind.
I e-mailed them begging for an internship. They gave me a weekend, in which I worked in the costume shop for a few hours then got to explore the show when the audience came in. It was a blast.
And THAT stuck in my head.
I then moved to Los Angeles in 2012. I went looking for work, and out of both curiosity and need I got a gig at Universal Studio’s “Halloween Horror Nights”. While standing in their maze, wearing a monster costume and scaring teenagers, I thought to myself, “This IS immersive. This is theater! Call it a ‘haunted house’ and people will come!
After the Halloween Horror Nights gig ended I bought tickets to go see “Blackout” and “Delusion”. Both convinced me that there were aspects to haunted houses that I had never even considered before. Both played with what a haunt could be. Both played with fear in very different and very effective ways.
Los Angeles, I realized, was the Mecca for haunted houses. It has lots of different spaces to make haunts out of, it has creative people out the wazoo, and it is a large enough city to have an audience to go see these things.
After the season ended I Googled “Horror theater Los Angeles”, and Zombie Joe’s Underground popped up.
I e-mailed the theater and received a response right away from a man named “Zombie Joe” telling me to call him. I did, and as Zombie Joe does, he brought me right into the fold. I ran lights for two shows, acted in a show, and then convinced him to turn “Urban Death” into a haunted house.
We’ve run for three seasons, each season being the most successful show the theater has ever had. I’m very proud of it.
By this point I’m so embedded into the community I can’t imagine my life without it. I fell in love, and haunted houses have been good to me. I guess it just speaks to me, the way that I imagine it speaks to most people who will read this.
Now…how would I describe someone who is a haunt enthusiast?
I think that we share a lot of DNA with people who go into Disneyland and pay attention to the history of the park, the layout of the park, know the names of important Imagineers who designed the park, etc. Most people are just there to ride the rides and have a nice time. But there are those who GET Disneyland.
I’d say that people who are haunt enthusiasts recognize the work that went into a haunt, pay attention to the story going on around them, notice the craft and the detail of the work. They love the scare, of course, but they’re looking at it from a deeper level than most. Those are my kind of people.
AHH: We’ve had the pleasure of working together at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group. How did you get started there?
Abel: I’d like to emphasize that I got started there because I was welcomed in. It says a lot about the quality of Zombie Joe in that he’s so willing to bring people into his theater, as long as they’re truly passionate about the place.
Most of Hollywood is being told “No”. I got a lot of “No’s” when I first came out here. Zombie gave me a “Yes” and truly allowed me to develop my creative focus. I love him and his theater dearly.
AHH: How did it begin? How did you come up with Serial Killer Speed Dating?
Abel: SKSD began after looking at the “Star Wars Celebration” lineup and seeing that they had a speed dating event. I thought to myself, “Wow, what a great way for like-minded people to connect.”
When ScareLA was gearing up for its 2015 event I told co-creator Lora Ivanova that I wanted to create something for them. I mentioned speed dating, and she liked it, but told me I needed a twist to it.
“What about throwing in a serial killer?” a friend of mine asked.
I turned to Lora and said, “I’d make that.”
We did our first one last August, at ScareLA. People really dug it. I then took it to BarFoodLA in October, then in December we had another one, now our fourth event is coming up Wednesday.
AHH: Walk us through it. How does SKSD work?
Abel: Well, it’s speed dating. You have five minutes to sit across from someone else. However, peppered among the daters are serial killers. It’s up to you, as the dater, to determine if the person sitting across from you is looking for a date, or looking for a victim.
AHH: How has the response for SKSD been?
Abel: Pretty positive. People like it, they respond to it. They keep coming to it. I’m having a blast. 🙂
AHH: What do you think is the appeal of SKSD vs. regular speed dating?
Abel: Well, I think you have to have a certain kind of mindset to go to an event called “Serial Killer Speed Dating”. You gotta have a sense of humor, you gotta like theatrics, gotta like Halloween…so already you know you’re going to find a lot of other single people with the same kind of interests as you. I think that sets us apart from regular speed dating.
Also, there’s a game to it all. Get dressed up. Tease and play around. There’s an inherent fun to it all. Very tongue and cheek. Even calling it “Serial Killer Speed Dating” lets you know that you’re not going to a typical speed dating event.
I’ve heard the icebreaker, “Hi. I’m not a serial killer,” every time I’ve set up the event. I think it gives people an immediate conversation starter, just trying to suss out who the person sitting across from you is.
AHH: Have you met any interesting characters at SKSD?
Abel: Absolutely. Serial Killers come in all shapes and sizes.
AHH: Is SKSD only for heterosexuals?
Abel: At ScareLA we had a table for male/female dating, a table for LGBT daters and a table for people just looking to network.
Our December event was specifically for gay males.
I’m trying to make it as inclusive as possible.
AHH: Many people are worried about the risk involved with dating strangers. How do you assure their safety at SKSD?
Abel: Well, it’s in a public place, you’re welcome to bring friends, and you don’t exchange personal information. If two people both select “yes” on their forms, I contact them and share their e-mail addresses with each other. But other than that, besides knowing your first name, no one has any way to contact you.
Our event is very female-friendly. The majority of my “killers” are women (that’s a hint!) and my girlfriend and other friends of the show are always around. We’ve yet to have any sort of harassment. Knock on wood. I intend on keeping it that way.
One of the things that I love about the audience is just how “game” everyone is. Fun people keep coming out to this.
AHH: You have a special Valentine’s Day edition of SKSD coming up this Wednesday, February 10th, at 8pm. Are there any special surprises planned?
Abel: We’ve changed up the game a bit. Each event I learn something from and how to put it all together just a bit better.
AHH: What does the future hold for SKSD?
Abel: No idea. I hope to keep building momentum. I hope to keep making it bigger. I hope to get invited to a wedding from two people who wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for my event. That’d be a joy.
AHH: Any upcoming events planned?
Abel: No definite dates as of right now.
I wrote and acted in a VR short horror film that is currently in post-production. So when that comes out I’ll be announcing that.
A documentary I was in, “The Blackout Experiments” debuted at Sundance in January. Here’s hoping it goes to more festivals and then gets a theatrical release. I’m sure there’ll be something around that.
A lot of writing. Editing a first draft of a book that I wrote (or, actually, doing everything but editing). A film idea I’ve been tossing around. A few ideas for HorrorBuzz.com we’ve got in the works.
And probably another SKSD between now and ScareLA, and by that point we’re already looking at Halloween again.
AHH: Is there anything else you’d like to say about SKSD?
Abel: I think speed dating is awesome. I mean, there are a thousand ways right now to date, but I think that actually sitting across from another person and having a conversation with them is still an essential part of the dating process.
Before I met my girlfriend, I went on a speed dating event and just LOVED it. I had fun meeting smart, interesting, beautiful girls. And even if we weren’t interested in each other we only had five minutes to sit down, so then it was onto the next one.
There’s something inherently fun about speed dating. I’d consider myself introverted and kinda shy when it comes to dating, but I loved how comfortable I felt speed dating. Within those parameters, there was very little anxiety to a first date.
And, as the law of attraction states: the more you put yourself out there the more comes back to you. The more you date the better you get at it. Speed dating just accelerates that.
And throw in a couple of serial killers…you’ve got a great night.
AHH: And finally, the most important question- What’s one of your favorite horror movies?
Abel: “Shaun of the Dead” and “The Others” are my two favorite horror movies. Also, “Babe II: Pig in the City”. You’ve seen that shit!?!
AHH: Thank you again so much!!!
Abel: For you guys, anything.
Tickets are $20 and there is also $10 minimum at the bar. Use promo code VALENTINE and save $5! You can buy tickets and get more info at www.serialkillerspeeddating.com !
You can also follow Serial Killer Speed Dating on Twitter- @skspeeddating