A family affair
Queen of Haunts is a name Amber Arnett-Bequeaith wears proudly. It was passed down from her grandmother to her mom and then to her. She grew up in her family’s Lake of the Ozarks theater, Summer’s Moonglow. She was performing theatrically with live animals at a young age. Money slowed, and the family went on to a bigger stage in Kansas City. They used their natural creativity + theater backgrounds to form form Full Moon Productions + the haunted houses you walk through today.
The Edge of Hell
Amber’s great-grandfather was a pastor. This particular house symbolizes your journey walking the edge between heaven and hell. You’ll encounter demons and phobias before sliding down a 5-story spiral slide into “arms of the devil.” This house focuses on old-school elements and claustrophobia.
The Beast focuses on time travel. You begin in a Louisiana mansion and end up trapped inside a werewolf forest. This house is theatrical with tales of Jack the Ripper and the Merlin tower.
Q+A with the Queen of Haunts
Q: What sets Full Moon Productions’ haunted houses apart from others in the area and across the US?
A: One standout is the architectural structure and mammoth size of the buildings. Many haunted attractions across the country are smaller and in strip malls. Ours are gigantic and some of the largest — if not the largest. My friend in Dallas actually changes his pathway every 2 years and seeks out another 2 inches so he can say he has the largest house.
Historically, The Beast has always been renowned as the largest haunted attraction in the US. You will be touched by animatronics. They pop out, and you physically have to move out of the way. There are no bars guiding you through this house. It’s up to you to find a way out.
We patented the 5-story spiral slide at the Edge of Hell and the 4-story straight chute at The Beast. Many haunted attractions rely on gore for shock value, whereas our detail and theatrical elements are what get us the reactions we seek.
Q: While the theme of the houses remains the same, what does the preparation process look like for the elements that are added each year?
A: It’s been a lot of research as we move forward. Haunted attractions were a whole new exploration of entertainment in the 70s. If you look at art history, I have so many character options that convert within the [house] themes. The Salem Witch Trials are represented in the castle now.
My mother grew up in Florida, so they created this Floridian mansion with beautiful ballrooms. They went to Florida and pulled palm trees from the property they grew up on. Those are inside the swamp. My mother grew up swimming with alligators. She was terribly afraid of them, but that’s why there’s a live alligator in The Beast.
After studying voodoo and elements of folklore in New Orleans, I’ve been able to change that scene from boasting ballroom dancers to a more Phantom of the Opera look.
Q: What characteristics do you look for in your actors + what does this application process look like?
A: Scaring isn’t easy, although a lot of people think it is. If you’re back there and don’t have good timing, or a good growl and presentation of your character, you won’t get the reaction you want.
There’s a lot of paperwork, and you have to make sure the people that are applying for acting positions don’t have phobias themselves. If they do, we have to work with that. It’s kind of like Harry Potter. They have to put on a hat, and you say, “Do you know which house they should work in?” or, “Do they have special attributes that lend themselves to a certain character?”
Q: What’s been one of the biggest changes to the houses over time?
A: We’ve navigated major technology changes from 1975 to 2021. Technology has been huge in the conversion and the way it works with animatronics. We’re able to touch upon all of your senses as you walk through a scene with computer programming. Sounds, smells, and flashes are pumped into the house at strategic times to elicit a reaction from one of the 5 senses we want to touch at that time.
Of course, we compete more now with video games and the special effects of Hollywood. One thing that makes haunted attractions relevant is that you are living in it. It’s your own adrenaline, and you are the one in the scene.