“You’ve never been scared ‘til you’ve been scared in 3-D,” a House of Wax (1953) one-sheet boldly proclaims. Audiences flocked to movie houses, ready to experience the thrill and wonder of “3-D Horrorscope” (enthusiastically named in a 1955 Revenge of the Creature one sheet). As the cinema-going population of 20th century America expanded, so did the entertainment industry’s search for new ways to entice this increasingly lucrative demographic. Utilizing special filmmaking techniques dating back to the 1940s, some of cinema’s most famous monsters and maniacs would soon become part of the equation, including groundbreaking three-dimensional appearances from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Vincent Price, and Jason Voorhees. Following the natural progression of horror-themed entertainment, it wouldn’t be long before the haunted attraction industry entered this new dimension of terror.
Unlike the red-cyan anaglyph variation used for early 3-D movies, the type of 3-D commonly utilized for haunted attractions is a color-based variant pioneered by ChromaDepth. As their official website explains, “The core concept of ChromaDepth® is straightforward: encode depth into an image by means of color, then optically decode the color to create a true 3D image. There are a variety of color palettes that produce effective programming of holographic depth, but the simplest one is this: on a black background, red will appear closest, blue furthest, and the other colors will fall in-between according to their place in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue).” This carefully calculated three-dimensional effect appears especially effective when paired with a blacklight – already a favorite among Halloween consumers.
According to Louisville Halloween’s article “These Haunts are Comin’ at Ya!: The Innovation and History of 3D in Horror and Haunted Attractions,” the very first haunted attraction to utilize ChromaDepth 3-D effects may have been Indiana’s Industrial Nightmare haunted house. Speaking with Louisville Halloween, Industrial Nightmare creator Glenn Lewis explained, “The 3D attraction was by accident. A sales rep had given me a pair of 3D glasses to sell to my haunt customers. I was wearing them one day just to see how the costumes and objects would appear to the customer. I noticed that the brighter colors seemed to float/separate from the darker colors, giving off the 3D effect.” Industrial Nightmare further developed these revelations to open a 3-D attraction in 1996, with many other events and attractions following suit in the years to come.
ChromaDepth 3-D most commonly appears in haunted attractions themed around clowns, fairy tales, and other fantasy-based scenarios. The colorful creations don’t stop there, however; notable 3-D haunted attractions have spanned a wide range of themes, including classic monsters (Universal’s Creature Features in 3-D, Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights), classic television shows gone wrong (Terror Vision, Knott’s Scary Farm), a military base seeped in fluorescent nuclear waste (Fallout Shelter, Knott’s Scary Farm), the seven deadly sins (Alice Cooper Goes to Hell 3D, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights), and even a sophomoric James Franco & Seth Rogen comedy come to life (This is the End 3D, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights). With an arsenal of colorful paints, blacklights, and mass-produced ChromaDepth 3-D glasses, the possibilities appeared endless.
A seemingly never-ending variety of 3-D haunted attractions continued to appear across the country throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with some particularly dedicated creators going the extra mile to supply customized 3-D glasses. These specially printed glasses often served as commemorative souvenirs, with attraction-specific or event-specific artwork adorning the paper frames. These glasses also served as a source of extra income, with specialty glasses often appearing for sale as a $1.00 upcharge at the entrance of a 3-D attraction. This model did not last very long, however, whether it be for the fact that guests without cash were not able to purchase the specialty glasses (and therefore could not experience the attraction in 3-D as intended), or the fact that producing specialty glasses cost more money than the generic alternatives. As a result, it became increasingly commonplace to find haunted attractions supplying guests with unbranded generic 3-D glasses, at no charge.
Unfortunately, such changes foreshadowed an imminent end to the 3-D haunted attraction boom. While many colorfully creepy 3-D attractions still exist across the country, including the unique Halloween Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, major theme park events like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm have made their stance clear: ChromaDepth 3-D is no longer the wave of the future. As event competition evolves and guest expectations rise, many haunted attractions stay ahead of the curve by continually developing the latest and greatest tactics – often having to leave a few things behind. At the time of this writing, Knott’s has not presented a 3-D haunted attraction since 2012; Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights since 2015; and Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights since 2016.
As I often say, it is possible for one to enjoy and fully appreciate how the haunted attraction industry has evolved over the years, and to also admire the unique concepts showcased during the renaissance of 3-D haunted attractions. Those of us lucky enough to have experienced first-hand the glowing hallways of three-dimensional madness may have even retained a pair of glasses or two...
We’ve cracked open VAULT #3-D to unveil the Internet’s largest collection of scanned haunted attraction 3-D glasses. Submit your own scanned images to be included in the VAULT.
Our collection of 3D glasses is an expanding work in progress. Check back regularly for updates as we grow and sort the gallery.