October 27, 2009 / 3:03 AM / 10 years ago

Boo! China's first "haunted house" spooks this Halloween

SHANGHAI (Reuters Life!) - This Halloween, prepare to be scared in China.

An artist checks her make-up as she gets ready for another performance evening at the Shanghai Nightmare haunted house in Shanghai October 24, 2009. REUTERS/Nir Elias

The country’s first Halloween haunted house attraction is spooking the crowds in Shanghai, with its creators hoping to cash in on the traditions of the ancient, but essentially Western, festival to commemorate the dead.

While China has a rich tradition of ghosts and ghouls of its own, Halloween is a non-event for most Chinese, who hold their own commemoration for the dead during the Qingming festival or Tomb-Sweeping Day usually marked in April.

But the creators of the “Shanghai Nightmare” attraction, 26-year-old American-Chinese Gan Quan and his girlfriend Xu Jiali, said it’s about time Chinese got a taste of Halloween.

“I grew up in the United States and we have Halloween traditions. And over here, there’s something missing,” Gan, who came to Shanghai a year ago, told Reuters.

“People party, they go drinking, they go to the bars, but there’s still that one part of Halloween that didn’t exist. And we thought, what a perfect way to combine our efforts than to put up a haunted house in Shanghai.”

“Shanghai Nightmare” is set in a crumbling, century-old warehouse along Suzhou Creek and features more than 13 chambers filled with gory scenes, sound and light effects and actors dressed as ghosts and goblins that attack visitors.

Gan and Xu, who quit their jobs to dedicate themselves to the project, said they combined their engineering and art training to create the haunted house.

They declined to say how much it cost but said the attraction took a year to set up.

“Shanghai Nightmare” opened in late September and is set to spook the town until Halloween, or October 31.

But the organizers say they are considering staying open for longer due to strong demand, and perhaps set up another, bigger attraction next year.

“At least for the time being, the response from the public has been overwhelming,” Xu said. “At first, we did not do very well in publicizing ourselves, so much fewer people came. But the people who came gave us good reviews and this led to all their friends knowing about this fun project.”

Visitors pay between 98 yuan and 188 yuan ($14-$28) for tickets and some said it was definitely worth it.

“Previous haunted houses such as those in carnivals are not as well done as this one. The actors here very professional,” said 22-year-old Huang Kai.

($1=6.827 Yuan)

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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