Creative Writing alum scripts suspense into Gravestone Manor story

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Gravestone Manor mainstays Cory Brin and Sara Pugh (seen here dressed as characters from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show") help the haunt stay fresh year after year.

Kirstin Cook, Editor-in-Chief

Cory Brin likes to keep his audience on the edge of their seats. when working on the script for Gravestone Manor, the assistant project coordinator uses a certain special technique to get the audience leaning forward, waiting to see what happens next: Spontaneity

“You want them to think that something cliché or predictable is going to happen and then you hit them with something they didn’t expect,” Brin said.

This suspenseful writing format is something he learned from the Wilkes Master’s program in creative writing. The creative process in assembling the right formula for the most scares is what has committed Brin to the Gravestone Manor writing team since he first got involved in 2003.

The Gravestone Manor writing team helps to make the attraction more than just your typical haunted house. The attraction is a theatrical presentation that brings the audience into the storyline. The writers come up with a new plot every year.

This year, the storyline serves up a dark twist on fairy tales with the story of mysterious author Jamie Calderline.

“He lived like a recluse in this cabin, this Victorian house out in the woods and his mind started wandering and his stories kind of became warped because he just lived by himself,” Brin said.

The plot picks up after Calderline’s death, setting the audience up with a series of tests to find out who will take on his inheritance.

Sarah Pugh, volunteer coordinator at Gravestone, said the fairy tale theme offers a plethora of content.

“With fairy tales, there’s so much – we could do fairy tales every year and have something different, because there’s so much you can use there,” Pugh said.

Pugh also graduated from Wilkes’ Creative Writing program and said what she took from it completely changed her approach to writing the script. She hopes that guests to Gravestone Manor notice the quality of the script behind the terrors.

“We like to think that those who do pay attention to the story will actually think we have a really quality, really good story from beginning to end amidst the scares,” Pugh said.

The story is decided upon in January, and the writers work together until April to compose the script. Brin said some of the things they consider when choosing the storyline include how well it can incorporate “poppers” – people who hide throughout the scenes and jump out at people – and how well it fits the setting.

“The setting has been, with the house itself, a Victorian-era manor – just kind of the creepiest thing you can think of,” Brin said.

One reason Brin puts the extra effort into the production is that it’s for a good cause. All proceeds go toward the United Way.

“I love helping out for the fact that I get to enjoy Halloween, scaring people, writing and making people laugh, and all of that work helps the United Way, just makes it all much more worth it.”

Gravestone Manor, located at 1095 Highway 315, Plains, is open Fridays and Saturdays 7 to 11 p.m. and Sunday 7 to 9:30 p.m. through October 28. Tickets are $10. For more information, go to gravestonemanor.com.