This South Florida Haunted House Stages a Real-Life Horror: Environmental Apocalypse

Delray Beach students are using their annual haunted house to address pollution, sea level rise, and other environmental issues.
Delray Beach students are using their annual haunted house to address pollution, sea level rise, and other environmental issues. Courtesy of Space of Mind
What’s scarier than a world where an environmental apocalypse has destroyed all we hold dear? This Halloween, Space of Mind, a homeschooling center in Delray Beach, will produce an educational, dystopian haunted house titled Planet SOS that displays an environment ravaged by wasteful humans.

“The goal [of Planet SOS] is to educate and inspire, not just scare… It’s supposed to scare people into changing their habits,” says Ali Kaufman, founder and CEO of Space of Mind. “We’re going to tell the story through the lens of our own experience, so everyone here [in South Florida] can relate to it. We look at sea level rise, rising temperatures, the impact of toxic chemicals in the air, [and] what happens if the food supply and ecosystem are depleted.”

Space of Mind’s academic theme this year is “Our Planet, Our Health.” For Halloween, the students learned about environmental risk factors in their science classes, creating research reports and using evidence-based research skills. The reports were then turned into scripts and storyboarded to make science documentaries, which will be featured at the haunted house. In the humanities classes, students translated the scientific facts they gleaned from research and wrote horror stories for Planet SOS.

This is Space of Mind’s fifth-annual haunted house, and while earlier events earned a reputation as frightening, Kaufman says this version may be the scariest yet: "The reality is — and this is supported by this year’s climate report — that it’s down to ten years to solve this problem. This year’s haunted house is based on the present and the future, and the real facts are superhauntingly real,” she says.
click to enlarge The students of Space of Mind will act out scary eco-disasters. - COURTESY OF SPACE OF MIND
The students of Space of Mind will act out scary eco-disasters.
Courtesy of Space of Mind
The different academic disciplines at Space of Mind are working together to produce Planet SOS. After the science and humanities students created the reports and stories, the creative arts students got to work on making the haunted house itself. Theater students constructed the set out of recycled materials and collaborated with fashion students, who designed the costumes out of reusable items. The music classes created creepy soundtracks, which include the sound of icebergs melting, while digital media students made the visual effects for the house. The culinary arts classes will bake and cook for the sustainable pop-up food tent at the event. Students are also making a line of sustainable household cleaning products, which they will sell and donate one product to charity for every sale to learn about responsible entrepreneurship. Visitors to Planet SOS can also expect a clothing upcycling booth, spooky games for kids, and a costume contest.

Despite the evidence, which is documented unequivocally in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report released earlier this October, many in the current U.S. government continue to deny the effects of climate change. Kaufman wishes all politicians, Republican and Democrat, could come to Planet SOS.

“For those who do not believe the evidence is real, the kids can educate them on how they learned research skills and gathered facts and why they are not made up," she says. "And the politicians on the side of environmental science will be proud of the kids and how they communicate this message.”

Planet SOS Haunted House. 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, October 26, at Space of Mind Campus, 102 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach; findspaceofmind.com. Admission is free; onsite attractions cost $2 to $8.
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth