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The stage is set for Enigma Haunt’s final season of scares in Boca Raton. Actually, it’s likely to be the death of the whole production, in lieu of a reincarnation elsewhere in South Florida.
Enigma Haunt was started by Billy and Karen Groeneveld who came up with the haunted attraction a decade ago and made it a reality. The husband-and-wife duo found out that they didn’t scare easily when it came to creating a leading-edge house of fun and screams.
But after this year, using the existing location at 1751 N. Military Trail for the haunt is no longer an option. The building that has housed Enigma for 10 years was recently sold and now the plan is to redevelop the site. The Groenvelds, who say they had a good relationship with the building’s owner, understand that it’s time to move on.
Each year, Enigma Haunt’s creative teams redesign themes, rooms and characters with unusual attention to detail. The scare actors get training. There are also professional teams for costumes and makeup. The frightening props, masks and figures in each room of the haunted house are movie quality.
Karen Groeneveld said she is disheartened that they have to close up shop. But she’s also proud of their accomplishments over the decade.
“It’s sad that we’ll be closing up shop,” she said. “It’s bittersweet, but we had a long run with Enigma Haunt. We’re very proud of what we’ve done. We created a family atmosphere and we feel a bit like we’re letting them down because everybody’s so close. I think parting with the 100 members of our team will be the hardest part.”
While she said she is almost resigned to the fact that there won’t be any more Enigma Haunt productions, she is hopeful.
“If we do find another location, we’re definitely open to possibly starting something else with the same team,” she said.
Enigma Haunt got started as a home project, according to Karen Groeneveld.
“We started out in the garage, our home with an Alien Autopsy experience,” she said. “We have four children, and as they got older, they became more involved. We did that one year, then the next year we got a little bit bigger. Then the following year, we got bigger again.
“After about a decade, it just got too big for the house,” she said. “So in 2010, we decided that we would go big. So for two years, we went to conventions and to all kinds of haunt-related stuff. We took classes to just learn from the best and the biggest ones. Then in 2012, we decided to go for it.”
Walking through Enigma Haunt’s different scare rooms is a frightening but fun experience.
The building encompasses over 20,000 square feet. The crew has divided the space into three haunted spaces, which include “Cursed”, “Twisted Mayhem” and “Realms of Terror.”
When you enter, the first thing you experience is loud banging noises coming from a creature who leaps out at you — both are all over the place, where you least expect them. And, of course, that’s part of the fun. The participant never quite knows what to expect or when.
Each haunted space even has its own scent to reflect a musty, sweet or bitter smell that evokes the mood of the experience.
A word of caution when entering any room at the haunted complex is that things aren’t always as they seem. For example, what appears to be a mannequin might actually be a real person or at least a facsimile of one. The makeup and costumes are so real that you’re never really sure if the being is an actor or actually a zombie, a tortured spirit or a twisted clown.
There is a fair amount of gore, but if you have the stomach for it, you realize it’s all just an impressive set of props. And the dim lighting helps to mute the effect of the bloody mess.
Walking through 20,000 square feet of haunted haunted spaces can take quite a while, so be prepared to be on your feet for 45 minutes or so. But the time goes by fairly quickly and you’ll likely find yourself ironically laughing at your screaming. And what starts out as fear during the haunted tour soon turns to incredulity at how well the actors do their jobs.
Ivonne Perez, who has handled outreach for Enigma Haunt since it started, said she is wistful about the demise of the annual event.
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“Karen, Billy and the team here are family to me,” she said. “It’s really been such a great experience.”
“Halloween is so fun and entertaining,” she said. “I’ve always loved going to haunted houses, but I hadn’t been to a lot of them when I met Karen and her husband.”
Perez said she will miss the experience with the haunting team because the performances are so good and everyone knows her personally, she said.
“I’m an easy scare and the actors all know me so they always know how to get me,” she laughed. “Enigma Haunt is truly an amazing production. I look at this as a theater come to life.”
- Enigma Haunt has been used in other productions, including a film crew from Miami that shot scenes for a film.
- The haunt, although intense, is a no-touch attraction; actors don’t touch patrons and patrons are not to touch the actors.
- The makeup crew transforms nearly 100 actors each night in just under three hours.
- The building that houses the haunt used to be a Bally Total Fitness gym.
- Construction and redesign of the haunted attractions begin in the spring.
- Inspiration for the attraction comes from real-life — abandoned buildings, horror movies, common phobias and taboos.
- Any actors who are 15 and under must have one of their parents present.
- There are over 100 actors in 2021.
- About 40% of actors have been with the haunt for at least five seasons and include professionals in the community such as firefighters, paramedics, nurses, lawyers and teachers.
Enigma Haunt is open Oct. 15-17, 21-24 and 28-31. For information, visit EnigmaHaunt.com.