Gabby Pajo | Mustang News

What’s spookier than a quality haunted house? An under-attended haunted house, no doubt.

As the first Haunted Halloween, a two-night event hosted by Associate Students, Inc. (ASI), unfolded Friday night, it was clear that the most crucial thing it lacked was people. The University Union (UU) was fully decorated for the occasion. A makeshift, but incredibly trippy haunted house adorned the center of the plaza. The San Luis Lounge was transformed into an escape room. The Chumash Auditorium hosted what had potential to be an absolutely massive silent disco. A laser tag arena took over Mott Lawn.

Early on in the night, ASI Events staff member Anna Bach was upbeat about the scale of the event as it got rolling.

“We really utilized the whole UU,” she said. “There’s food, silent disco … people really get excited about that.”

To some observers, though, the “people” may not have been quite as excited as one might hope. On nights when, historically, thousands of students spend a significant portion of their time just trying to figure out where to go for some fun, it was disappointing (though not surprising) that relatively few felt compelled to join the free, snack-filled festivities organized by ASI.

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Haunted Halloween was planned as an alternative Halloween event with the goal of providing a safer brand of entertainment than one might find at a wild, booze-fueled private party. ASI succeeded in this respect, but it may have forgotten its target audience. College students tend to be less than enthusiastic about the safer alternative.

That is not to say the UU became a ghost town, at least a couple hundred students filtered through the activities over the course of the night, but it never seemed to be enough to reach the critical mass required to feel like a real success.

Gabby Pajo | Mustang News
Gabby Pajo | Mustang News

Take the silent disco, for instance. It’s undeniable that getting down on a huge dance floor with friends is wickedly fun, and the fact that the heavy beats and ridiculous remixes were provided by wireless headphones added a crucial comical element. What was less funny, and bordering on tragic, was that there were rarely more than 40 revelers taking advantage of the cavernous Chumash Auditorium and the dance floor that spanned it. It was awesome to see some participants dancing their hearts out, but less so to see only a dozen of them.

What was the problem? It seems unlikely that 95 percent of the student body had more worthwhile things to do during a triple-fines weekend. The biggest obstacle in the way of ASI achieving a significant turnout was likely ASI itself. ASI’s affiliation with the university tends to turn potential attendees away. Can students be blamed for not getting excited about a school-sanctioned party?

ASI obviously put a lot of work and student fees into Haunted Halloween. ASI Program coordinator Missi Allison-Bullock said that the event was well into the planning stages dating back to August of this year. By most accounts, they did a good job. Computer science junior Liam Kirsh was impressed by the quality of the haunted house.

“It exceeded my expectations,” he said. “I expected it to just be ASI staff (in costume), so it’s cool that they actually hired people to do it.”

This raises an important question. Should ASI, as a student-funded organization, spend its time and funds on events that are not particularly desirable to the vast majority of students? However noble the intentions, expecting more than a small crowd at a tame, on-campus shindig during Halloween weekend is awfully optimistic. Perhaps it would make more sense to focus on the events that are virtually guaranteed to draw big numbers. Spring Stampede was a hit; maybe a daytime Halloween concert of similar proportions would be a more justifiable expenditure.

Haunted Halloween was not an objective failure by any stretch. Students welcome any effort at entertainment. In this case, they simply cast their vote for a different type of entertainment by declining to show up in huge numbers.

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