His elaborate multimedia displays and intricate haunted houses have raised thousands for charity and garnered media attention that’s had him recognized as “the Halloween guy” at the grocery store. But Shawn Gusz isn’t in it for the fame.
“I’ve always found lighting and sequencing and sounds just appealing and interesting,” Gusz says. “And I’ve been lucky enough with my business to be able to afford to do things like this, so it’s a creative outlet is really what it comes down to.
“It’s a hobby, just like anybody else’s. Some people scrapbook, I design Halloween and Christmas shows.”
For the past four years, Gusz has transformed the front yard of his Puslinch home into The Nightmare Before Christmas Experience, complete with scaled versions of the Tim Burton movie’s five main characters, replica tombstones and foam pumpkins.
On Saturday, he’ll premiere a new display, inviting the ghosts and ghouls of Disney’s Haunted Mansion — his favourite ride at the Disney theme parks — onto his property at 20 Fox Run Dr.
The new show involves less physical props and a more elaborate multimedia component. Gusz hired an American company to animate elements and characters from the ride onto his home, a technique called “projection mapping.”
“Projection mapping is basically when you’re using the architecture of the building working along with the video,” he explained. "It's not just a blank screen."
Gusz then sequenced the entire spectacle to lights and sounds. The set up is entirely computer controlled and involves thousands of feet of cables, at least one hundred individual lights, multiple fog machines and a movie cinema-quality projector.
“You get a lot more dynamic elements with a projection show versus static props that just sort of sit there and do nothing,” Gusz explained.
The arrangement will also cut down on set-up and take-down time between Halloween and the annual Christmas show that Gusz also puts on.
The Haunted Mansion show lasts four minutes and 40 seconds, plus one minute of intermission — enough time for the next line of cars to pull up. Viewers are asked to remain in their vehicles as a COVID-19 safety measure.
An internet entrepreneur, Gusz previously ran the Haunted House of Horrors at Stone Road Mall and later Fairview Park Mall.
Before that he converted a derelict building on some property he owned on Gordon Street into a house of horrors.
Having kids shifted his focus, but not his interest in Halloween.
“I was making these very detailed, scary horror movie-type sets,” Gusz explains. “But when I had kids, I’m like no, I have to have something my kids are going to enjoy.”
Like the Nightmare Before Christmas Experience, the Haunted Mansion show focuses on the “more fun tongue in cheek” aspect of Halloween rather the fear, blood and gore sometimes associated with the holiday, Gusz says.
“Like these singing busts,” he says, gesturing at a reproduction of the ride’s ghostly barbershop quartet. “It’s not scary but it’s hilarious in a dark sort of way.”
The Haunted Mansion show runs nightly from Oct. 23 to 31 from 7 to 9 p.m. at 20 Fox Run Dr. in Puslinch, just south of Guelph.
The show is free but donations to Aberfoyle Public School are accepted via etransfer at [email protected]
Money raised will be used to help build a new outdoor classroom pavilion.
More information can be found here.