Æther Feature: A Steampunk haunted house

These features as a way for the Ministry to highlight artists, musicians, writers, and makers of all variety. With so many talented individuals to choose from, we know it is a challenge to feature every clever creative worthy of note, but perhaps we might endeavour to introduce to you a new name in our community of steam and cog, or perhaps remind you of one artisan’s successful efforts to bring the past that never was to the here and now.
In this week’s Æther Feature brought to you by Jeff Mach.

“Inspiration comes, but it has to find you working.”
 -Pablo Picasso
A Steampunk haunted house! A Steampunk haunted house! Why does the world need a Steampunk haunted house?
The simplest answer, is just this: in the grand scheme, it doesn’t, not really. Not compared to cures for diseases or world peacem or an end to hunger, or a better political discourse, BUT…
If those are things was the world needs, objectively, in a general way to benefit as much of the population as is possible, perhaps very little in Steampunk is needed in that way. And yet, and yet, and yet –
Steampunk is an everflowing font of endless and unbounded creativity, whimsy.  It is a technology for harnessing the power of human imagination to take us out of the normal world, and into a new world we create.  And it does this in such a way that when we get back to the “real”, material world of history books and day jobs lives which are usually thought to define what is real…
We come back changed, happier, our neurochemistry improved, our creativity sharpened, our heads receptive to inspiration which might strike. Because Steampunk is alchemy. Steampunk transmutes the unreal and the impossible into something which has deep and wonderful effects on the very real and the very possible. And in that sense, when we can add something to Steampunk, when we can grow what Steampunk is and can do, we have just changed the world in a major and positive way.
Why does Steampunk need a haunted house? I’ll give you five core reasons:
  1. Because one of the mottoes of Steampunk is precisely the opposite mottoes of Sir Edmund Hillary, the man who famously climbed Everest and then, when asked why, said “Because it was there”. This is one of the parts of the genius of Steampunk. Why we make a thing? Because it isn’t there.
  2. Because a haunted house, whether that haunted house is particularly scary, or whether it’s like ours – a mixture of the frightening and the whimsical, which starts the evening gentle and gets scary if you choose a later showing–gives you its own rich story, and its own set of delightful scares.  Either of those things takes people out of their normal headspace and gives them the opportunity to choose a new headspace to take on and through it, see the world.   The Steampunk Haunted House offers both worlds, and in either case you come out the other side like one was gone through a mind-expanding initiation: with new perspectives on the world, with your brain joyously afire, your heart beating, and your body filled with an awareness that you are alive and have all the human potential available for the vast repertoire of what Homo sapiens can do.
  3. Because Steampunk has this special power, and that power is growing through people finding and creating great ideas. Ever seen someone in Steampunk who’s got a unique or special idea? If that things is completely unique to them, something only they can do, then we honor it, and we feel ecstatic to have in our midst. If what they do is something that can be replicated or something you can base your own Steampunk on – and the Steampunk World’s Fair is my own favorite example – then we see other Steampunks starting to do it en masse! And that is one of the things I find most important and most interesting about this: There are almost no Steampunk haunted houses the world; in fact outside of the one that ran in New York City for a few years and no longer runs, which was a beautiful art installation but not a traditional haunted house–I can’t find a Steampunk haunted house anywher.  (And I go into why that is in the research section of the Kickstarter.) The simplest thought is just this: We KNOW, based on how Steampunk works that if we build this and make it amazing, we’re not just creating one Steampunk haunted house in one place. We are doing what always happens in Steampunk: creating an inspiration, a beginning, an opening, and from there, Steampunks all around the world can and will adapt it, until anyone who wants to experience a Steampunk haunted house can do so, and each house will be unique and different, have its own special flare and focus and its own special way of blowing up your head and making you happy!
  4. Because it’s going to be incredibly, amazingly, spectacularly awesome and unique, and the world needs that right now. The world need something which is “frivolous” something which might be silly, something which might not seem to be important. The world absolutely needs and deserves a certain kind of place, one to which people might go to for escape, but find that when they come out, they haven’t just escaped the world for a little while and then returnedo it. They go inside, get filled with possibilities and ideas, andcome out the the other side inspired. That is my own life’s work, and I think it is part of the great power of Steampunk: to show you joy, and have you pass through that joy more inspired, more awake, more full of the possibilities of boundless imagination than you were when you began.

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