November 01, 2012 By Arlen Schweiger
The U.S. is full of haunted houses and warehouses people pay to walk through for a good spooking this time of year. In Great Britain the hundreds-years-old architecture yields some larger scale haunting - in castles.
Case in point is Muncaster Castle in the Western Lake District town of Ravenglass, whose name sounds a little Edgar Allen Poe-ish to begin with.
The annual Halloween Week festivities at the castle, where visitors can tour areas like the Ghostly Grotto and Creepy Owl Crypt, were given some added special effects this year thanks to high-tech updates that included the exterior lighting and video presentation being upgraded to the latest version of software used by custom integrator Mirage Associates for the job.
The castle added the outdoor effects as part of its scary stuff almost a decade ago, and Mirage Associates used Watchout software from Swedish company Dataton to drive the display back in 2005. But, of course, like any software Watchout has gone through revisions and updates, and now the multimedia presentation has been outfitted with Watchout version 5 for even more frightening flair.
“Back in 2003 we decided to put in an exterior lighting scheme to enhance the air of mystery surrounding the venue,” says Muncaster managing director Peter Frost-Pennington. “The towers of the Castle are an interesting backdrop. We started projecting a few images of skulls and ghosts created in Powerpoint and run by Windows Media Player. But we always knew we could do more. We’d seen the projections that were done as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee using Watchout, and we wanted that too.
“So in 2005 ... we met with Steve Selwyn from Mirage Associates and he demonstrated what could be done using images from multiple computer sources. The result was a transformation. Suddenly we could have skeletons walking across the front of the Castle! The service and support from Mirage Associates over the years has been truly appreciated.”
That includes updating the presentation software this year to help make the exterior of the castle look like it’s dripping blood or turning each tower into a cat’s eye or shooting a bolt of electricity across the front. Four Mitsubishi XL5900U projectors produce the images to go with a large audio setup.
“The projectors are in custom-made, weather-proof housings, and there is one computer for each tower of the Castle,” says Selwyn. “Each show is on a 20-minute loop, synchronized with audio and lighting, and is shown to an audience of between 200 and 600 people each evening. It is a huge enhancement to the Castle’s visitor experience – especially in Halloween Week and also at Christmas, too.”