Returning for a fourth year, Nelson Cooper’s Dead Zone 805 has evolved into a new chapter in the story of Dr. Red Eyes and a new location in Ventura.
The loss of the previous space due to needed building improvements by the landlord, and a late start into the haunt season turned Dead Zone 805 into a more intimate experience. The space is smaller, the rooms that tell the story of Dr. Red Eyes and his experiments are more condensed. However, that does not mean that the haunt is any less of what it was—in fact—Cooper and his team have morphed it into something that is picking up on the recent haunt trend.
This year, Dead Zone 805 is an interactive storytelling experience that involves the apocalyptic world where people are infected with a zombie virus, and must come up against Dr. Red Eyes, his followers, and the unfortunate creatures he has experimented on.
First, you begin in a room that is an experience in itself. For almost four minutes, you’re told the rules of the maze, the story, and the items that you will be looking for on your journey. After learning what your mission is, you’re plunged into the carefully constructed scares; a journey that you will hope no one is left behind on.
Yet, like trendy predecessors of other interactive haunts and the puzzle laden escape room motifs, Dead Zone’s scare actor volunteers do a good job of making sure that each group gets to experience the whole story and fans of previous years will enjoy getting to be involved with each of the set pieces, old and new.
In the unfortunately short amount of time that this locally loved haunt was put together, and is operating, Nelson, his family, and his crew do a fantastic job once again. On opening night, they had nearly one-hundred patrons pay homage to the season of scares. I spent all night watching people squeal and scream their way through the experience. Every group I saw come out on the other side were either screaming or smiling—both reactions a sign of success.
Nelson Cooper (Nelson Cooper Designs) is a fx makeup artist from Ventura County whose passion it is to put together something that scares people, and pursue his outrageously fantastic talents for design, creature and fx makeup, and producing an end product with his team. What is even more endearing about his work is that it’s a friend and family affair. His wife, Kim, their children, and their family friends are all a part of the fun. However, the project does not come without challenges. Ventura County is notoriously hard to get haunts started, and permitted. Local fire codes and permit processes are some of the most difficult and complicated ones in the state. But, Cooper is relentless in his quest to pursue his labor of love and meets the challenges as they come.
As Nelson put the final touches on the haunt for opening night, Kim was with the volunteer “scareachters” (scare characters, a term myself and a few of the volunteers came up with while chatting and mispronouncing scare actors) leading the makeup assembly. As volunteers helped one another with wardrobe, and provided scare tips, the ambience was remarkable. They all fine-tuned methods of scaring and even some new touches on the fly, but everyone was ecstatic. Nelson and his crew reveled that this was their fourth year and even shared their favorite stories about the unfortunate souls who were so scared, they had run out of their shoes or even experienced a situation where a change of pants was required.
There are two more nights in Dead Zone 805’s shortened scare season, but if you’re in Ventura County, and especially a Ventura local, you don’t want to miss what the Coopers have to offer. We’re grateful to Nelson, Kim, and his team for having us out for our second year to have an in-depth look at what they’re doing and can’t wait to see what’s in the cards for the future of this project.
Dead Zone 805 is open October 28th and 29th 7pm-10pm and you can get your tickets here.
Check out our photos and we’ll have some awesome videos up in the coming weeks.