If you know Halloween and horror entertainment in Southern California you know two names; Ted Dougherty and Jon Cooke. The founders of Plague Productions have been pretty busy of late. The two have collectively been involved in countless projects this year including the opening of Black Market Escape Rooms in Upland with their first experience, MURDER CO. Then there is their involvement in completely revamping The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor to great effect. That’s not to mention Cooke’s contributions to Knott’s Scary Farm this year with the new ending to Paranormal Inc. and the new maze The Depths. In his spare time, Cooke is also the frontman for the band Winds of Plague.
So it was with their collective spare time this past October that the two decided to hold a Haunters Night at a bar in Fullerton. A mixer for the haunt community, the event was conceived as a night for haunt fans to come together, party, and revel in the joys of horror and Halloween. The night was also highlighted by performances by Jon’s band.
We were there that night and, stepping outside to get some fresh air, we had a chance to talk with Ted and Jon about their whirlwind existences of late and what is coming in the future. Enjoy!
HorrorBuzz: so Jonny, Ted hows things?
Jon & Ted: Busy, Busy good, Busy
HB: I don’t even know what you mean, with like ahh you know work at Queen Marys Dark Harbor with work at Knotts. What else, your escape room…
Jon: Escape room yep. We got our job at Kings Island in Ohio starting tomorrow.
HB: Kings Island, have they even started their haunt yet?
Jon: yes, I think it’s been open for a week or two now.
HB: What are you going to be doing?
Jon: We’re being hired as consultants basically to go and just check out the event give them tips I guess and just kinda evaluate things and get some eyes on it really, for more
HB: for next year
Jon: For next year and what they can do immediately too, mainly on the actor’s side.
HB: So we got this haunters night going on for Winds of Plague.
HB: Oh that’s the other thing you do.
Jon: Yeah, that thing, that thing, which seemed like a really great idea a couple weeks ago and then like, you know, its just been chaos ( laughter) I’m excited, I’m excited that it works here and its…. happening.
HB: Awesome… yeah the energy is like phenomenal here, its really cool.
Jon: yeah we are at full capacity here, so thats.. all you can ask for right?
HB: (To Ted) So you are going to go with him and consult?
HB: (to Ted) I mean how to factor in on any of this?
Jon: he’s got his own mission
Ted: Ya so I have, yes so we’re going out and, and working and looking at other events to see how we can help them. I think working with The Queen Mary for Dark Harbor this season was a huge opportunity to really kind of reimagine their attractions and I think there is an opportunity for other events that can use that type of assistance.
HB: You decided to start consulting at different places, different attractions?
Jon: well, this is my first year you know stepping away from Knotts as an official employee and just kinda of just kinda seeing what else we can get our hands into. I think you know, this year was a lot busier than… i would have imagined .. and thats just, it snowballed.
HB: (To Ted) Where are you headed?
Ted: I’m headed to Warner Bros. on Saturday to take a look at and see what they are doing. I went last year and could see how much potential that they have and, and look forward to seeing what they’ve got this year and see if there is any way to assist them for 2019.
HB: Don’t touch the IT house cause its pretty good
Jon: The IT house is pretty Awesome, i enjoyed it. I didn’t see the exorcist but everything else I saw was pretty surprised by.
HB: Yeah. I enjoyed it. My 2nd favorite the Camp Crystal lake thing.
Jon: That was neat
HB: They just needed to pull Freddy out of it though, because like it didn’t make any sense.
Jon: you were they on like that first night right? So we were too, and i guess all the lights weren’t on so you just had that flashlight. it worked really well, i didn’t realize it was an accident, thought it was pretty cool.
HB: Yeah I thought it was good, I liked it. it terrified me.
Jon: you didn’t see Jason standing in the woods until the actor shined the light on him that was pretty cool.
HB: And you’re off to Kings Island , your off to Warner Bros. So after all of this , what are you gonna be doing? Are you gonna be like, .. how long are you gonna be sleeping?
Jon: Ha , hopfully not at all.
Ted: no not at all…we are gonna be nailing this stuff during the holidays big time to prep for 2019.
HB: Oh my god, so do you already have ideas for 2019?
Ted: of course
HB: What are you gonna be involved with next year? is that something you can talk about
Jon: well there’s nothing, there’s been no contracts signed or nothing official but, umm i think we’re almost at a point where there’s enough interest in what were doing to where we get to kind of lay everything out on the table and see where we can be the most effective and what interest us the most and be able to kinda choose what we wanna do , and a good position to be in.
HB: Right on … right on ..um
Jon: …and the escape room
HB: Yeah, what about the escape room
Jon: Gotta see what we do next , we got a hard core event going on right now.. that’s doing really well, people are responding really well to it so…
HB: Are they responding more to the hardcore version than the regular?
Jon: You know it’s interesting um, the goal for Murder Co was always for it to be fun. We wanted to be extreme but never cross that boundary into that extreme haunt, you know like the physical.
Ted: Extremish type of thing, but I had a very long conversation with Norm this past weekend about Murder Co hardcore as far as what his personal limits are …and those types of things . so when you do decide to brave Murder Co. hardcore make sure that were right there with ya on the very edge.
Jon: Murder Co to me is my line of what i consider to be fun.
HB: But you don’t really like that…
Jon: I don’t, I dont like to being shocked, I don’t like being like roughed up, cause to me it the like the fight or flight thing.. I’m a fighter so (laughter) that’s just my personal,…. I think its great, for that industry and that demographic, its awesome and there are venues that are killing that’s just not my personal interest.
HB: Right…..well my, well you know.. if..if..I’m all for extreme , as long as i have a safety word and there’s like medical staff on hand , at least people can handle if something happens, I’m great um but….
Jon: well we can step it up for ya , we have the fire department down the street so ( laughter)
Ted: we can call 911 (laughter)
Jon: There is that …(laughter)
Ted: ya, i think theres a huge audience that digs that type of thing and i love their set designs and all that stuff but for me, I just don’t like to be like ….
Jon: I think it’s about getting lost. If you can get lost in the story then a lot of that stuff becomes more tolerable.
HB: or lost in the experience, because with Blackout, there’s no story, its abstract thought and weird scenarios , but your so immersed in that emotion that it works.
HB: Are you planning any new escape rooms at Murder Co. or is there anything you want to tease???
Jon: No…with how busy Plague Productions is getting um were just kinda trying to figure out what works best for us. I mean i don’t want to end black market escape rooms or anything. I just wanna see what we can do with ahh with everything else that we have going on.
Ted: right and I dont think that we were ever allowed the opportunity to bring more of a personalized experience with other venues. If the gig kinda called out for it um so so there might be opportunities there. We can take some of the things that we’ve learned and that we’ve kinda tested in MurderCo and bring that to other audiences.
Jon: the best way I can put it is…. my time line.. so when I first left Knotts, I had nothing, i had no job or anything. That’s when I’m all… were doing Murder Co. and then i created a timeline . and according to my timeline we should have already expanded to a larger building and had multiple experiences, but just because of how busy it was with Dark Harbor and we worked on two permanent attractions in Indonesia this year. we did like all these other little things , and did a bunch of productions for bands and music videos and stuff , it just never happened.
HB: your like the mary poppins of the haunt world (laughter)
Jon: What does that mean (laughter)
HB: flying from location to location and help everybody that needs it and then go away
Ted: and in some ways looking at it as the Gordan Ramsey of haunts (laughter)
HB: Scary poppins ?? would that work
Ted: We need our own show right…
Jon: We do ….our own reality show. Any producers reading out there ( laughter) don’t have a name yet but were working on it.
HB: Well tonite your just giving back to the fans here
Jon: Tonight is kinda a cool opportunity for everyone to get together hang out , have a good time um , you know we kicked around a lot of ideas of doing a haunters night at the escape room ,n thought no… this is more of an opportunity for everyone to get together and celebrate , and this weird community and all the different haunts to come together and just have fun.
HB: i love how accessible you guys are , just like .. “yeah, lets roll up and have a drink and have some fun.”
Jon: that’s what it’s all about
HB: I like it
Jon: This is the community we grew up in and we love it. We’re so busy we have to create our own day or excuses to just hang out with everybody.
HB: well… You killed it on Queen Mary. It’s wonderful. it finally works. I liked it, alot.
Jon: The potential for that event and the leadership there. Like they defiantly had there heads in the right place this year to really blow up that event.
HB: Are you gonna go back next year maybe??
Jon: next year … nothings signed yet so I don’t want to say anything but I think , we had a great time and i feel like they were pretty happy with us so…
HB: Is there anything you wanna tease or talk about?
Jon: No, i mean i feel we are at the end of the season and everything is out and announced and just having a good time and excited to enjoy the season with everybody.
A good time indeed. We would like to thank Ted and Jon for their time, their support and love given to the haunt community, and for the time they always make to chat with us. Thanks guys! See you in the fog!