DV Cams: Agent Powell and Agent Winckler
Digital Photography: Agent Spencer
Mission Idea by: Agent Casey
Featuring: Woods, Casey, Brister, Dippold, Kula, King, Todd, Winckler, Spencer, Powell, Hot Chocolate, Barrison, Opstad, Jesster, Montague, Harms, Borden, Foley, Shelkey, Pittman
On October 31st, 2003 twenty Improv Everywhere Agents converted an uptown 6-Train into a haunted house. The Agents rushed into the second to last car of the train as it arrived in the Brooklyn Bridge station. They stretched cobwebs and green and orange colored Saran Wrap across the polls. “Graveyard Moss” was strewn about the floor. A boombox played “Scary Sounds” and themes from horror movies. Pounds and pounds of free candy were tossed all over the seats. All of the usual suspects were accounted for: Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Witch, the Vampire, Jason, and of course TWO Andrews W.K. The costumed agents moaned and shrieked as passengers entered the train for 19 consecutive stops. Despite their attempts to scare visitors to the haunted house, the agents work was universally met with laughter and smiling faces.
IE Agents meet at Barnes and Noble
Agents Spencer and Powell
Agent Opstad as “Jason” and Agent Pittman as “Andrew W.K.”
wait on the train to arrive at “Boo”klyn Bridge
Agents storm the 6 Train and cover the car with candy and cobwebs
The first stranger to enter the train
Agents Jesster and Barrison continue the cobwebbing
The train pulls into Canal Street and Agent Todd announces over his
megaphone, “Welcome to the 6 Train’s haunted house, the scariest car
on the Lexington Avenue Line.”
Agent Harms reads the paper
“Thirty years ago today 6 passengers died on this very 6 train
car. Every year the spirits rise from the dead to give out free candy!”
Agent Dippold puts her arm around a stranger
Agent Dippold (as the girl from “The Ring”) crawls on the floor
Agent Todd uses his megaphone to amplify Agent Montague’s
boombox, playing the theme from the movie “Halloween”
Agent Hot Chocolate
A stranger ducks under the saran wrap streamers on his way out
Agent Woods terrifies passengers as “Post Assassination Lincoln”
Agents King, Shelkey, and Brister sit and moan
Agent Casey scares train riders!
A stranger takes some free candy
A stranger snaps a photo of the haunted house
Happy Passengers wave good bye as IE Agents exit at 125th Street
I was playing the part of the mad scientist. I had hollowed out two pumpkins and put “brains” in one and “eyeballs” in the other. I invited people to touch the brains, telling them that just like all brains, the brain needed love and attention to develop properly. After repeated requests to “touch my brain”, a 20-something girl with a group going to the Halloween parade picked my nose. She actually put her stranger finger in my nose. I hope she got a prize for her efforts.
I played the role of “Escaped Hospital Patient,” wearing a hospital gown drenched in fake blood, along with an exposed, plastic chest plate showing various organs that could be pumped full of even more fake blood. It was an AWESOME costume, except for the leak in the pump that caused half the blood I tried to get into the chest to get onto my right arm. Regardless of this handicap, I pressed on, and during the haunted train ride I proceeded to moan a lot, complain about the pain I was in, and ask each rider on the train if he/she was a doctor, of if they ‘knew where the doctor was.’ I got a lot of “oh…no you’re fine”‘s and “just walk it off”‘s.
My favorite line of the night actually came from Agent Todd, who tried to get all of us to clean up the train before we left by yelling out: “Watch as we pick up the eeeevil trash…”
It was determined pretty early on that Agent Pittman’s Andrew WK costume was legit, whereas mine – a pre-crimped wig, a Liberace-style “glitter mic,” the inexplicable nunchuks – was more like Weird Al “as” Andrew WK. (Polka ’til you puke!)
Still, once we got on the train, we did a pretty good job of synching up our high-energy fist pumping. We even got the kids at the end of the train to join in with us, with Pittman yelling, “Do this! [Begins pumping arms up and down] JUST DO THIS! Don’t let down!”
Around 86th Street we led the whole train in a sing-a-long of “I love New York City / Oh yeah, New York City.” I think the group singing just segued into more group moaning for “Spreeeee!”
The scariest moment of the night, for me and I’m sure many others, was when Agent Hot Chocolate’s sad-clown-in-a-lion-suit – on rollerblades, mind you – rolled into and got tangled up in the cobwebs; he just hung there, lifeless, and Agent Pittman titled him “The Human Tragedy.”
I overheard one lady ask her friend if they should move to the next car. The friend said “It’s no use.” I suppose she realized that once the horrors of the underworld have been unleashed upon the world, resistance is futile. Give in to the horror. They both did and had some fun before their stop. They even ate some candy after close inspection and said “That takes care of Halloween!” when exiting.
The unsupervised children who boarded about halfway through had a great time laughing and eating candy and they helped get some of the other commuters into the action. Although freely roaming the streets and subways of Manhattan on a Friday night is probably fairly fun for kids, it didn’t seem as if costumes, haunted houses, and trick-or-treating were on their evening agenda. If a child has fun on Halloween but none of it is Halloween-themed, have they really had a fun Halloween? I think we gave them some of what their hearts were truly craving.
One commuter man who seemed to be getting off work was not reacting to the haunting with a smile or frown and he stayed in the car the whole time we were there. From time to time he would look around casually. Another subscriber to the “It’s no use” school of thought? I saw him watching us as we left. Still a blank face. Was the horror too much for this man?
The scariest moments for me were run-ins with Agent Hot Chocolate repeatedly rolling with the flow on his rollerblades as “Crazy Man”, hands grasping for overhead support bars, lower half following the forces of inertia, and private areas unintentionally accentuated. Luckily the children were on the opposite side of the car.
My favorite part of the mission was paying visits to the cars behind and in front of the haunted house. I would throw open the doors in between the cars and announce on my megaphone, “You are one car away from the scariest car on the Lexington Avenue line. Follow me through these doors and feast your eyes upon the scariest gouls and enjoy a bounty of free candy.” Each time, I convinced several passengers to follow me back. Those who didn’t follow looked through the windows at all the fun they were missing, confident in the fact that they were true killjoys at heart.
Some key moments:
Agent BHC would reenact being “the human tragedy” and get himself tangled with the cobwebs and spooky saran wrap.
The Scary Andrew WK’s would incite dance moves for the whole car by chanting “just do it! Just do it!” There was a group of little kids who “just did it” every time a new move was passed along.
Agent Brister and I practiced our grunting throughout the ride. I noticed that all monsters actually acted afraid when Agent Dippold, dressed as the little girl from The Ring, crawled by. Also, all monsters were very interested in Spree. A chant would start for spree and then it would be gorged upon if a packet of spree was found. Note: the little kids also joined in the love/craze for spree.
My favorite moment was going up to the next car, opening the doors and peering through the window. People were concerned at first and then laughing, which I think was the mood of the whole night.
The best quote of the night was the MTA worker at the 125 stop as we prepared to catch the downtown train. He saw all of us and said, “Scary Movie Part Nine!”
Speaking as one who had his eye on the whole car (I was shooting the action in my scary kabuki makeup and punk kilt), people really, really enjoyed themselves on our haunted train. As opposed to my usual hidden camera work for IE, I not only had my camera in full view, but people were so receptive and turned on to the spirit of the event that I could tape their reactions for as long as I wanted–no one shut down when I turned the lens on them. In fact, lots of people played to the camera: from the kids shouting ‘Spree!’ and making faces with the up-car set to a man in an orange jacket who gleefully voiced his appreciation to us.
We had a good ten tourists at one time or another (lucky us) and they ate it up. On the performer side, it made me really happy to see how all the agents found a scary niche for themselves–the up-car set’s chanting gauntlet shot energy up and down the car, Agent Hot Chocolate’s falling dead clown act at every stop added to the rhythm, Agent Dippold opened up another level as the crawling girl, and, of course, Agent Foley’s talkative witch allowed more reticent riders to get in on the fun. Awesome.
This mission turned out completely different than I expected. In my mind’s eye, I saw us scaring the crap out of people. What resulted was joyous madness, which was just as good. My memory of the experience is a bit blurry, because everything was so surreal and
outrageous. I brought a boom box, which hardly overcame the deafening cries of blood dripping monsters shouting “Spree! Spree!”. Agent Todd saved the day by placing his megaphone up to my boom box. This doubled the volume, and provided the subway with
sporadic haunting soundbytes.
I saw lots of smiles and laughs from the passengers. I really think we made their night.
Favorite moment of the experience: Leaving the train to the sight of waves and applause from the passengers.