Immersive Horror Haunt Experts to be Unleashed at SXSW

The 2018 South by Southwest Festival will feature two of the world’s best known experts in horror experiences, as directors, producers, and VR (virtual reality) creators Jon Schnitzer (Haunters) and Joel Zika will be sharing their stories of horrifying haunts, dark rides, and VR from around the world in a show that will be anything but the usual tech showcase.

Schnitzer and Zika will share how horror visionaries have been engaging audiences in cutting edge simulations by exploring how it all began, the controversies facing interactive horror artists today, and what they believe will be the next wave of immersive entertainment.

This one-hour talk will give insight into why people love to be scared, why horror attractions are more popular than ever, the evolution of immersive entertainment, the people who sacrifice everything to create these dark experiences, how far is too far, and what all storytellers can learn from this visceral American tradition.

As co-owner of The Brain Factory, Schnitzer has been involved in creating horror attractions, immersive projects for Tim Burton, YouTube RED Studios, and produced 3D ghost illusions for President Obama’s first Halloween party at the White House. 

Jon premiered his feature film documentary, Haunters: The Art of the Scare at Fantastic Fest 2017. The film explores how Halloween haunted houses have spawned an underground subculture of extreme “full contact” terror simulations, where the normal rules don’t apply. Haunters recently debuted on Netflix to rave reviews

Schnitzer also directed/produced “Flatline Experience,” a VR project that gives audiences the ability to become an active participant in an actual a near death experience, which The Huffington Post called,”…mystical, amazing and deep.”

Zika is a senior Academic at Deakin University and the only professor specialising in haunted attractions. He has spent his career in search of the long-lost art of the American dark ride and is using Virtual Reality to save them. His VR project captures the oldest Ghost Trains, Mill Rides, and Haunted Houses at amusement parks all over the world.

Zika’s “Dark Ride Project” is one of the most popular VR projects in the haunt world, as he’s not only filming the stories behind the last of the original American dark rides, he’s also capturing and preserving these experiences in VR for future generations to enjoy. 

Joel will be showing VR footage and excerpts from a TV series about his journey called “American Dark Ride“.  Charlie Fink, VR reporter for Forbes, described the project as “one of the best 360 videos –and subjects – I’ve seen”.

The talk will take place on March 14th from 12:30 to 1:30pm during SXSW in Austin, TX. For more information, visit

You can check out the official trailers for Flatline Experience and American Dark Ride below!


VR footage from inside The Haunted Mansion at Funland in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
VR footage from inside The Haunted Mansion at Funland in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.


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Matt Artz

Founded Halloween Daily News in 2012 and the Halloween International Film Festival in 2016. Professional writer/journalist/photographer since 2000.