Ghosts & Gravestones
Behind the scenes at Savannah, Georgia’s popular Ghosts & Gravestones tour, it was a super-natural decision to choose Alcorn McBride products for show control, audio playback, lighting control and programming.
“The attraction wouldn’t exist without Alcorn,” says Ryan McCurdy, who handles show control for Historic Tours of America, which operates tours in six cities. “Alcorn McBride is the only provider in the U.S. that has such a unified approach to its equipment.” He selected Alcorn McBride’s V4 Pro for show control, a pair of AM4 digital audio machines and a DMX machine lighting controller. The show was programmed on a LightCue system running WinScript, Alcorn’s spreadsheet-like editor.
“Historic Tours of America realized that it’s guided ghost tours were getting stale for a younger generation of visitors, so they have adding state-of-the-art interactive technology to an important storytelling base,” McCurdy explains. “These shows are fully actor- and technology-driven.”
Ghosts & Gravestones new and improved Ghost Tour was launched on Halloween 2009 as part of Savannah’s most popular Frightseeing Tour. Visitors board the Trolley of the Doomed to visit some of the city’s most haunted sites then step into Perkins and Sons Chandlery for a fun, up-close-and-personal paranormal experience.
“They wanted a stop with a controlled environment, so they gutted a gift shop in downtown Savannah and gave the entire building an 1860’s look,” says McCurdy. “Visitors are given a 20-minute history lesson as an actor in period costume enters through a brick wall and attempts to show them around the building. As the tour progresses, more ‘ghostly’ 4D effects take place, and a big storm comes in from outside and gets the visitors wet. The ghost encounters are actual stories that people have experienced and related for the last 75 years or more.”
During the show a reconstructed cotton elevator mysteriously drops, footsteps are heard but no one is seen, a cat runs through the room and appears to have a ghostly effects on objects such as piano keys that strike discordant tones as if the cat were walking on them.
“There aren’t many crazy effects,” McCurdy notes. “They have tried to keep things realistic with a constant state of tension, movement and activity. A lot of discreet lighting quietly accentuates things, and audio effects are timed to the actors’ delivery.”
The Alcorn McBride products McCurdy specified fill the bill for the attraction’s continuing needs. The V4 Pro is a versatile, frame-accurate show controller for serial and network devices; it’s capable of running every day for years without reboots, software updates or maintenance of any kind. The studio-quality AM4 digital audio machines play MP3 and WAVs from Compact Flash cards; they feature many options plus built-in GPs. The DMX Machine is an economical and powerful lighting-control solution that can store hundreds of sophisticated lighting sequences.
“We went out on a limb with this very ambitious project, and Alcorn is the only company that could have addressed its needs,” he says. “The show is done 10 times a night, every day of the year, and we haven’t blown a fuse, changed a bulb – we’ve had no problems whatsoever.”
He points out that Alcorn products were also selected for their ease of use because the attraction “has to operate without a technical employee. The attraction auto resets; sometimes there are less than five minutes between show times. Everything is a button-based trigger; most are foot-based. The actors can be moving with their hands visible and still trigger effects sequences. There is an overall timeline, but some surprise effects are triggered manually for perfect synchronization.”
About Alcorn McBride:
Founded in 1986, Alcorn McBride is the leading manufacturer of show control, audio and video equipment for the themed entertainment industry, and a rapidly growing provider of audio and video systems for retail environments and transportation applications. Staffed by some of the industry’s best engineers and backed by outstanding customer support, the company has demonstrated great agility in bringing new designs to market. A hallmark of Alcorn McBride products is their durable, zero maintenance design. The company’s products provide consistent, reliable operation for audio and video playback applications worldwide. For more information, visit