Haunted Auditorium Entertains While It Educates

photo of a red, brick building with three entrances and big windows above the doors at night

The Boogeyman, Slenderman, Mary Mayo and more are visiting Michigan State University’s campus in time for Halloween as MSU’s Department of Theatre presents its 8th annual Haunted Auditorium October 28-31.

The public is invited to this urban legends-themed haunted house that will transform four of the Auditorium’s five floors with each room designed by a different upperclassman, while underclassmen serve as actors.

The entire production is completely student run with nearly 80 students contributing to the Haunted Auditorium in some way. 

a graphic of the auditorium being shattered like glass

Leading the production are Mike Merluzzi and Melanie Vandenberg, both junior Theatre majors and Co-Producers of the Haunted Auditorium, who have been working hard for weeks in order to prepare for the event.

“We have been planning this since August and our designers have been working on their designs since early September,” Vandenberg said.

The annual production entertains while helping to prepare students for future careers in the theatre.

“A lot of the designers for the Auditorium are actors who have never had experience designing before,” Vandenberg said. “This gives them a look into the various aspects of theatre and enriches them in the other options they have when it comes to acting.”

We learn how to act in comedy; we learn how to act in Shakespeare shows; and now we learn how to act scary.


On top of teaching students assorted aspects of theatre production, the Haunted Auditorium provides students with experience acting in a different genre.

“We learn how to act in comedy; we learn how to act in Shakespeare shows; and now we learn how to act scary,” Merluzzi said. “It’s a way to hone our skills.”

The Haunted Auditorium also gives Theatre students the opportunity to become more familiar with their program.

“For many freshmen in the department, it is their first introduction to other students outside of their classes, and it gives them an opportunity to contribute on a level playing field with the upperclassmen,” Merluzzi said. “Even for those who have been in the department for a couple years, it’s seen as a fun and rewarding community-building experience.”

The Haunted Auditorium is a fundraiser for the MSU stART program, which provides grants to senior MSU Theatre students to enable them to travel to popular acting destinations, such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Last year, the event raised more than $30,000 for the stART program. Merluzzi and Vandenberg are hoping to raise even more this year and they wish that every student who collaborates or attends will take away something positive from the experience.

“While it is a fundraiser, it is also an artistic collaboration and putting together a quality project is by far most important,” Merluzzi said.

Lansing’s Gateway Youth Shelter, a program for homeless and runaway teens in the Lansing area, will be the Haunted Theatre’s first audience as they have been invited to Thursday’s dress rehearsal.

“They have communicated to us how excited the children were when they heard they were going, and that’s just a really nice feeling for all of us,” Merluzzi said.  

Haunted Aud Schedule and Tickets

The Haunted Auditorium, 542 Auditorium Road, is open to the public on the following days and times:

  • Friday, October 28, 8-11 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 29, 8-11 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 30, 9 p.m.-Midnight
  • Monday, October 31, 8-11 p.m.

Tickets are $15 at the door. A full walk-through will take approximately 15 minutes, and for those who do not particularly enjoy haunted houses, they will be provided glow sticks, which will serve as an indicator to the actors to make their experience less scary than normal.

Written by Alexandria Drzazgowski, Professional Writing Major