For Theodore Northmoor, the Burned Man, we used real flame, smoke, sound effects, video projection, makeup, a pulley system and smells.
In 1844, Northmoor House was burned to the ground in an act of arson. In the blaze, Theodore Northmoor abandoned his lover – Josephine, a maidservant – and fled. After he escaped he had second thoughts and went back inside to try to save her, but burned to death. Unbeknownst to him, the maidservant escaped by jumping out of a window.
Discovering the Story
Unknown to some of the players – who thought they weren’t Northmoor family members – they were descendants of Theodore, as the maidservant was pregnant when she escaped. One of them had a locket, passed down from her grandmother; it was half a coin. What they didn’t know was that Theodore’s half of the coin was in the house somewhere, and was used in a panicked emergency by the chefs when putting charms into the Christmas pudding…
There were part-burned letters from Josephine to Theodore in the basement of the house. There were blueprints of the new design of the house, and old newspaper cuttings about the fire itself.
On Friday evening some of the players heard burning, and smelled burning flesh. Late at night they heard & smelled burning again, and then saw flickering flames underneath the door to their bedrooms.
On Saturday night, they encountered the Burned Man himself several times. Firstly, there was an explosion of fire outside the windows and he clawed at them, crying out for Josephine. Secondly, they saw him crawling along a corridor towards them, flames and smoke in the background, and as he reached out for them he suddenly disappeared backwards into the fire.
Behind the Scenes
To achieve the Burned Man, we used:
- A smoke machine.
- Projected video of flames (worked very well under bedroom doors)
- Audio of a burning building.
- The Burned Witch smell.
- Special effects flame bars (real flame)
- A rig involving a pulley system and a long corridor.
- A stunt performer made up as a burned and blackened corpse.
Here’s a video demonstrating flame bars similar to the ones we used.