Frightful Design: When Good Architecture Goes Bad!

Steve Mickley
Steve Mickley
Last updated 
Designing any house is a mixture of style, function, and the needs of the user. It is a creative endeavor of creating space that produces the desired reaction of the occupants: be it tranquility, relaxation, work function, entertainment, or TERROR! For the last 40 years, haunted attraction designer Leonard Pickel has put what he learned from an architectural degree at Texas A&M University into designing for fright rather than comfort, thrills rather than peacefulness. Pickel has designed over 300 haunted house walk-through attractions around the world and for companies including Universal Studios, Madison Square Garden, Several Six Flags parks and even the Playboy mansion. In this off the wall presentation, Pickel will share the creative process he has developed to scare the “bejeebers” out of people, which you may find surprisingly similar to your own design theory!

Leonard Pickel Bio


Innovator, Designer, Artist, Inventor, Teacher, Writer, Leader -Leonard Pickel has over 40 years of themed attraction design and operations experience, of both year-round and summer seasonal installations, as well as museums and dark rides. Creating more than 300 original and innovative dark themed attractions for major venues worldwide, Leonard’s creative accomplishments include the industry's first turn-key Haunted House kits, and the Triangular Grid System. Over 1 million people from Los Angeles to New York, Puerto Rico to Australia have experienced the "Pickel Theory" of Haunt Design firsthand. Leonard is constantly experimenting with new technologies, and searching for fresh new approaches scaring people for a living! Check out his website at