By Laura Grimm
Students gazed wide-eyed at a dome of blood-red stars to celebrate Friday the 13th.
The planetarium held “Stories of the Night” on Oct. 13 and 20. The show included four creepy audio stories, ranging from real-life horror to supernatural creatures. This was completely new to the planetarium, which typically hosts educational shows about astronomical topics like dark matter and the moon.
Senior Andrew Block, an astrophysics major and the assistant manager of the planetarium, was in charge of bringing these spooky stories to life.
“We’d been throwing around the idea for a while now of doing something like this for Halloween,” Block said. “I went to a show in Minneapolis back in February that was kind of similar to this.”
That show featured live voice actors, something the planetarium was unable to get. Instead, they tweaked the concept and found audio recordings.
“I didn’t have a team of voice actors, so I thought, ‘Well, what’s the next best thing?’” Block said. “I brought this up to my boss, and she said, ‘Go for it,’ and kind of gave me full creative reign.”
“Stories of the Night” attracted people who had never been to the planetarium before, like sophomore Nebiyu Meseret.
“I didn’t even know where (the planetarium) was,” Meseret said. “I thought this actually looked pretty interesting … And I thought, ‘I haven’t been there yet, why not give it a try?’”
With Friday the 13th only weeks away from Halloween, Block knew he had to seize the opportunity. He and the other planetarium workers decided to host another show on Oct. 20, but they steered away from a show the Friday before Halloween.
“There are other events that weekend because of the proximity of Halloween,” Block said. “We didn’t want to fight with actual Halloween parties going on.”
However, the planetarium would add another show if there was enough demand, especially after seeing the first one’s success. On the opening night, nearly every seat was filled with ears eager to listen to spooky stories.
“I’m a huge fan of this form of horror,” Block said. “I like that sort of (audio) horror where you don’t get to see something—you can make it up on your own.”
Block and another student created visuals that were projected onto the domed ceiling to aid audience members in imagining the stories.
“I really enjoyed the visuals because it was like I was there, and I could visualize everything going on,” Meseret said.
Meseret and Block both found “Soft White Damn” to be their favorite story.
“That one was super spooky to me because he’s hallucinating his dead dad,” Meseret said. “He’s so confused, and he kept talking about his thinking process and how messed up he was throughout the night.”
However, Block has a soft spot for how “A Knock on the Window” worked in the planetarium.
“I think we did a good job of setting the atmosphere, and I think the very audio-based story with the tapping and smacks and whatnot, that was a very suitable format for something like this,” Block said.
Meseret also enjoyed the mood in the planetarium, although for a different reason.
“I just loved the atmosphere of being able to walk into a room and being in a dome and all the dimmed lights and looking up at the sky,” Meseret said. “It gives you a feel that you’re in a whole different area compared to being outside or in your own room.”
Right now the planetarium has regular shows on the weekends, but Block sees the potential of the planetarium extending to more than astronomy-related activities.
“We’re always hoping to utilize this space for more than just looking at the stars,” Block said. “That’s the obvious use, and it’s our primary use, but we’re always trying to do new things.”
In the future, they hope to host more events like “Stories of the Night” to bring the community into the planetarium—where the sky is nowhere near the limit.