Exploiting people’s fears is Riley Cameron’s specialty. The 2009 Ship grad makes a living off a unique combination of his love for special effects, his art degree, and a technical background.
“I had always done special effects from an early age. I was always interested in Halloween,” he said.
Cameron owns Nevermore Productions, a company that develops custom animatronics and set design for nearly every theme park and haunted house attraction in the US as well as many abroad. He’s also applied his talents to the newly opened Steel Key Escape Room in Chambersburg, which leads players through an immersive cold case murder mystery with Hollywood-quality sets.
After tinkering with special effects for haunted houses in high school and college, Cameron realized he found a way to entertain and make a paycheck through his passion. “People were enjoying it, and I could make this a career. I wasn’t just making creatures, I was playing on fears people already had.”
During his senior year at Ship, he scraped together enough money to be a vendor at the TransWorld’s Halloween and Attractions Show, a special effects trade show held each March in St. Louis. His gamble to attend paid off, and his products were well received.
“Animatronic characters always drew me in. I have a very heavy hammer and nail background and then art with technical painting and sculpting. This enabled me to use both aspects of what I liked,” he said. “One of my props was a three- to four- foot spider with realistic motions. Not that there weren’t spiders already, but I figured out how to do it better.”
Every year, Cameron attends the show with four or five new products, takes orders, then fulfills them with his team over the summer. He avoids trends or cheesy characters and sticks with what he knows will indefinitely be a hit—spiders, snakes, creepy mannequins, or dolls. He also offers set design and construction. His products and sets are regularly used at local attractions like Jason’s Woods and Field of Screams as well as in major theme parks such as Six Flags, Busch Gardens, and Kings Dominion.
Cameron recently discovered a new application for his work through the escape room craze. Having built sets for his clients, he decided to open his own. “It’s a great combination of the set design and props.”
Steel Key Escape Room in Chambersburg is a cold case adventure game set in a remote cabin. Groups of two to ten people are challenged to solve a twenty-year-old murder
by scavenging around for clues and making connections before police release the suspect. Cameron said it took about two months to produce a strong storyline and mood.
“It’s been a nice change from just producing a product,” he said. “We put people in an immersive experience.”
The escape room has been a hit with varied audiences, he said. He feels people enjoy the engaging, physical adventure game. “People are so technology-based—on their phone, on the computer—this gets you out of there to physically do something.”
Based on the success of their first venture, Cameron said they are creating a second escape room this spring that features a viral outbreak in an underground bunker. Players must find the anecdote to stop the outbreak.