Add a pinch of salt to that story.

Mysterious tales and legends haunt the multitude of islands in the South Pacific. Uncharted destinations rarely sought by travelers. No island has been more shrouded in foreboding intrigue than Makoako Island. Come gather round and heed my warning.

That’s how the backstory for the Lava Flow Inn begins. It’s a detailed yarn that begins with Captain Redgrave and his nefarious crew raiding a Spanish Galleon and absconding some treasure. The pirates end up shipwrecked on Makoako Island sometime in the 1700s. After a single marauder escapes on a rowboat from a chieftain’s curse during a volcanic eruption, the story fast forwards to a party of early twentieth-century explorers. They seek the pirate’s treasure on the fabled island only to find a distasteful demise. The final chapter finds Matt with his wife Patty stumbling into a tiki hut deep in a jungle and finding an explorer’s skeleton clutching a map of hidden treasure.

None who have entered beyond this outpost have returned. Well, that is, returned in one piece. Some were maimed and some driven insane by the horrors they experienced in the jungle beyond. You see, this outpost is the last stop. Beyond this point are savages, ghosts, zombies, pagan rituals, voodoo rites, and cannibalism. Those of you with a taste for adventure enter at your own risk. You have been warned.

Although it might sound a bit unbelievable, all of the elements of the story came to him in a dream, long before Matt built his immersive tiki bar – The Lava Flow Inn – and the surrounding zombie camp in his sloping backyard. Matt’s dream turned into a backstory that focused his vision for a home tiki bar build.

In addition to being a long-time tiki enthusiast, successful lowbrow artist/illustrator/painter, master builder for many of the sets for Tiki Oasis, and prolific tiki mug designer, Matt (aka Reesenik) is an advocate for developing a backstory as an essential component of a tiki bar build. To him, the history of the space – either real or make-believe – helps guide the work and the collection. Using a detailed story to influence every element of a home bar helps the builder avoid “jumping the shark,” that is, going off in a direction with your collection or inclusion of structural elements that does not ultimately align with your vision. Does the story need to be completely finished before anything else happens? Not necessarily, but Matt did it that way. He encourages story development as an essential part of the design process, equal in weight to the more commonly-considered technical, electrical, and construction elements. Matt also understands the need for organic flexibility in the story. Details of your yarn may deepen as you find unusual collectibles or consider the constraints of your space. Regardless, the process of dreaming, imagining, and crafting your story is an important early step to the process.

“It’s hard to recapture the wonder and magic you had as a kid. When you’re an adult and want a place to fully escape, it’s important to make it as believable, as real, as possible.”

Matt loves the challenge of creating an environment so immersive that you feel, quite literally, lost. Once you’ve read the Lava Flow Inn’s story, you begin to see the narrative’s elements all around you. You may even feel a little uneasy, imagining you might become the yarn’s next character. To heighten the edginess, Matt has printed tongue-in-cheek liability release forms for his guests, asking them to acknowledge via signature (print your name here!) that their lives might be at risk when entering the Lava Flow Inn. To add to the fun, he’s developed a list of cannibal kitchen rules:

Don’t eat clowns; they taste funny. Sailors do not require salt. Divorced people taste bitter. Never stew missionary priests; they are friars. No staff children in the Boucan; they always play with their food.

It’s all part of creating the adult version of a kid’s sense of wonder and magic. He’s even developed the script for a yet-to-be-filmed mockumentary with a cast of zesty characters to portray the lengthy and foreboding history of the Inn.

Aubrey Mahoney sought the pirate’s treasure in the 1920s, but his party of explorers were never heard from again. It is said that his servants were all turned into zombies and his fellow treasure hunters, botanists, archeologists, and scholars were “dinner guests” at Chief Nekbudu’s celebrations over the “course” of several weeks. Rumor has it that the sailors who accompanied them were simply killed (as they were far too salty).

If you’re lucky, you might get to play a zombie in a pith helmet. I’m auditioning for the role of the bearded archeologist. I mean, I’m a natural for that character, right?

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