A haunted attraction is a form of entertainment that simulates the experience of entering a haunted location that might be inhabited by ghosts, monsters, witches, serial killers, or humorous characters including The Addams Family, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and The Munsters. Haunted attractions can take place in many locations, including temporarily constructed simulated "haunted houses" or actual abandoned and dilapidated homes, corn mazes or cornfields, hedge mazes, farms or farmhouses, wooded areas or forests, abandoned asylums, defunct or old prisons, abandoned amusement parks or active amusement parks, ships or boats, abandoned factories, shopping malls, and parks.
- Types of haunted attractions
- Haunted house/mansion/castle
- Haunted experience
- Haunted trail/forest
- Haunted hayride
- Haunted theme park (screampark)
- Dark maze and chain maze
- Hell house
- Dark ride
- Cornfield maze
- Home haunt
- Yard haunt/yard display
- Ghost run
- Midnight spook/ghost shows
- Spinning tunnel
- Business Environment
- Legal environment
Haunted attractions (also known as "haunts" or "mazes" within the industry) use many effects, intense lighting (strobe lights, black lights, and so forth), animatronics, CGI, scent dispensers, fog machines, air blasters, old antiques, gory images, and intense scenes of terror, torment, crime, mischief, or comedy. Visitors often come in contact with various actors dressed up in elaborate and often scary costumes, masks, and prosthetics; these actors perform skits or hide and jump out unexpectedly to scare, shock, disturb, or amuse the customer.
The typical haunted attraction starts operating during the week/weekend of late September or early October to the last week/weekend in October or first week/weekend of November. In particular, they are especially active during the triduum of Allhallowtide. Additionally, there is a sub culture of haunted attractions that are open year-round and a few that open during special occasions such as haunt conventions or Spring Break (aka Scream Break). There are some attractions that may even offer the option for a fast pass which will allow customers to skip the line for an additional cost. Some attractions are run by Jaycees associations or charities, while many are for profit.
The history of the haunted attraction is unknown. The Hollycombe Steam Collection in England includes an Orton and Spooner Haunted House dating from 1915.
In the late 1960s to early 1970s, haunted attractions were developed in larger American cities like Louisville, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio with the creation of Jaycees haunted houses. These haunted houses are run by local chapters of Junior Chamber International (JCI). There are still many local chapter Jaycees haunted houses in towns such as Lombard, Illinois; Foxborough, Massachusetts; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Columbia, South Carolina. The former Huntington Jaycees Haunted House, now known as the Haunted Hotel-13th Floor, was operated by volunteers in October 1963. The first verifiable Jaycees haunted attraction as recognized by the Jaycees national office was The WSAI Haunted House in Cincinnati operated by the Sycamore-Deer Park Jaycees in 1970. In 1974, The Haunted Schoolhouse, located in Akron, Ohio, opened to the public and is still in operation to this day.
Types of haunted attractions
There are many types of haunted attractions. The following categories are generalizations; many "haunts" contain attributes from more than one type.
A haunted house, haunted mansion, or haunted castle is a type of haunted attraction that takes place indoors. Visitors may experience intense animatronics, bloody and frightening set pieces, rustic antiques, scary music and sounds, dynamic lighting, fog, costumed actors with elaborate makeup or masks, and other special effects used to create scenes of terror. Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania has a "Haunted House" dark ride. The Haunted Mansion is very popular to patrons at Disneyland (New Orleans Square), Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (Liberty Square), Tokyo Disneyland (Fantasyland), Disneyland Park (Frontierland), and Hong Kong Disneyland (Mystic Point). Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Beach, Florida had a "Haunted Castle" ride until the amusement park itself closed down in 2004. Its prop elements are now part of "The Terrortorium" in Oxford, Alabama for annual Halloween events. Many of Sally Corporation's Scooby-Doo's Haunted Mansion rides were replaced by Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Haunted houses or mansions for an annual Halloween season can be located in hospitals, grocery stores, shopping malls, warehouses, semi trucks, factories, boats or ships, dilapidated homes, etc. Haunted house/haunted mansion events can range from a few minutes to many hours in length, with some permitting visitors to go at their own pace and others requiring group tours led by guides.
A haunted experience is a relatively new type of haunted attraction that combines the concept of a haunted house with something like a scavenger hunt. These begin in one place and end in another, usually the haunted house itself. An example of a haunted experience is Nyctophobia on Long Island, New York; in 2010, ticket buyers were given a location that was not the physical haunted house, but a pick-up spot where they got into a van blindfolded and were driven to the real location. Other experiences such as Blackout have the participants sign liability waivers and feature scenes where the performers can physically touch the guests and perform actions that resemble various acts such as waterboarding.
A haunted trail or haunted forest is a type of attraction that takes place outside in the woods, at a park, theme park or outside venue. Most haunted trails are close to a mile long and may include small buildings or huts that include various scenes you'll be forced to enter or walk past. The majority of haunted trails have lit paths or roped off areas if there aren't paths in the woods that have been made. Haunted trails include various rooms/scenes such as hillbilly huts, a haunted cornfield, a clown maze, movie themed rooms (Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers etc.), an alien invasion etc.
Haunted trails may use tour guides, or they may allow visitors to walk alone. Unlike haunted houses, weather determines if the attraction will be open or not during the month of October. Tour times may vary greatly depending on the customer's pace.
A haunted hayride is a haunted attraction and a form of agri-entertainment that takes place during a hayride on a farm or large piece of land. Patrons climb on a wagon filled with hay or haybales and are driven into the deep dark woods as the tractor driver navigates through brush, cornfields, narrow paths, fields, and barns. Throughout the trip, customers may come in contact with out of control farm equipment, fast-moving vehicles (hearses, hot rods), actors dressed up as monsters and traditional characters like the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The typical haunted hayride lasts 10–45 minutes. Some use sound systems attached to the wagon or tractor. During the daytime, some haunted hayrides may have live shows, face painting, fun characters and may even sell pumpkins or other vegetables grown on their farm.
Haunted theme park (screampark)
A haunted theme park is an amusement park whose buildings and paths have been converted into haunted houses, haunted trails or hayrides during the fall season (September, October and early November). Many haunted theme parks include themed outdoor scare zones that feature costumed monsters who roam around scaring customers. It's not unusual to come in contact with actors known as sliders who wear special kneepads. When the actor slides on the ground, the kneepads make a scraping noise before the actor is inches away from the customer.
Additionally, a large percentage of haunted theme parks feature live shows, concession areas, rides and other typical amusement park attractions. Not all haunted theme parks take place inside an actual amusement park. There are quite a few events that include multiple attractions in one place and may be located on a farm, park, parking lot or anywhere suitable for a large-scale event.
The first haunted theme park was Knott's Scary Farm, which opened at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, on October 31, 1973. Haunted theme parks are among the most popular haunted attractions since they offer a variety of attractions at prices lower than other events.
Dark maze and chain maze
A dark maze (or pitch black maze) is a haunted attraction that consists of dark or pitch black rooms that have twists, turns and/or dead ends. Some may feature actors, air cannons, loud sounds, sprays of water, moving walls or floors, hanging props, flashing lights and more. A dark maze can be a standalone attraction or an extension of a haunted house, haunted trail or hayride. Some dark mazes can transition into a chain maze, which is similar to a dark maze but uses metal bars or chain-link fencing for its walls. Most chain mazes will utilize strobe lights and heavy fog to blind and disorient customers while they try to find the exit. A chain maze can also serve as a standalone attraction. The amount of time spent inside a dark maze or chain maze may depend on the construction of the maze as well as one's skill at navigating mazes.
Hell houses are haunted attractions typically run by Christian churches or parachurch groups. These depict sin, the torments of the damned in Hell, and usually conclude with a depiction of heaven. They are most typically operated in the days preceding the triduum of Allhallowtide.
A hell house, like a conventional haunted-house attraction, is a space set aside for actors to frighten patrons with gruesome exhibits and scenes, presented as a series of short vignettes with a narrated guide. Unlike haunted houses, hell houses focus on occasions and effects of sin or the fate of unrepentant sinners in the afterlife.
The exhibits at a hell house often have a controversial tone focusing on issues of concern to Christians in the United States. Hell houses frequently feature exhibits depicting sin and its consequences. Common examples include abortion, suicide, use of alcoholic beverage and other recreational drugs, adultery, occultism, and Satanic ritual abuse. Hell houses typically emphasize the belief that anyone who does not repent of their sin and accept Christ as their personal savior is condemned to Hell.
One of the first hell houses is Scaremare (still presented each October) in Lynchburg, Virginia; it was created by Jerry Falwell in the late 1970s. Similar events began in several regions during that period. Hell houses have faced criticism for advertising themselves as traditional haunted houses. Most involve biblical lessons and some ask customers to pray to Jesus Christ before exiting, regardless of their beliefs. Some hell houses are much more graphic than traditional haunted attractions and not appropriate for all audiences.
A dark ride or ghost train (United Kingdom and Australia) is an indoor amusement ride where riders in guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes that typically contain animation, sound, music, and special effects.
A dark ride need not be dark; it is enclosed, so all illumination is artificial, and many such rides use special lighting to achieve theatrical effects. Selective use of darkness helps hide the ride mechanisms and increase the visual drama of the experience. Disney's It's a Small World is an example of a brightly lit dark ride. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is another popular dark ride to patrons at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios (Sunset Boulevard), Disneyland's California Adventure (Hollywood Land), Tokyo DisneySea (American Waterfront), and Walt Disney Studios Park (Production Courtyard).
A cornfield maze is an attraction that uses cornstalks to form paths for people to walk through. Patrons can expect to experience turns, twists, straight paths and dead ends. The cornfield maze might be designed to resemble a popular character, public figure, event or holiday. Most cornfield mazes are open during the day and are appropriate for all ages.
The largest corn maze in the world was located in Dixon, California, and is 45 acres in area as of 2010. Although this corn maze holds distinction as the world's largest corn maze, Adventure Acres corn maze in Bellbrook, Ohio, consists of 62 acres of corn maze with 8.5 miles of trails. In 2003, a world record for the longest maze path, as recognised by Guinness World Records, was set on 10 July 2003 at 8.838 miles (14.223 kilometres) in the Lobster Maize Maze, designed by Adrian Fisher, at Stewarts Gardenlands, Christchurch, Dorset, England.
A haunted cornfield maze is identical to a cornfield maze except that it may include actors, props, special effects, scary music and more. The maze is created by using cornstalks and forming paths for people to walk through. Patrons can expect to experience turns, twists, straight paths and dead ends. The cornfield maze might be designed to resemble a popular character, public figure, event or holiday. The majority of haunted cornfield mazes are open after dark.
A home haunt is a stripped down version of a haunted attraction. A home haunt usually takes place inside a person's home or on their lawn. One can expect to see homemade props or animatronics, detailed rooms, special effects and costumed characters. The vast majority of home haunts are nonprofit or ask for donations; the money may go towards a charity or cause. Home haunts are usually open for a couple of hours on Halloween or a few weekends in October. Haunts like this do not require state issued emergency lighting, fire alarms, and fire escapes if the haunt is under a specific length.
Yard haunt/yard display
A yard haunt is a house that is elaborately decorated to celebrate Halloween. Yards may feature fake tombstones, skulls, large inflatable characters, plastic light-up figures (aka blowmolds), strobe lights, fog machines, cobwebs, spooky music, animatronics and decor that can easily be purchased at a local Halloween store. Some home owners even create their own homemade props to set their display apart from other houses, while others synchronize their display to music using computer programs such as Light-O-Rama, Animated Lighting and other programs. Some displays utilize an FM transmitter so people can park their car, locate a low-frequency radio station and watch the show without it disturbing the neighbors.
A ghost run is a haunted event that takes place in a person's car. When a customer purchases a ticket for a ghost run, he or she is given various clues as to where different haunted attractions are. This haunted scavenger hunt usually includes a few local haunted attractions and other free items. At the end of the ghost run's season, the winner with the best mileage locating the haunts is revealed and he or she is given a prize.
Midnight spook/ghost shows
Between the 1930s-1960s movie theaters would have live shows that featured magicians performing magic tricks, séances, special effects and scary skits. This was at a time when people were unaware of how these seemingly incredible tricks were pulled off and it was a relatively new form of entertainment before the invention of the haunted attraction. Many of these spook shows doubled with horror movies and played at smaller movie theaters during the Halloween season or different parts of the year. Eventually these shows would incorporate bloody special effects and sometimes be referred to as Midnight Horror Shows. These shows were daring for their time, but would phase out by the end of the 1960s. A modern interpretation of the classic spook show was the Hauntings Ghost Show in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This attraction was themed as a Victorian Seance, which took place in a small theater setting. During the show, the audience would encounter automated gags instead of live performers. The attraction was in operation from the early 1980s until September 2015.
A spinning tunnel is a device consisting of a large cylinder, typically 8'-10' in diameter and 10'-20' in length, which spins around a bridge. When people walk through the center of the spinning cylinder they experience vertigo.
The American haunt industry is a multibillion-dollar business with nearly 2,000 haunts open each year and over 12,000,000 customers attending those attractions. Throughout the year, there are many conventions held all over the United States. These include Midwest Haunters Convention (Ohio), National Haunters Convention (Pennsylvania), Haunted Attraction National Trade-show and Conference (HAuNTcon; moves to a new city each year), Indy Haunt Fest (Indiana), West Coast Haunters Convention (Oregon), Canandian Haunters Convention (Canada), Halloween & Attractions Show (Missouri), and many others. These annual conventions feature props, seminars, workshops, parties, and haunt tours. The biggest show of the year is the Transworld Halloween and Haunted Attraction show in St Louis, Missouri, each March drawing over 8000 buyers with over 100,000 square feet of vendors.
The haunt industry's first association, the International Association of Haunted Attractions (IAHA), started in 1998. The second was the Haunted House Association in 2008. In late 2010, both associations agreed to merge and form the Haunted Attraction Association. Other related groups are the Haunt Reviewers Association (HRA), Home Haunters Association, and the Halloween and Haunt Vendors Association (HHVA) and Haunted Attraction Association (www.HauntedAttractionAssociation.com)
Many haunted attractions across the United States now feature high-quality animatronics and effects. It is not uncommon to come across towering monsters, movie-quality CGI, dynamic lighting, props that interact with customers, scent dispensers, intricate set pieces and figures, pneumatic props, or props that spray water or air.
Attractions are covered by industry trade magazines including Hauntworld Magazine, Haunted Attraction Magazine, and Fangoria. The industry has also been featured by television networks, and attractions are ranked by a variety of special-interest web sites.
Safety requirements generally include fire suppression systems, clearly marked exits, warning signs, and panic systems. Warning signs usually warn customers about heavy fog, intense strobes, loud sounds and music, crawling, and stress that people who are pregnant, disabled, or have a heart condition should not enter. Most attractions must be inspected by local authorities to confirm that they comply with codes.