Sunday, October 16, 2011

Haunted Houses Are Now Big Business

I remember when I was a child in West Los Angeles.  We had a very large garage and one year my mother and father fixed it up like a haunted house for my Halloween party.  A winding, twisty route through all kinds of scary things.  It was a lot of fun and totally different from anything anyone else in the neighborhood did for Halloween.  Of course, back in those days, scary things were not the same type of bloody gruesome attractions that are the main features of today's professional Halloween attractions.

Halloween attractions have moved far beyond the neighborhood scare as a fun thing for the trick-or-treaters.  Today they are big business.  Operators of the large attractions spend most of the year coming up with new and better scary ideas and then implementing them.  They take pleasure in dreaming up even more diabolical ways of giving us the seasonal nightmares.

And guess what—a group of these scary attraction operators even have an organization of their own.  Eighteen of the most famous haunted house attractions in the nation have formed America Haunts and count among their members Erebus, Netherworld, The Beast, The ScareHouse, and Edge of Hell.  They even hold a national convention every summer in Pittsburgh.  The haunted houses that belong to America Haunts are as diverse as the men and women who operate them.

Some, like Erebus, offer high tech features such as moving walls that push people into bottomless pits.  They use pneumatics and programmable logic controllers to trigger various events.  Erebus is seeking to reclaim its Guinness World Record for the largest haunted house with 2,450 linear feet (over seven football fields) of horror.  With competition from seventy haunted house attractions within a fifty mile radius of their southeast Michigan location, they are constantly improving the attraction with innovative new features.

The ScareHouse is three horrifying haunted houses in one.  In Rampage, the theme is steampunk meets George Orwell's 1984 meets Pink Floyd.  Delirium 3D requires that you wear 3D glasses to go inside the conglomeration of bright colors, neon, European rave music and cybergothic aesthetic.  Forsaken is the most traditional haunted house of the three.

But what's the oldest and largest Halloween haunt?  Knott's Berry Farm theme park located in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, California.  Or as it's known this time of year, Knott's Scary Farm.  Knott's hosts the world's first Halloween theme park event, the world's largest Halloween theme park event, and the largest event in the amusement park industry.  They make it clear that the event is not recommended for children under thirteen years of age.  Horror and terror runs rampant through the park every night during October.

But what about real haunted houses?  A Denver attraction, The 13th Floor, is housed in a former vocational school.  The building has been studied by paranormal investigators who believe it to be truly haunted.

Do any of you have a genuine haunted house in your area?

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