ThrillNetwork’s Rick Barber asked Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts founder, Rick Davis, all about Halloween haunts. Davis shares his five favorite haunts and tells us about his own home haunt.
Haunted houses as we know them today have been evolving and improving from the old Jaycees haunts in abandoned houses with guys in sheets and masks (“boo haunts” as the serious haunters would call them.) The best haunts today are like walking into a Hollywood horror flick.)
Rick: I’ll just mention a few haunts, in no particular order, and trust me; there are a lot of great haunts that I’m leaving out.
Castle Blood – Beallsville, PA This is different from most haunts you’ve ever been too. I doubt you will see many other haunts that use theatrical style make up. Each year the haunt has a new theme and challenges for you as you go through. Gotta love a haunt whose motto is “Chain saws are stupid!”
ScareHouse, Pittsburgh, PA – Three haunted houses in a row in an awesome old building. This year zombies invade Pittsburgh in one of the haunts. Oh, yeah. These aren’t your traditional slow-moving Night of the Living Dead zombies either!
Ghostly Manor – Sandusky, OH Yes, there is more than just Cedar Point in Sandusky! Ghostly Manor is one of the few full time haunts in our area. The fact that it shares the building with a roller rink also makes it unique, but don’t let they lull you into a relaxed state! It has been DAFE’s number four favorite walkthrough for several years. The haunt is a mix of live actors and animation which is perfect for a full time haunt. During slow times it can run with just a few actors, but they can really ramp up with a full compliment during the Halloween season.
Bates Motel – Glen Mills, PA Always on the haunted house top ten lists, Bates Motel offers you a hayride and a walk-through haunted house. The haunted house is perfectly detailed and staffed more than 75 actors.
Haunted Hydro – Fremont, OH A bit west of Sandusky is a seasonal haunt in a former hydroelectric plant! Actually two haunts. Whereas Bates Motel relies on detailed scenes, haunt owner “Crazy” Bob Turner uses a more minimalistic approach, preferring to give just enough detail to set the scene, relying on the actors to sell the story. Bob is probably the most entertaining haunt owner/host you’ll ever meet, just look for the guy with a bullet hole in his forehead.
While not scary for me, some of the most frightening haunts are in Niagara Falls. First, they CAN touch you. Secondly, two of them are pitch black 99% of the way through. One in particular is one to avoid if you are claustrophobic; it has VERY tight spaces and ends with you crawling out, uphill through a tube. For a 6’ 3” guy, it was not a pleasant experience. I literally had to use my toes and fingertips to inch my way out…as my friend happily snapped photos, hoping I’ll have to be pulled out with a rope!
I might like to borrow a Universal Florida idea and add a twist to a non-Halloween season holiday. They did a CHRISTMAS haunted house that was totally warped and well done. I liked the dark humor of it all.
One year we added a blow up castle for the kids and found that it scared them instead of making them want to walk through it. (I sold it.) That inspired two of my friends and me to talk about making a small haunted house with a 10 x 20 tent. Unfortunately, we were making trips to Cleveland to see my sister-in-law who was dying. The sad day came as we knew it would. We then had one weekend before Halloween and my friends decided that we could still build a haunt. It wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen; hastily thrown up plywood walls and cheap props with two actors inside. But amazingly, the people loved it!
The next year we built a 12 x 24 haunt outside. This time with semi-permanent walls in three sizes and a pre-drawn floor plan. We were actually named the “Most Spook-tacular House” by a local TV station. As we were doing this, construction was nearing completion on my new 40 X 50 garage.
Last year’s haunt moved into the new garage which allowed us to start building earlier and bigger. We made the TV morning show again and gained more attention…the attention of the local fire chief who showed up just before we would open the haunted house. After telling us we needed fire extinguishers, I pointed out that we had three fire extinguishers, three emergency exits; low voltage lighting and the actors had radios. “You know more about this than I do! I’m happy!” He did advise me to keep the haunt less than a thousand square feet, more that that we would need a sprinkler system.
Thankfully, we had the blessing of the fire chief as well as a township trustee and one of the local policemen who liked to stop by as we were building. (He also gave me a dumpster location that had a LOT of plywood!) This year the haunts grows a bit more. If I had a place to store 4 vehicles it would be a LOT easier…maybe I need to build a garage…