A haunted attraction is a form of live entertainment that simulates the experience of visiting haunted locations or storylines typical of horror fiction. They usually feature fearsome sets and characters, especially demons, ghosts, monsters, witches/wizards, serial killers, and/or psychopaths. Humorous characters may also be included.
Haunted attractions may be set up at many kinds of locations. Built attractions include temporarily constructed simulations of haunted houses, actual abandoned or dilapidated houses, abandoned asylums, defunct prisons, defunct or active amusement parks, defunct or active ships, defunct factories, defunct or active barns, and setup parts of shopping malls. Outdoor places hosting such attractions include corn mazes or cornfields, hedge mazes, farms, wooded areas or forests, and parks.
Haunted attractions (also known as "haunts" or "mazes" within the industry) use many effects, such as intense lighting (strobe lights, black lights, etc.), animatronics, CGI, scent dispensers, fog machines, spinning tunnels, air blasters, old antiques, gory images, and intense scenes of horror, terror, torment, murder, mischief, or comedy. Visitors often encounter various actors dressed up in elaborate and often scary costumes, masks, and prosthetics. These actors may perform skits or lurk and come out unexpectedly to frighten, shock, disturb, or amuse the customer.
The typical haunted attraction starts operating during the week of late September or early October to the last week in October or first week of November. In particular, they are especially active during the triduum of Allhallowtide. Additionally, there is a subculture of permanent haunted attractions that are open year-round and of a few that are open during special occasions, such as haunt conventions or Spring Break (also called Scream Break). Some attractions are run by charities as fundraisers, while many are for-profit.
In Japan, there is a tradition of making obake yashiki (ghost houses) in the summer time as fear is believed to ward off the heat by “giving you the chills”. These typically feature frightening creatures from Japanese folklore, ghosts, demons, sinister crucifixes and other things that are brought to life thanks to decorations, sound effects and animatronics. Often, the obake yashiki will have a story that is told to visitors before they receive a mission that they must accomplish while in the house.
- 1 History
- 2 Types of haunted attractions
- 2.1 Haunted house/mansion/castle
- 2.2 Haunted experience
- 2.3 Haunted trail/forest
- 2.4 Haunted hayride
- 2.5 Haunted Ship
- 2.6 Haunted theme park (screampark)
- 2.7 Dark maze and chain maze
- 2.8 Hell house
- 2.9 Dark ride
- 2.10 Cornfield maze
- 2.11 Home haunt
- 2.12 Yard haunt/yard display
- 2.13 Ghost run
- 2.14 Midnight spook/ghost shows
- 2.15 Extreme haunted houses
- 3 Business environment
- 4 Legal environment
- 5 International perspective
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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"...People have entertained themselves with spooky stories for centuries". It is not hard to imagine cavemen sitting around a fire telling stories of demons, spirits, beasts and their deities. The tradition of this type of storytelling can certainly be traced back to the ancient Greeks and beyond. However, the creation of an actual haunted attraction is a relatively recent phenomenon. According to one source, the first recorded purpose-built haunted attraction was the Orton and Spooner Ghost House, which opened in 1915 in Liphook, England. This attraction actually most closely resembles a carnival fun house, powered by steam. The House still exists, in the Hollycombe Steam Collection.
The background for the creation of the Orton and Spooner Ghost House might be seen in 18th- and 19th-century London and Paris, when literature, performances by magicians, spiritualists and psychics, as well as theatrical shows and attractions introduced the public to gruesome entertainment. In 1802, Marie Tussaud scandalized British audiences with an exhibition of wax sculptures of decapitated victims of the French Revolution, including King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat. Her exhibits exist today as the Chamber of Horrors in Madam Tussauds in London. In France, from 1897, the Grand Guignol theatre was scaring audiences with graphically staged horror entertainment. The Phantasmagoria show existed even earlier, but a well-known version in 1797 Paris was the Fantasmagorie, which made use of magic lantern projections and crude special effects.
Halloween-themed haunted houses in America seemed to begin emerging during the Great Depression, about the same time as trick-or-treat. But the haunted house as an American cultural icon can be traced to a single event. The Haunted Mansion opened in Disneyland August 9, 1969. The attraction became a near-instant success. A single-day record of 82,516 guests was established soon after it opened. In 1973, Knott's Berry Farm began hosting its own Halloween night attraction, Knott's Scary Farm, which soon became the gold standard of Halloween events. Evangelical Christians became early adopters of alternative Halloween attractions. Jerry Falwell and Liberty University introduced one of the first "hell houses" in 1972.
During the late 1950s, California was a focus for Halloween haunts. In 1957, the San Mateo Haunted House opened, sponsored by the Children's Health Home Junior Auxiliary. The San Bernardino Assistance League Haunted House opened in 1958. In 1962 and 1963 home haunts began appearing across the country, including Oregon, California, Connecticut, Illinois and several other states. On October 17, 1964, the San Manteo Haunted House opened as a walk-through haunted house. The Children's Museum Haunted House in Indianapolis, open every year since 1964, was Indiana's first haunted house and is currently the longest running in the nation.
Haunted houses quickly spread across the country via charity fundraisers conducted by The United States Junior Chamber ("the Jaycees") and others. The Jaycees encouraged its membership to construct haunted houses in abandoned buildings or fields as charity fundraising events, and the organization became known for these houses throughout America. 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 the Jaycees. 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, Ohio 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.
The March of Dimes copyrighted a "Mini haunted house for the March of Dimes" in 1976 and began fundraising through their local chapters by conducting haunted houses soon after. Although they apparently quit supporting this type of event nationally sometime in the 1980s, some MoD haunted houses have persisted until today. This includes the Spooky Acres Haunted House in Norfolk, Virginia. Others open during this period include one in Indio, California in 1976, one in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1989, and one in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1997. MoD Haunted Houses continuing much beyond the late 1980s would be considered outliers.
The beginning of the end for the charity haunts can be traced to a singular event: the Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure caught fire on the evening of May 11, 1984, in Jackson Township, New Jersey. Eight teenagers lost their lives in the fire. There were criminal charges filed, civil lawsuits, numerous investigations, and the inevitable result that fire safety laws, building codes, and inspections were tightened up considerably nationwide. The net effect was to make charity attractions less economically viable than they were before. Better construction materials were required, and fire safety equipment was required, making a temporary venue too expensive for many charities to afford. As a result, the larger, better funded for-profit operators moved in as the charities moved out. The fire caused wide-ranging changes for all amusement buildings. Previously, operators were able to avoid fire codes because such attractions were used temporarily. The Haunted Castle fire pointed to an unattractive reality that forced tighter regulation.
Professional haunted houses began to show up in the United States about the same time as the non-profits. However, subsequent to the tragic fire outlined above, many existing haunted attractions were shut down, as politicians and regulators enacted stronger safety codes. Volunteer (non-profit) organizations struggled to compete against the new for-profit competition under the tougher rules. Many were forced out of business either from the added competition or the inability to fund safety requirements. "The Jaycees got pushed out because their haunted houses were fairly basic." Currently, in the United States alone, there are over 1,200 professional haunted houses, 300 theme parks that operate horror-themed events and over 3,000 charity-run haunted houses.
In order to increase off-season attendance, theme parks entered the business seriously in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Six Flags launched Fright Fest in 1986-1989 and Universal Studios began Halloween Horror Nights in 1991. Although Knotts Berry Farm launched their Knott's Scary Farm in 1973, given America's obsession with Halloween as a cultural event surging in the 1990s, Knotts saw their attraction take off. Theme parks have played a major role in globalizing the holiday. Universal Studios Singapore and Universal Studios Japan both participate, while Disney now mounts Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween events at its parks in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as in the United States. The theme park haunts are by far the largest, both in scale and attendance.
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 usually 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 with patrons at many Disney locations around the world. 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 became 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-trailers, factories, boats or ships, dilapidated homes, etc. Haunted house or 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 number of the largest seasonal attractions feature multiple haunted houses on the same site. For example, In 2015, Pure Terror Screampark in Monroe, New York was awarded the Guinness World Record for World's Longest Walk Through Horror Attraction. In terms of appearance, the prototypical haunted house in America can probably trace its roots to a 1925 painting by Edward Hopper, entitled "House by the Railroad".
List of Simulated Haunted Houses/Mansions/Castles (year-around)
List of Simulated Haunted Houses/Mansions/Castles (seasonal)