Archived Story

VIDEO: Haunting about to begin

Published 9:23am Thursday, September 17, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

In its 30th year, the masters behind the Niles Haunted House Scream Park are as ready as ever to start putting the fear into fans flocking to the “annual fright festival” for yet another season.

The haunted house will open for chills and thrills this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18 and 19 with six attractions including a walk through the creaky floors and unpredictable corners of the haunted house, carnival style games including “Fry Freddy” and “X-terminator” and the Dark Terrorizer Haunted Hayride.

“Every year we try to make it different,” said Roger Harris, who has been a part of Scream Park since 1997.

Bringing this frightening festival to life each year is a matter of preparation from the day the season ends, to when the new one begins. Workers have rebuilt passage ways and redesigned rooms to the house and have added visual elements to get heartbeats racing.
There are over 100 possible routes through the house, which includes a stark, but not all together still morgue, and a gallery of chilling clowns.

“We stay away from gore,” Harris said. “We like a good old fashioned scare.”

Fans of the haunted house and the “House on the Hill” will likely get just that with two new attractions and a “revamped” outdoor maze.

Those taking to the house on the hill will find “Redneck Revengence,” filled with the skeletal remains of some unique characters, the sounds of “Dueling Banjos” overhead through narrow hallways and dark passages.

Intricate details and the use of color, lighting and visual imagery bring “London Screams … After Midnight” to life. Through its creepy rooms, fans will find truly horrific figures as well as a ghastly gallery of some of the world’s most notorious figures, including Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden and Joan of Arc.

Scream Park, which has been nationally recognized for its ability to scare thousands of visitors each year, had its modest beginnings. It was in 1981, Harris said, when officials began recording ticket sales and tracking how many were daring to make their way through the theme park’s grounds each year. That number was a total of 4,546 in that first year of record – compared to 13,160 in just one night last season. A total of 789,832 in between 1981 and 2008.

It takes 150 to 200 volunteers each night to staff and work the theme park. From those dressed up in detailed and devilish costume to working concession stands and security, their tireless efforts are done for the fun of putting the fear in their fellow members of the community.

The haunted house donates to area charities. In 2008 $104,000 was distributed to over 80 local organizations and charities.

“I love it,” said Rodney York, a volunteer and just one of the costumed clowns that will be making people scream this year. York has been working with the park since 1994 and works with one of the local chapters of the Make a Wish Foundation. He and Harris say that giving back to the community both in fear and in funds is the main reason the volunteers work so hard each year.

Though they may focus on the scary, Harris said they also focus on the safety. Visitor to Scream Park enter through a metal detector and Harris said the staff take creating a fun and safe park extremely seriously, considering the number of young people who may be dropped off at their creaky gates by their parents.

“That’s a heck of a lot of responsibility,” he said. In addition to all the staff in costume and manning concession or carnival game stands, there is also plenty of security at every corner of the haunted house.

Out in the Field of Screams, the outdoor maze has been amplified by “claustrophobia” a walk-through that, at night, will drape those daring to go through in darkness.
Volunteers worked through sundown.

So just what is it about scaring thousands year after year?

“Have you ever scared a friend and gotten a good laugh about it?” Harris said. “That’s what we do. That’s what I enjoy. It’s fun.”

A full list of events and happenings at the park as well as a run through of new attractions can be found online at www.haunted.org.

The Haunted House Scream Park will also be open Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26 and beginning in October, the days of operation will continue on weekends, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Thursday through Sunday the week before Halloween and Wednesday through Sunday the week of Halloween.

To view a video tour of the Haunted House Scream Park go to: www.nilesstar.com.

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