STORY WRITTEN BY VINCE CAREY
Things that go bump in the night.
Black cats running across the path.
Ghosts floating around, just at the edges of your vision.
Doors opening for no reason.
What’s that under the bed?
As fall gets into full force, thoughts start turning to the scary.
This new wave, though, isn’t like your father’s haunted house.
Gone are the buzzers in the floor and cut-up tires tickling your ankles.
“People now want the same experience as a movie,” said Randy Bates, who has been running a haunted adventure at Arasapha Farms in Glen Mills since 1991. “I think there was more acting when we first started. With the advent of computers and technology, people want something different. You have to put on a show. Something they can’t get anywhere else.”
Amy Hollaman is beginning her second year as creative director for Terror Behind the Walls at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia after spending eight years as a performer.
“I think there is a different type of action,” said Hollaman. “We offer an interactive experience where you can get pulled into the show. So convincing somebody they are in the show instead of just walking through is a very different kind of acting. We’ve taken immersive theater experiences and made them scary.”
Much like Bates, Hollaman has seen the haunted house experience change with those going through it.
“I think we succeed because we have a Hollywood-type production. People are looking for that kind of quality,” said Hollman.
Added Bates, “There are a lot of places you can spend your money. We want to make sure you want to come to the Bates Motel and want to come back.”
Years ago, community clubs would hold a fundraising haunted house in the local firehall or such. While many of them have gone by the wayside, places like the Bates Motel and Terror Behind the Walls have succeeded.
“Here at Terror Behind the Walls, we try to make it truly terrifying and fun,” Hollaman said. “We offer different twists all the time. That way you’ll want to come back.”
Bates, who was looking for an alternate way to make income on the farm, started a haunted hayride in 1991.
“Farming doesn’t make the same money now that older farms used to make,” said Bates. “I think all this started when we were thinking of other ways to make money. It’s blossomed from there.”
“I’ve always liked scaring people,” Bates said. “Even as a kid, I sneaked up behind my sisters and started pulling pranks. Now, it’s become an obsession.”
In 1996, the Bates Motel opened. A haunted corn maze was added in 2000.
“During the season we have a staff of 240,” Bates said. “We are the largest employer in Edgmont.”
With a similar staff, Terror Behind the Walls offers six different haunted areas of the prison for those brave enough to enter.
“Now our six attractions are Lockdown, which is an attraction located in the original cellblocks from the 1800s,” Hollaman said. “The Machine Shop is new for 2014 and it’s designed for true interactivity. Our third attraction is Detritus, which is an outdoor attraction. We have The Infirmary. We have The Experiment in 3D, which is one of our most popular attractions. Our visitors wear 3D glasses and you never know what’s real on the wall and what’s not. Our final attraction is Nightwatch, where our visitors go into a part of the prison that’s extremely dark. There is very little light and they have to find their way out.”
Just a short ride away from the Bates Motel is Linvilla Orchards, which offers up a little bit of a different Halloween adventure.
After perusing through thousands of pumpkins in Pumpkinland, there’s the opportunity to take hayrides to the Witch’s House (full of corny jokes, cookies and roasted marshmallows), to see the Autumn Moon and the Harvest.
If these aren’t enough, the Halloween season has become big business in a lot of places.
Once again, Sesame Place in Langhorne becomes The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular every weekend through Oct. 26.
Pennhurst Asylum is open again this year in Spring City.
Dorney Park, Six Flags Great Adventure and Hersheypark all convert the park into haunted attractions through the beginning of November.
Meanwhile, a little further away, Field of Screams in Lancaster offers thrill-seekers the Nocturnal Wasteland, Haunted Hayride, Den of Darkness and Frightmare Asylum.