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Matthew DiRoberto, May 29 2018

Top five things to know before going to a Haunted House

Ghost Ship Harbor is one of the largest Haunted attractions in New England and the only Haunted Attraction on the East Coast taking place on the deck of a 718 foot destroyer called the USS Salem.  In our short time of operating we have had thousands of people coming through every year.  We get asked a lot of the same questions so I figured I'd pass along some of the info to you as you are deciding what Haunted attraction you are going to visit in New England this year.  Below is a top five list that will help you to think about what Haunts you should visit this year.

1.)  Is there an age limit?  That's actually a trick question because that's what people usually ask.  There is no age limit but there are minimums.  Believe it or not there are different levels of scares at Haunted Houses.  Typically haunted houses are not for people 12 and under.  Some don't have an age restriction and some might be adult only.  The things that make haunted houses scary are different for everyone so its hard to say what's scary or not.  You might not be scared of the dark but are scared as all heck of clowns.  At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference.  So I will focus more on the kids.  We have had kids come in under the age of twelve and be fine with it, although there haven't been many.  Most never go in because the atmosphere can be so intense and the roaming characters are enough to make you turn around and run to the parking lot.  Parents know their kids the best.  You will know what they are able to handle.  At the end of the day use your discretion.  The worst thing is to see a 9 year old in tears before they even step into the haunt because the parents thought they could handle it.  Oh and please don't ask for your money back if you are too scared to go in.  After all, it is the job of the haunted house to scare you.  That's what you paid for :)

2.)  What should I wear?  A lot of haunted houses are in the woods, on a trail, on a ship or in places that high heels just don't cut it.  When going to a haunted house make sure to wear something comfortable for shoes and your overall dress.  In particular I would pay attention to the weather for that night.  Most are outdoors and you will need to prepare for that.  In New England it can be 80 one day and 35 the next in October and you will most likely be waiting in line if you are going on a Friday or Saturday.  Wait times can be long so dress appropriately.  

3.)  I've never been to a haunted house, what should I expect?  Ah so you're a virgin when it comes to haunted houses.  Fear not as I will try to help you through what you are going to experience.  When you arrive at the attraction keep your head on a swivel.  As soon as you get out of the car you are in the game, so to speak.  You might have roaming characters scaring people in the parking lot as you walk to the event.  I know, its so cruel right?  But keep in mind that the attractions are solely in business to scare you and will do whatever it takes to do so while always keeping it safe.  Once you survive the parking lot you will have to wait in line to buy tickets if you didn't buy them already.  Most haunted attractions sell tickets through their websites so there should be no need to buy at the ticket booth.   Buy them as you are walking in if you have too but don't wait in lines to buy the tickets.  Most haunted houses are not as busy on Thursday and Sunday nights so they will offer discounts particularly at the beginning of the season which usually starts at the end of September.  Search for discounts or join their mailing lists to stay in the loop on special offers.  Like most large events you will probably be screened by security.  I would leave all the bad stuff in the car as a result.  Once you enter you will need get the lay of the land.  How many attractions are there?  What else is there to do?  How big is the event?  Are there any special events going on that night?  All of this can be researched ahead of time as well so you know what to expect.  I would check their social media channels as those will most likely be the most up to date with info.  Once you figure out what you want to do, I would get in line for the haunt.  Some haunts are spread out and have separate lines for each attraction.  Others have one big line that take you through all of the attractions at once.  It depends on the event.  When you are waiting in line you will be approached by roaming characters.  These are some of the best actors and costumes that you will see.  Remember, always keep your head on a swivel as they can creep up out of nowhere.  These characters are interactive, will take pictures so please do, and want you to have fun and be entertained.  Have fun with them!  These characters and many others will do anything to get a reaction out of you.  Believe me, they can smell the fear so if you are scared the best thing to do is stay calm or you will become a "mark".  

So you're about to enter the first haunted house and you can feel your heart starting to race a little bit.  You thought you weren't going to be scared either right?  There is a weird looking dude letting you into the first attraction.   He kind of stares at you and creates an uncomfortable feeling.  You will also be given some rules before you go in that might sound like this.  No touching the actors and they won't touch you, don't touch the props or anything as you are going through it as its expensive and not meant to be touched.  No running, no hitting even if you get scared, keep moving, don't stop etc.  In the attraction you will have people jumping out at you from all different angles.  There will be props that will move once you get near them, loud noises, strobe lights, fog and anything else that you can imagine that might heighten your senses.  You will walk through a maze of rooms that will tell a story if you listen.  Or you can just enjoy the attraction as you become immersed in a fun, entertaining and unique experience.  Most haunted houses take 10-15 minutes to go through.  There is usually a crescendo of fright by the time you get to the end of the haunted house.   That will get you running to the next haunted attraction.   After the first attraction you will head to the others and go through a similar process.  There will be different themes, characters and scares.  Haunted Houses have come a long way and so has the technology.  As long as you are open to having fun you will have a great time.

4.)    What else is there to do?  Haunted Houses are places of entertainment.  Their costs are indicative of how much entertainment there is.  Some haunt owners say they charge $1 for every minute of attraction time.  Attraction time meaning the time you are actually walking through the attraction not waiting in line.  That is usually a good rule of thumb.  Many haunts are offering things other than just haunted attractions.  Of course that is the main entertainment but there are other things that will help create a fun night out.  Some have full bars, escape rooms, games, Food area and other general entertainment.  Some haunts are true destinations that you could spend the whole night at and some are just haunted houses and not much else.  

5.)   Is it scary?  This is tough question to answer because scary is a relative term.  All haunted houses are going to have some element of scary.  What are you scared of?  Are you scared of the dark, clowns, reptiles, zombies, claustrophobia, or being alone?  There are haunts that are definitely scarier than others.  Personally I think haunts that are in haunted locations, deep in the woods or some other unique location make it scarier.  Your mind starts racing before you get there because of the location you're going too.  If you are going to an abandoned asylum vs building that has a haunted attraction you would be much more scared of the asylum going into it.  To find a list of the scariest haunted houses in every state you can visit Fodor's review from 2017.


5 things to know about haunted house attractions | understanding haunted houses | halloween in New England | Fun for October

Written by

Matthew DiRoberto

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