Haunted houses hope for rebound after spooky 2020; ‘We were the only ones open’

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ANDERSON, Ind. — The COVID-19 pandemic has not only been the cause of death for thousands of Hoosiers, it’s also effectively killed hundreds of small businesses throughout the state. 

Businesses like haunted houses and other seasonal attractions have a short window to make their profits. With the pandemic lingering on another halloween season, parks are pressed with the tough choice: adopt new guidelines and procedures or remain closed. 

“We’re hoping that we can bounce back from that but just … it’s gonna be tough,” Superior Haunted Trails Owner Michael Gilbert said. “Last year, we had big plans and were unable to open for the season because of the COVID. So now it’s just kinda like hurting because I have a lot of people calling and asking about it and I have to tell them that we’re closed this year too.”

Superior Haunted Trails on the southwest side of the city off 465 & Mann Road is closed for the season. For them, the uncertainty still surrounding the pandemic is too risky and cost prohibitive. 

“The reason we chose not to open is partially because you have to file your permits early in the year and I was not sure of exactly what was gonna happen in October as far as the COVID-19 and all the lockdowns that we’ve been faced with up until this point,” Gilbert said. “We’re a fairly new haunted attraction in Indianapolis, actually started in 2018 so we were only open one year then we was unable to open the following year really hurts us.”

It may look a bit different, but 53 miles northeast of Superior Road in Anderson is Indy Scream Park. 

The haunted attraction, now in its 18th season, found a way to remain open in 2020 and continues its haunt this year under protocols adopted during the pandemics height. 

“Things have definitely changed. Last year was very very stressful as we had to accommodate a lot of new regulations and rules that were put in place by the CDC and the Indiana government but from that we’ve expanded lines, placed hand sanitizers throughout the park, added staff to clean frequently touched areas and on top of all that stuff we expanded our midway to make more room for people to come kinda hang out without getting all clumped together, making sure all of our tables were six feet apart so families and groups that came together can sit together,” Indy Scream Park Marketing Director Jon Pianki said. “We also changed up how some of the scares worked to try to prevent people from getting too close or too in peoples faces that’s not to say it won’t happen, so it’s one of those things just like with COVID last year, you always tell people that there is an inherent risk of going anywhere public.”

That’s why the Madison County Health Department says one would be wise to protect themselves.

“I would empower everyone to protect themselves. Whether that’s a mask, or vaccine or just maybe limiting outings if you’re not quite there yet, whatever works. Whatever fits. Whatever an individual is most comfortable with,” Madison County Health Department Administrator Stephenie Mellinger said. “We all have the power to protect ourselves and personal responsibility… so this year we have vaccine. We didn’t have vaccine last year so get vaccinated. Be vaccinated. Still continue to keep distance. Still continue to mask if possible.”

Last year, with their pandemic protocols in place – and thousands of visitors, Indy Scream Park reported zero positive COVID cases tied to the parks operation. 

“We are doing everything we can to make sure you can have a safe, fun haunted house experience for this Halloween season,” Pianki said. “Much of our staff and actors are vaccinated because people here understand that their own safety and the safety of our customers safety is important. If any of our staff is not vaccinated they are wearing masks and you can’t even tell they have them on when it’s dark and strobe lights are going and they’re all in their costumes.”

Indy Scream Park is open on nearly seven days a week from Friday October 1st through November 6. 

Tickets start at $24.95 but are $5 more if purchased in person. 

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