Why Can't Theme Park Fans Enjoy More Haunted Attractions, All Year Long?
With Halloween right around the corner, all of our favorite theme parks have joined in on the fun and built special seasonal walk through attractions for the holiday. Even Disney, with the most family-oriented parks in the world, offers a special Halloween event, and has arguably the most famous haunted attraction ever. With Halloween and scares clearly being a big money maker in the industry, I can't help but wonder when the haunted house is going to get its due and be resurrected (pun intended).
The spook house is one of the oldest and most beloved attractions in ride history. It is a staple at nearly all carnivals and boardwalk parks. Yet most large theme parks lack them in any permanent form. I've been to many Six Flags parks, and have yet to see much. Cedar Fair doesn't offer many, either. Universal is home to some of the most famous characters in horror film history, and has a wealth of famous scary IPs to choose from. Yet when it comes to a big ticket haunted ride, we've got nothing. In Hollywood, Universal recently closed its walk-through House of Horrors.
So why do they see haunted attractions as only a seasonal opportunity? Is it because scary rides are not that appealing to families and children? Is it because haunted houses lack their ability to scare after multiple rides?
In order to try and tackle this question, I started to think about Disney's approach, as they are clearly the industry standard. In the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland, they feature one of the most iconic rides — the Haunted Mansion. Nearly half a century old, this staple still attracts long waits and is held in very high regard. It's popularity spans all age groups. In my opinion, it is the perfect mix of macabre and fun. It could be mildly scary to children and squeamish adults, but rarely do you see somebody dislike the experience they have. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney California Adventure, and Disney Studios Paris, they feature the Twilight Zone Tower of terror — another haunted attraction that garners long waits after being open over 20 years.
A combination of thrill and scares that entertains all generations — When you think about it, isn't it amazing that Disney, often thought of as a G-rated thrill park, is the park with the most famous scary attractions?
Clearly, the blueprint is there, and works. Universal has access to so many great intellectual properties that it seems a shame we haven't received a great, permanent haunted house from them. With all the great technology they feature on so many of their new rides, as well as the immersive environments they've created, I believe they could really make something special that would have long-lasting effect and keep the scares coming.
Six Flags calls itself a thrill park company more than a theme park company, marketing mostly to teens. When I get scared, it is most certainly a thrill, and teenagers and twenty somethings are the biggest market for horror films. For a brand of parks that offers little on a rainy day, this seems like a no-brainer to me. In the early 80s, Six Flags Great Adventure had a haunted castle, but a 1984 fire at the attraction killed several guests, resulting in lengthy legal action. Perhaps that is why they've strayed away, but management, ownership and safety at their parks were overhauled long ago. I believe that these parks could do something very special to keep the haunts coming all year long.
There will always be a demand for haunted houses at theme parks. Now, where's the supply?
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I have always thought Universal should do a haunted house based on the first first Resident Evil game. It has a creepy big mansion (That could take over Men in Black and still blend with the British Harry Potter buildings) It has rapid dogs, zomibes, a biohazard virus, mutated creatures. We could all be S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactic and Rescue, members) and ride throught the haunted mansion in trackless ride cars. I would love to see what Universal could do with a haunted house!
I agree, Mike! I would dearly love to see Universal invest in a dark ride based on its classic monsters. As you say, the perennial appeal of the Haunted Mansion is proof there's a market for this sort of thing. I'd much rather see Universal introduce something like this than something based on a late night talk show host.
Disneyland's scary attractions are all rides, not walk throughs. The other theme parks should have haunted attractions that work on a year round basis. You don't normally think of the haunted mazes as appropriate after Halloween as the season goes into Thanksgiving and Christmas so the rides must be tame. They should be more scary and thrilling instead of gruesome and explicit. Perhaps the standby queue can resemble the maze, while the main show is the ride.
Universal Hollywood had a year round haunt attraction that scared me into a full blown panic attack (they are great at what they do!)
Great article! I do think that the Mummy rides at Universal are like haunted rides on steroids, and love them for that.
Someone on the Facebook thread said something about shooting rides destroying the classic dark ride.... Where I live there's actually an interactive walk through zombie hunt where you get a lazer tag gun and zombies chase you as you have to "survive"..... I mean I could even imagine a pretty intense shooter haunted ride if they put the time in. I'd rather a classic dark ride for a haunted house as they give you more of a feeling of helplessness than an interactive ride would, but really I just don't want to see parks forget about this angle of entertainment. People of all ages enjoy a good scare, there can be a balance found to cater to a wide audience, just look at Disney.
The problem with haunted walk through attractions/mazes/houses, is that they have low throughput and high operational costs because they are not typically automated. An average HHN maze has between 15-20 scare actors and some have even more, meaning if you were to operate that full time for an entire park day, you'd be spending a huge amount of money just on labor to operate the attraction. That's probably why the USH House of Horrors was axed (that along with it's prime location on the upper lot), because even during non-peak season, you needed at least 10 actors running it plus security and general cast members managing the queue. Also, let's not forget that most Halloween events are not making money on admission, they're making their profit on drinks, exclusive tickets/FOTL, special experiences, event-exclusive food, and merchandise.
I was disappointed when I heard that USH was getting rid of their spookhouse attraction. That thing was good! I love their horror nights, but it's very expensive to get front of the line passes...and if you don't, you'll be stuck in endless lines all night.
The American Werewolf could easily be converted into a ride thru attraction..... It's a classic and HHN's.
Universal has The Mummy, which is definitely a scary ride, and they have Kong coming up, which has the potential to be a scary ride, but other than that they got nothing. I personally think they need a ride that takes place in Dracula's castle. I think that would be a much better option as a replacement to Fear Factor instead of yet another Harry Potter expansion.
For a walk-through haunt maze, I do not think any park could make that successful year-round. The audience at Halloween events is different from that of a regular operating day, and there just wouldn't be enough interested visitors to justify the operating costs. I remember going to USH on days where the rides were 75 minute waits and House of Horrors was still under 10 minutes just because the interest wasn't there. That was a phenomenal haunted house (though possibly a bit understaffed at times), and if Universal couldn't make it work I doubt anywhere could.
I just suggested this very thing in the Jimmy Fallon article. The Haunted Mansion is one of my favorite attractions, if not my top favorite. Two that were absolutely amazing and now gone are Universal's House of Horrors and The ExtraTERRORestrial encounter. I would love for either of those to come back. There is no reason that Universal would not make a Castle Dracula and populate it with classic monsters.
I've always wanted a classic monsters ride: Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Dracula, and the Wolfman. I can see it as a huge hit to classic movie fans. However, they aren't iconic enough especially compared to Harry Potter, which appealed to all age groups. I can see it being part of the studio tour, but beyond that, I can't see a stand alone ride for it
Universal is insane to not have a haunted house attraction based off of the classic monsters. The House of Horrors was wonderful, but I am sure the costs of manning it was too great. However, they really need a ride through haunted house with the licenses that they own. I strongly disagree that people don't want this year round. Probably the most popular theme park attraction in the world is the Haunted Mansion. Just pick any day of the year outside of October and look at its wait times, and it is a high capacity attraction at that. Look at all of the fan sites and books just dedicated to that one ride. And people would not flock to an attraction based on the most iconic horror characters ever created??? I beg to differ.
Alton Towers is a good example of where the horror/creepy theme works well. A number of their older attractions include a back story of that genre...
I think we are also forgetting one of the most scariest rides ever produced by Disney was Alien Encounter. Now they have lightened it up since changing it to Stitches' Great Escape but when it was AE some people would bring ear plugs just due to the shear scream volume. It was awesome.....
It might be interesting to see a scary walk through / ride hybrid a la The Dungeons. They incorporate dark humor and audience participation, so it's fun to come back to each time. If not that, maybe a real life escape room experience? I've heard of ones where you must climb in vents, "fish" in dirty toilet water or even find your way out of being handcuffed.
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