Halloween is just around the cobwebbed corner and so are the zombie apocalypses, the terror chambers, the haunted houses, the terrifying theme-park transformations—and the chance for attractions to cash in.
"We estimate there are 2,500 haunted attractions worldwide that entertain millions and employ tens of thousands," said John Eslich, president of The Haunted Attraction Association. "In the U.S. alone, it represents a $300 million industry that extends from right after Labor Day on into November."
About 20 percent of Americans made plans to visit a haunted attraction last year, according to the National Retail Federation. This year, there are fresh ways to get scared at home or on the road as theme parks compete to out-do each other and thrill-seekers plan getaways around visiting haunted attractions.
This season, 53.5 percent of haunt operators were planning to add attractions or categories while about 21 percent planned to revamp existing attractions, according to Selling Halloween, a business-to-business publication.
And while both year-round and seasonal theme parks have long offered Halloween-themed activities as a way to stretch attendance and ticket sales beyond the busy summer season, "now people expect their local theme park to put on an event," said Jacob Sundstrom, staff writer at Theme Park Insider. "People are looking for these scares somewhere, and now it's the park's job not to mess it up," he said.
"People love to be scared," said America Haunts president Ben Armstrong in a release listing opening dates for about 30 haunted attractions around the country, including the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. "Even more so, they enjoy watching how people they know react to being scared," he said.
Ready to scream? Here are some haunts upping the scare-ante this year: