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Haunted Houses Bring Out Screams of Fear and Laughter

October 3, 2008

By Kellie B Gormly

Each fall, at haunted houses and other scary attractions, many macho young males will come strutting in with an arrogant “You can’t scare me” attitude.

Oh, really? The zombies, vampires, ghouls and chainsaw-wielding maniacs can’t wait to challenge the tough guys, whom the monsters love to target and break down.

“We love the macho guys,” says Scott Simmons. He is co-owner of Scarehouse, a large Etna haunted house that was ranked as the fifth best haunted attraction in America by the editors of Hauntworld magazine.

“If we see a group of screaming girls and a macho guy, he’s the one who’s going to be on his knees by the end of the night,” Simmons says.

Whether you’re a macho horror fan, a scaredy-cat or something in between, you can find something appealingly spine-tingling about the area’s many haunted attractions, including haunted houses, creepy hayrides, spooky walking trails and more, promoters say. Haunted attractions, which operate mostly on weekends in October, are becoming an international industry that gains popularity every year, Simmons says.

Celebrating the Halloween season explains the timing and some of the appeal of these haunted attractions, but their eerie allure goes much deeper, some owners and operators say. Simmons compares haunted houses to roller coasters. You may see a steep, intense ride and refuse to go on it because it looks too scary, but then change your mind. Once it’s over, you feel such a rush. Likewise with haunted houses, he says.

“When people come out … they come out of the door and they’re screaming,” Simmons says. “But soon, you see them laughing and smiling. You’re facing your fear, but in the back of your mind, you know there’s no chain on the chainsaw. Like the roller coaster, you’re playing at something that’s an illusion.”

Shawn Maudhuit — designer of Chilly Billy Cardille’s Temple of Terror, a large haunted house in Harmar — agrees.

“(People) love being scared … and kids involved with it love scaring people,” he says. “When you get scared, you laugh afterward.”

Temple of Terror — hosted this year by Cardille, who hosted “Chiller Theatre” on local television for almost 20 years — gets plenty of macho dudes, Maudhuit says, but “a lot of times, you look at those teenage guys and they have their eyes closed.”

At the Scarehouse — which, along with Temple of Terror, might be too intense for kids younger than 13, Simmons and Maudhuit say — visitors will go through three distinct sections: Hall of Nightmares, Delirium 3D and the Screamatorium. They won’t see any of their favorite movie serial killers, like Jason and Freddy, but they’ll see plenty of original scary characters, like a deranged dentist named “The Killer Driller.” The cast, which includes professional actors, has as many as 65 people, many of whom invent the characters they play.

Chainsaws and clowns — which, Simmons says, seem to be the most dreaded things for people who call and ask — are included at the Scarehouse. At Temple of Terror, chainsaws will appear, and “a clown may pop up here and there,” Maudhuit says. Also, every species of spook imaginable — vampires, zombies and the like — will be awaiting visitors, he says. Like the Scarehouse, Temple of Terror has three areas: Nightmares Haunted House, Vampire’s Lair and Chiller Theatre.

At a haunted house, Simmons says, patrons become the stars of their own personal horror movies.

“I think haunted houses are popular because they offer an experience that you can’t really get anywhere else,” he says. “The big rides at theme parks sort of make it seem like you’re in a movie, and a good haunted house gives the same illusion.”

Walking through a haunted attraction, Simmons says, also is a great bonding experience, and an opportunity to cling closely to someone you like.

Scares and frights aren’t the only appeal of haunted attractions: There’s plenty of humor, too, promoters say. Sandy Allen, one of the owners of Allen’s Haunted Hayrides — a Smock, Fayette County, attraction in its 29th year — says part of the fun is people laughing at their fears and other people’s fears. After all, the scares are make-believe and there’s no actual danger, as opposed to encountering a madman in real life.

“I think it’s just a good, old-fashioned scare,” Allen says. “You hear people scream … then other people in the wagon are laughing because it’s funny to see someone startled. … The laughter is contagious, just as well as the screams.”

Allen’s Haunted Hayrides — which take riders through a forest and cornfield, and end in a haunted barn — have become a multi- generational tradition for many families. Sights and scares include a chainsaw and graveyard, and the attraction ranks about an eight on a scare scale of one to 10, Allen says.

“We fit in with every phase of a person’s life,” she says. “I compare it to Kennywood: We’re the Kennywood of hayrides.”

Find your haunts

Allen’s Haunted Hayrides: Through Nov. 1. 7:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7:30-9 p.m. Sundays and Oct. 23, 30 and Nov. 1. A wagon leaves every 15 minutes and winds through the woods, cornfields and a haunted barn along Route 666. $10; free for age 4 and younger with adult. 2430 Pittsburgh Road, Smock, Fayette County. 724-677-2589 or online.

The Art of Horror: Oct. 10-31. Exhibit of the spooky, horror- related work of regional artists. Noon-6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon-9 p.m. Fridays, noon-4 p.m. Saturdays. Free. 344 S. Main St., Butler. 724-283-6922.

Castle Blood: Through Nov. 1. 7-10 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The MacCabre family gives tours of its home, without the chainsaws and ax murderers. $13. 2860 Main St., Beallsville, Washington County. 724-632-3242 or online.

Cheeseman’s Fright Farm: Through Nov. 1. Fright Farm haunted house and hayride, from dark through at least 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and Oct. 23 and 30. $12. Cheeseman Road (off Route 19), near Portersville, Butler County. 724-368-3233 or online.

Chilly Billy Cardille’s Temple of Terror: Through Oct. 30. 7-10 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 7-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. $10. Syria Shrine Center, 1877 Shriners Way, Harmar. 724- 274-7000.

Creepy Hollow: Through Oct. 25. Dusk-11 p.m. Oct. 10-11, 17-18 and 24-25. Walk through a haunted trail. Hookstown VFD, 102 Silver Slipper Road, Hookstown, Beaver County. 724-777-4993.

Fright Farm: Through Nov. 1. Dusk-10 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and Oct. 27-28; dusk-midnight Fridays and Saturdays. $15; $10 for students. Route 857, Smithfield, Fayette County. 724- 564-7644 or online.

Demon House: Through Nov. 1. 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 7-10 p.m. Oct. 16, 23 and 30. $15. 417 Coyle Curtain Road, Monongahela. Online.

“Haunted Halloween” storytelling: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 24-25, 5-8 p.m. Oct. 26. Guests can be entertained by scary stories in a spooky setting. $4; $1 for age 11 and younger. Compass Inn, Route 30, Laughlintown. 724-238-6818 or online .

Haunted History Hayride: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 25. Guided historical hayrides every half-hour along the trails of the battlefield. $8; $5 for age 12 and younger. Reservations required. Bushy Run Battlefield, Route 993, Jeannette. 724-527-5584, ext. 102.

Haunted Weekend at West Overton Village: 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 24-26. $10 Oct. 24 and 26; $15 Oct. 25 (includes Goblin Ball dance); $5 for age 12 and younger. West Overton Museum, Route 819, between Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant. 724-887-7910.

The Haunted Mine: Through October. 7-10 p.m. Thursdays, 7-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. $10. Tour-Ed Mine, off Route 28 (Exit 14), Tarentum. 724-224-4720.

Hundred Acres Manor Haunted Attraction: Through Nov. 1. 7-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7-10 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. $13-$20; attraction benefits Homeless Children’s Education Fund and Animal Friends. Hundred Acres Drive, South Park. 412-851-4286 or online

Haunted Hills Hayride and the Valley of Darkness Haunted Walking Trail: 7-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through October, 7-10 p.m. Sundays and Oct. 22-23 and 29-30. Hay wagon pulled by tractor through densely wooded trail. $10 for each attraction; $15 for both. Benefits The Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Spectrum Charter School. Route 48, North Versailles, north of Route 30 Kmart. 412- 824-1214 or online.

Haunted Tales of Manchester Walking Tours: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 17-18. Tours leave every 15 minutes until 9 p.m. $8; $5 for students and children. Conroy School, Page Street, Manchester. 412-321-7701.

Haunted Train Rides on the Fayette Central Railroad: 7 p.m. Oct. 11, 18 and 25. $15; $10 for children. 39 N. Gallatin Ave., Uniontown. 877-321-3277.

Northern Nightmares Halloween Festival: Through October. 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Departure times for 45-minute bus tours of spooky places between Zelienople and Harmony, Butler County. $12; $8 for age 12 and younger. Benefits Strand Theater Initiative. Tours begin at Main Street and Grandview Avenue. 724-742-0400 or online.

Phantom Fright Nights at Kennywood: Through Nov. 1. 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7-11 p.m. Oct. 12. Haunted rides, mazes, monsters, music. Attraction is rated No. 3 amusement park Halloween event by “Hauntworld” magazine. $23 at gate; $20 at participating Giant Eagles. Kennywood Park, 4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin. 412-461-0500 or online.

The Scarehouse: Through Nov. 1. 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 7-10 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays. Hint: Come early in the month, because in late October, the wait can be two-and-a-half hours. $17 on Fridays and Saturdays, $16 on Thursdays and Sundays. The former Etna Elks Lodge, 118 Locust St., Etna. 412-781-5885 or online.

Scream Asylum: Through Oct. 28. 7-11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7-10 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays. Three separate paths through three levels of horror. $13 (includes parking). Benefits Presto VFD. Trader Jack’s, 5330 Thoms Run Road, Bridgeville. Online.

The “It’s Alive!” 2008 Zombie Fest: 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Oct. 25, noon-6 p.m. Oct. 25. Zombie and horror convention, with film screenings, memorabilia, auction, special guests. Mall events are free. Monroeville Mall, Monroeville. Online.

Zombie Walk: 10 a.m. Oct. 26. Join the largest gathering of zombies in the world. Free; bring a non-perishable food item to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Monroeville Mall, Monroeville. Online.

Kid-friendly attractions

Bump in the Night: 7-9 p.m. Oct. 17-18 and 24-25. Non-scary family event with storytelling, nature walk on the trails, and more. $10; $8 for children; member discount available. Registration required. Frick Environmental Center, 2005 Beechwood Blvd., Squirrel Hill. 412-422-6538.

Gateway Clipper Fleet’s Halloween Monster Fun Cruise: 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Oct. 25. The cruise has monsters, a DJ dance party and a magic show. $16; $15 for age 60 and older; $9.50 for ages 3-12. Station Square. 412-355-7980 or online.

HOOtin’ Owl-O-Ween: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays in October. With Halloween candy and crafts for kids, and interactive encounters with the birds. Free with admission: $9; $8 for senior citizens; $7.50 for children age 2 and older. National Aviary, North Side. 412-323- 7235 or online.

KDKA ZooBoo for Kids’ Sake: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 18-19 and 25-26. With haunted house, trick-or-treating and costume contest. Free with zoo admission: $12; $11 for senior citizens; $10 for ages 2-13. 412- 665-3640 or online.

Hallowboo!: Through Oct. 26. Noon-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Family Halloween celebration, with trick-or-treating in Storybook Forest, a hedge maze, haunted train ride and more. $19.95. Idlewild Park, Ligonier. 724-238-3666 or online.

Halloween Happenings: 4-8 p.m. Oct. 26. Kids can come in costume and take part in Halloween activities. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1 Schenley Park, Oakland. Free with general admission: $10; $9 for age 62 and older and students; $7 for ages 2- 18. 412-622-6914 or online.

Pumpkin Patch Trolley: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 10-12, 17-19 and 24- 26. Trolley rides to and from a pumpkin patch. $8; $7 for age 62 and older; $5 for ages 3-15. Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, 1 Museum Road, Chartiers, Washington County. 724-228-9256 or online.

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