Fine Arts and Fest

Looking for a Good Scare?

Hallie Witwer
It’s that time of year. The weather is cooling down, the trees are changing, pumpkins adorn every doorstep, and the thrill of a good scare is being sought out. If you’re looking for a haunted house, Ohio is definitely the place to be. Here are seven scare-tastic locations where I can guarantee you’ll be clutching the person’s sweatshirt in front of you not 30 seconds after entering…no matter how brave you pretend to be while waiting in line!
7 Floors Of Hell- Middleburg Heights, OH
No one likes a haunted house that feels like it’s over before it even begins. As you can probably tell by its name, this particular attraction won’t disappoint. In fact, by the time it’s over, you’ll probably be gasping for breath and even slightly sweaty. And you’ll definitely feel you got your money’s worth. Each floor has a separate theme, and even those who went last year will still be surprised because they are presenting a new level for the 2010 season: The Blood Barn. Be sure not to miss it. Get out there and experience it for yourself!
Haunted Cave At Lewisburg- Lewisburg, OH
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A little tired of the classic “haunted house” set up? Want something completely different than the same lame haunting game we’ve all been used to since we were 13? If so, THIS is the place to see. This cave is actually 80 feet below ground and 30, 000 live Indiana Brown Bats call it home. Placed among an abandoned mine, it is Ohio’s ONLY underground haunted attraction. The peaceful town of Lewisburg is hiding a dark secret underneath its surface. Are you brave enough to uncover it?
Carnival Of Horrors- Cuyahoga Falls, OH (Blossom Music Center)
Referring to the Carnival Of Horrors at Blossom simply as a haunted house is an extraordinary understatement. The concert arena that Ohio natives know and love becomes a completely different world during the month of October, and as far as haunted attractions go, this one offers so many different bone-chilling options you’re sure to leave with your stomach in your throat (but hopefully just a smile on your face). You can walk through the Insane Asylum and Fun House that, while rather traditional as far as haunted attractions go, both are still certain to leave you disturbed.

One attraction offered that you most likely will not see at most other haunts this October is The Freak Show in 3D. Yes, that’s right- 3D

And if none of these options rattle your tailbone, you can take a walk around the Blossom grounds outdoors through The Wicked Woods. This is a great opportunity to get scared AND enjoy the fall weather.
Haunted Hoochie- Pataskala, OH
The darkest show on earth? Seems to be. If you’re looking for hardcore, this is the attraction to hit. I mean, it’s featuring a simulated live demon birth. What else could you ask for? It also offers a feature entitled “Bad Trip”. You just know that one’s gonna be intense. With a fully loaded website that tells you everything you need to know, right down to local hotels, this is one haunted house that seems to have all the bases covered. If you’re in the Columbus area, be sure to make a pit stop for a few good thrills and chills at The Haunted Hoochie. Don’t let the name fool you.
Terror Town- Maumee, OH
With the respectable claim of Toledo’s longest running haunted house, I’m certain this is a haunted house that will not disappoint. With animatronics that are known for far surpassing any competitors, it’s guaranteed to both impress and disgust successfully. On top of all the awesome fright factors it has to offer, you’ll also be treated to live music from Detroit’s # 1 KISS tribute band October 22nd and 23rd, and an Alice Cooper tribute band the 29th and 30th. Talk about a bonus you never saw coming!
The Land Of Illusion Haunted Theme Park- Middletown, OH
That’s right- Theme Park. With five separate attractions, you’re not going to grow bored in Middletown any time in October, that’s for sure. Enjoy the outdoors on the Haunted Trail, lose yourself in the 1800s with Dr. Psycho’s Haunted Estate, brave the Temple Of Terror, face down some killer clowns that are in your face in 3D, or experience black magic with the Voodoo Bayou. Either way, you’re going to walk away with a chill down your spine. If you’re smug enough to think you’ll be able to keep your cool, you may want to think again...
Hilltop Horrors- Suffield, OH
While carrying out my search for the most harrowing haunts in the great state of Ohio, I was able to get in touch with Dave Shonk, owner and creator of Hilltop Horrors and had a great interview with him. Not surprisingly, running a haunted house is a ton of work, and at just 19 years of age Dave is making his dream a reality. I learned a lot from this interview, and think most people will, as well. Here’s a sneak peak at what goes on behind the scenes of one of the greatest Halloween traditions in America-

AltOhio: How do you prepare your house for guests to see it come October? Where do you begin? (Decor, hiring actors, etc.) And how early does the prep begin?

Dave Shonk: When does it start? A better question is when does it end. This year was a crazy year for me. For the past six years I have been building large home haunts in my backyard. Last year we maxed it out with 13 rooms and around 2,500 people in the 2 nights we were open. With this much attention to my suburban backyard I caught some notice from city officials who basically told me it was getting out of hand and I could no longer do it at my home because of safety reasons. So there I was in November, 18 years old and looking at my only 2 options: either go pro or give it up. I knew I couldn’t give it up so I started drawing up new plans. In December I was lucky enough to find 80 sheets of plywood on craigslist.com for $150 to build some of my new walls. By January I had started to look for my new location. By May I had many unsuccessful attempts of business partnerships so I started to look for farms with big fall events that might be looking to expand into the haunted events. I was lucky to get in contact with the Rufener’s since they had been looking for someone to set up a haunted hayride and corn maze for years. From there I went on to pick apart my old plans to figure what would still work in a non-traditional haunted house environment. I had finalized my new location about mid-June or early-July. We started to build in August once we had moved all my props and supplies and purchased what we needed new. I was spending 5 days a week out there up until the day we opened. I am still up there 3 or 4 days a week just making sure everything is up to par. We started to look for actors in September. We assembled a great crew through both craigslist and word of mouth. As for next year, I already have plans bouncing around about new attractions. My build crew, compiled of 4 good friends, is already making plans to hit conventions and tradeshows all year long just to see what’s new in the industry.

AO: What made you want to open a haunted house? Was it something you always wanted to do one day?

DS: Opening a Haunted house has always been a dream for me. It all started when I was probably 4 years old. Many locals remember the 3-yard Halloween display set up by the late Tom Cunningham on Broad Blvd. in Cuyahoga Falls. I used to live about 4 blocks away. It was always a trip my father, 2 sisters, and I would take every October. I don’t remember how old I was, but I knew I wanted to set up an even bigger display in my own front yard. It started with clothes stuffed with newspaper and cardboard tombstones. Who would have guessed 15 years later that I would have a multi-attraction event with enough props to fill 15 front yards? I remember being 10 years old and looking at abandoned buildings on the way to my grandma’s and thinking, “Man, that’d make a sweet haunted house”. While most preteens where playing videogames I was making zombies. I got mixed reactions through the years about my odd hobbies. Lots of people thought I was a weirdo, but look at it from my perspective- while those guys were wasting time playing video games, I was working my way into a 6.5 billion dollar industry. And now I’m 19 years old and opening my first haunted attraction!

AO: What is your role when it comes to running the haunted house? What tasks do you take on yourself?

DS: My role in the haunt is a complicated one. I do a little of everything. I more or less over see everything that’s going on. I’m one of the many makeup artists working to get all the actors ready for the night’s festivities, but I also still get into costume and character and stalk the patrons through the maze and the woods. I have to also make sure the equipment is running smoothly, fix technical problems, and make sure the actors are ok. When it comes to building, I am the head of it all. I draw the floor plans, pick out set pieces, and design costumes. I also am not afraid to get my hands dirty and do the hard labor of setting up walls and platforms. I by far do not do this all alone, though. I have a solid crew of about 5 people that really helped me out this year. We were all slammed due to the rush of the build this year and without them we wouldn’t have been able to open at all.

AO: What is the most rewarding aspect of running a haunted house?

DS: The most rewarding aspect of a haunt is just showing people a good time. The sounds of terrified screams let us know that we are doing our job and I know for me and a majority of the crew it brings a smile to our faces knowing our hard work paid off.

AO: What seems to get the biggest scare reaction out of people? (Atmosphere, actors, special effects?)
DS: The biggest scare is a tough one. I guess different things get different people. This year I have to say the metal cabinets out in the shack in the corn maze get everyone, even if you see it coming. An actor flying out of nowhere accompanied by super loud noises is a classic. This year I also invested in some ghillie suits (suits that snipers in the army wear to blend in with the environment). Once an actor enters the corn or the woods they disappear. No one sees them coming. I even got startled out in the woods by our ghillie suit actor. The atmosphere of the farm is also a definite plus for us; it’s already creepy. Was that rustling in the corn just the wind, or maybe an animal, or was it the bloodthirsty killer lurking in the shadows?

AO: Do you plan on doing this for years and years to come?

DS: If it goes well this year I plan to be out on this farm for a couple more years at least. Get my name out and make some connections, I’ve already met some potential business partners for the future. I guess I want to see where it goes and save up a bit before I make a big change. My real goal is something like a factory complex or some other building with a massive amount of square footage. I have high standards to hit. Ohio is a very competitive area for haunts.

Dave’s event is called Hilltop Horrors, which features two events, Terror in the Corn and Forest of Fear. It’s located at the Rufener Hilltop Farms at 1022 State Rt. 43 Suffield, OH 44260. They can be reached by calling (330) 628-1082. They are open all Fridays and Saturdays in October and Sunday the 31st from 7- till 11:30. Check them out if you have the guts!
There you have it readers! Seven Haunted Houses that are absolute must-sees this Halloween season. So go scream your hearts out, and try your best not to embarrass yourselves by crying like a baby in front of your girlfriend. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

*Images courtesy of Google Images