Haunted attractions become a screaming hot industry

Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:34am EDT
 
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - If horror movies no longer give you nightmares, there's a growing industry waiting to scare you out of your wits -- haunted attractions which have benefitted from live talent leaving Hollywood as computers take their roles.

Haunted attractions have become high tech venues which do everything possible to make a scary scenario seem real, which includes hiring professional actors to jump out at you and using theatrical sets with sounds, lighting and animatronics.

Larry Kirchner, editor-in-chief of Hauntworld Magazine and a board member of The Haunted House Association, said haunted houses began on U.S. amusement piers in the 1920s then were run by charities before some went commercial in the 1980s.

But he said they have soared in scale and popularity in recent years, in the United States and increasingly overseas, at the hands of specialists pushed out of the movie industry by computer-generated effects.

No longer hokey, a first class fright attraction will cost $1 million to set up with The Haunted House Association estimating the industry is now worth about $1 billion a year with ticket sales in the U.S. alone generating more than $500 million.

"There is now a whole industry of vendors and skills to create special effects or sell products to haunted attractions which have let them get a lot better," Kirchner told Reuters.

"Some of these places are more sophisticated than the top Broadway plays in New York but, unlike a movie or Broadway show, you are part of the show. That interactivity has really made haunted houses popular."

In the United States this year, 81 percent of amusement parks will hold Halloween or fall-themed events this year, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Fewer than half offered Halloween attractions 15 years ago, and this trend is spreading internationally.   Continued...

 
<p>A man made up to look like a zombie takes part in a zombie parade in Frankfurt, July 18, 2009. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>