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Frightfully fun: Attractions offer new thrills for Halloween

Shirley McMarlin
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Courtesy of Kennywood
Skeleton-clad visitors enjoy a previous Happy Hauntings event at Kennywood in West Mifflin.
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Courtesy of Jayson Cassidy
Tunnel monsters await as visitors make their way to Phantom Fright Nights at Kennywood in West Mifflin.
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Courtesy of Universal Orlando
Regular clowns aren’t scary enough? Beware the Killer Clowns from Outer Space at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.
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Courtesy of Universal Orlando
Death Eaters roam Hogsmeade as part of the “Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle” at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.
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Courtesy of Universal Orlando
Watch out for monsters throughout 10 haunted houses and five scare zones at Universal Orlando in Florida.
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Stephan Hazuga
Enter if you dare — zombies, crazed clowns, ghosts and more await at Kennywood’s Phantom Fright Nights.
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Courtesy of Kennywood
Candy corn figurines greet guests at a previous Happy Hauntings event at Kennywood in West Mifflin.
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Courtesy of Lincoln Caverns
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Courtesy of Lincoln Caverns
The 2018 Ghosts & Goblins tours at Lincoln Caverns in Huntingdon County had a Tim Burton movie theme.
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Courtesy of Idlewild & SoakZone
Ghosts & Goblins tours at Lincoln Caverns in Huntingdon County include “scares, laughs and even some cave education.” Kids can come in costume or regular clothes for fun at HALLOWBOO weekends through Oct. 27 at Idlewild & SoakZone.
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Courtesy of Idlewild & SoakZone
A costumed character greets a young visitor to a previous HALLOWBOO event at Idlewild & SoakZone in Ligonier Township.
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Courtesy of Idlewild & SoakZone
Idlewild & SoakZone in Ligonier Township puts the “happy” into Halloween with family friendly HALLOWBOO weekends through Oct. 27.

What appeals to people about being frightened, say, on a roller coaster or in a haunted house? Researchers posted the following:

• Fear gives us a rush of adrenaline, followed by a release of endorphins and dopamine, which can result in an opioid-like feeling of euphoria.

• Many people like to test their limits, getting a sense of pride and satisfaction from successfully coming through an anxiety-producing situation.

• When fright is a shared experience, it creates a bond among those involved.

As a result, people seek out such experiences, especially when they know that, ultimately, they are safe. When you think about it, that makes amusement parks and Halloween happenings a natural pairing.

Area attractions, like Kennywood, Idlewild & SoakZone and Lincoln Caverns in Huntingdon County, extend their operating seasons with Halloween-themed days. Amusements parks around the country that operate year-round offer extra fun with special spooky events, some that will scare the bejeebers out of adults, others that are wholesome fun for all ages and some that combine the two.

Ghosts & Goblins, in its 36th season at Lincoln Caverns, “started as a gimmick way back when, during a down time for the caves,” says coordinator Michael Leonard. “(The owners) were hoping it would be a way to get people interested who might not otherwise come out to the caverns.”

Now it’s the second-busiest time of the year, after the May school field trips, he says.

“Fright Nights began in 2002 and remains a very successful part of our operations here at Kennywood, even as competition in the Halloween entertainment market has grown greatly over the years,” says Nick Paradise, director of public relations and social media.

Idlewild introduced its kid-centered HALLOWBOO in 2005 “after seeing the success of several other amusement parks who had begun to open for Halloween events,” says marketing director Jeff Croushore.

“HALLOWBOO has proven to be a successful event for Idlewild over its past 14 seasons and has allowed the park to expand its operating calendar into the fall to attract new and returning guests,” he says. “While we don’t give out exact attendance figures, a fair-weather HALLOWBOO weekend can attract a couple thousand visitors to the park,” a mix of day visitors and season pass-holders.

Here are some scare-season events going on at area attractions and at some popular parks farther afield:


Kennywood Phantom Fright Nights and Happy Hauntings

Kennywood obviously knows how to do Halloween right, ranking No. 4 on USA Today’s 2019 Readers Choice list of Best Theme Park Halloween Events.

You’ll be scared before you even get to your Phantom Fright Night destination, passing through a fog-filled tunnel where ghosts and ghouls lurk.

Beyond the tunnel are haunts with names like Mortem Manor, Villa of the Vampire, Voodoo Bayou, Kennyville Cemetery, Dark Shadows and — new this year — Shady Grove Memorial Hospital, a decrepit facility where an evil doctor is said to roam.

There’s also “IT: The 4D Experience,” where Pennywise awaits somewhere within the special effects and 3D projections.

Crazed clowns have taken over the Festival of Fear, zombies roam Gory Park, the ghosts of old gold miners haunt Death Valley and you’ll need to keep your wits about you to escape Raina’s Trap.

Hit the all-you-can-eat Pre-Scare Dinner buffet on Oct. 12, 19 or 26 and then test your intestinal fortitude with early access to the new Steel Curtain roller coaster.

Phantom Fright Nights are scheduled on select nights at the West Mifflin park through Oct. 27. Some other rides and attractions also are open, including the new Steel Curtain roller coaster.

Kennywood introduced Happy Hauntings, a separate, kid-friendly Halloween event geared to those 10 and younger, in 2017. Happy Hauntings, open 12- 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in October, invites kids to enjoy Kiddieland and rides like the Merry-Go-Round, Auto Race and Jack Rabbit, along with Thomas Town, trick-or-treating and hayrides.

Kids can wear costumes, although some rides may not allow costumes for safety reasons.

Details: 412-461-0500 or kennywood.com


HALLOWBOO at Idlewild & SoakZone

The award-winning Ligonier Township park puts the “happy” into Halloween with its family friendly HALLOWBOO weekends, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27.

There’s no fear of nightmares for the little ones after a daytime stroll through the park cheerfully decorated with pumpkins and other seasonal accoutrements.

Enjoy the rides and attractions of Olde Idlewild, Jumpin’ Jungle, Hootin’ Holler and Story Book Forest; grab a fall favorite treat from one of the concessions; and let the costumed kids trick-or-treat through Story Book Forest.

Details: 724-238-3666 or idlewild.com


Halloween in Hersheypark

Who wouldn’t want to trick-or-treat in the park that calls itself “The Sweetest Place on Earth”? Trick-or-treating is just one of many seasonal happenings at Hersheypark, where Halloween-themed events begin Oct. 18.

Here are some highlights of Hersheypark in the Dark, running Fridays-Sundays through Nov. 3:

• Lights-out rides on three wooden roller coasters for the last hour of operation each evening. The indoor Laff Trakk coaster will be dark throughout operating hours. Weather permitting, more than 50 rides — including 13 coasters — will be open.

• Treatville trick-or-treat trail with 13 spooky stops for children 12 and under. Costumes are welcome but not required for children to receive a treat bag.

• Live entertainment, including the Screaming Mummies performing throwback Halloween songs and a Hershey Characters Glow Dance Party.

• Seasonal food and beverage offerings, including pumpkin-flavored shakes, funnel cakes and s’mores.

In addition, guests are invited to bring flashlights to the ZooAmerica wildlife park’s once-a-year nighttime tours. The Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction and Hershey Story Museum also will have seasonal programs.

The 23-acre Hershey Gardens will host Pumpkin Glow on Oct. 18-19 and 25-26, featuring more than 200 carved pumpkins illuminating pathways, costumed characters and pumpkin-carving demonstrations. Children can come in costume to collect candy at eight stations.

Details: 800-437-7439 or hersheypark.com


HalloWeekends at Cedar Point

It’s “fun by day, fright by night” at the sprawling park surrounded by the waters of Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio.

The Great Pumpkin Fest offers family friendly daylight treats without any scary tricks for the younger set. Special features include arts and crafts activities, trick-or-treating, indoor mazes, spooky selfie stations and other themed games and rides.

Other special “Peanuts”-themed attractions include a Great Pumpkin Parade, Camp Spooky Dance Party and Planet Spooky Scare-eoke.

After dark, things get … well, really dark. Test your courage at more than two dozen blood-curdling attractions with names like Cut Throat Cove, Happily Never After and Trail of the Forsaken.

Spanning the middle ground between the safe and the spooky are regular rides, the Fall Food Fest and the Pumpkin Spectacular, a display of more than 1,000 carved and illuminated pumpkins.

HalloWeekends are scheduled for Fridays-Sundays through Oct. 27.

Details: 419-627-2350 or cedarpoint.com


Lincoln Caverns’ Ghosts & Goblins 2019

As if spelunking isn’t scary enough, add ghosts and goblins to a tour of these Huntingdon County caves.

The 36th annual edition of the haunting experience, set for Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 5-26, includes daytime tours through two crystal caverns, one in its natural state and the other sporting family friendly Halloween creatures. A walk through the woods and hay ride follows.

After dark, the activities take on more spine-tingling chills and thrills. This year’s spooky theme is “Lincoln’s Revenge.”

The Lincoln Caverns experience also offers browsing in the gift shop and panning for gems in an authentic sluice.

First discovered in 1930, the caves have winding passageways and rooms containing massive flowstones, thousands of stalactites, pure white calcite and sparkling crystals.

Details: 814-643-0268 or lincolncaverns.com


Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va.

Kids will love the “Sesame Street”-themed Count’s Spooktacular, while more seasoned Halloween fans take their chances with Howl-O-Scream, both running Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27.

Children 9 and younger can dress up and join the costume parade during the daytime event. Other family friendly activities include a hay maze, trick-or-treating locations and interactive show.

Each weekend has a theme centered around different “Sesame Street” characters. The Count’s Spooktacular kicks off Oct. 5-6 with “Monsters & Fairies,” featuring Elmo and Abby Cadabby.

When night falls, it’s time for six haunted houses, immersive themed scare zones, three escape rooms and three “darkly entertaining” live shows, like Monster Stomp on Ripper Row, a Jack the Ripper-inspired modern rock and rhythm dance spectacular.

Details: 757-229-4386 or buschgardens.com/williamsburg/


Walt Disney World

Would the “friendliest place on earth” subject you to other-worldly terrors? Of course not. No, it will treat you to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Offered on select nights through Nov. 1, the special event includes Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular, during which Jack Skellington narrates as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy are spirited away to a mysterious haunted house only to encounter dancing skeletons, waltzing ghosts and some Disney villains.

The show includes projection effects, lasers, light and fireworks.

Details: 407-939-5277 or disneyworld.disney.go.com


Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

If having an ’80s theme isn’t scary enough, the Florida amusement park’s horror nights will feature “10 totally terrifying haunted houses, 5 pulse-pounding scare zones and outrageous live entertainment,” the website says. “From cinematic screams to the most horrifying cult classics, there’s no escape from the decade that just won’t die.”

The haunted houses get inspiration from everything from the not-so-scary “Ghostbusters” to legendary figures like Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster to the real-life horrors of Roman gladiator-filled arenas.

Metal musician Rob Zombie gets his due in the “Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe” scare zone and the “House of 1000 Corpses” maze, based on his slasher film of the same name.

The after-hours, extra-ticket event takes place on select nights through Nov. 2.

Details: 407-363-8000 or universalorlando.com

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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