With the end of the summer season, you might think that your local theme parks are about to pack it in for some winter slumber. However, Halloween is fast approaching and theme parks are getting ready to scare the screams out of their guests.

By Lance HartScreamscape

It is true that some attractions are tuning it down now that the season is over. However, many more have been spending the last weeks of summer preparing for unique Halloween themed events. At these events, parks can be packed to the limits, often well after midnight as guests line up to get scared.

The combination of a theme park with a Halloween-themed special event may seem like a no-brainer today. However, the history of the concept actually goes back to Knott’s Berry Farm, which launched its first ever Knott’s Scary Farm / Halloween Haunt event back in 1973.

The industry was never the same after that. Other parks soon began to take notice and attempted to host their own Halloween themed after-hours events at parks all across America. These days, the tradition has gone international, with Halloween events now staged at theme parks across Europe and Asia to great success.

Success for the business of scaring

While the idea of getting scared at a theme park does not appeal to all, it has become a great social bonding event. This is an event where groups of friends will go to enjoy the experience together. But I think the timing of it all has perhaps been one of the biggest keys to the concept’s success.

As Halloween falls on October 31st each year, it gives amusement parks everywhere a solid reason to extend their operating season even longer than perhaps they would have normally by providing a popular holiday themed event to lure in huge crowds. Of course this mean big business for the parks. It also gives the proper financial justification needed to spend the extra capital required to host these events.

These days, virtually every major park in the US hosts its own Halloween event. The Cedar Fair theme parks host Halloween Haunt events at 10 theme parks. There are also Fright Fest events at the Six Flags theme parks, and Howl-O-Scream events at the Busch Gardens parks. Then there are of course the massive Halloween Horror Nights events. These have taken over the Universal Studios parks in the US as well as internationally in Singapore and Japan.

Halloween Horror Nights 29

After Knott’s Scary Farm, perhaps the biggest legacy in the Haunt business is at Universal Orlando. The park is celebrating Halloween Horror Nights 29, where the fun has extended into the longest season ever this year.

Halloween Horror Nights 29 business of scaringThe event is held over a staggering 41 nights, taking place between Sept. 6th and Nov. 2nd. The park stays open as late as 1 to 2am each night. Guests queue up for hours to experience unique haunted houses each season (there are 10 this year); many of which are themed to popular movies and TV series.

This year’s event features fun 80’s throwback themes like Ghostbusters and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, mixed with classic Universal Monsters, gore-fest horror from Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, along with modern concepts from Jordan Peele’s US and Netflix’s Stranger Things. And next year they will do it all again with a clean slate to build an entirely new line-up, as the rabid fans demand it.

International hauntings

Looking across the pond I also notice fantastic events taking place not only in UK parks like Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, but also all across Europe at parks ranging from Europa Park and Disneyland Paris to Liseberg, Parc Asterix, Movie Park Germany, PortAventura, Toverland, the Walibi parks and more than I can count.

However, the horror route isn’t for everyone. Many family-friendly parks have come up with their own kid-friendly spin on hosting Halloween festivals and special ticket events. Examples are the Great Pumpkin LumiNights at Dollywood and the Pumpkin Nights at Silver Dollar City. Similarly, at the US Disney parks there are Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom in Florida and the Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure.

With that in mind, it does leave one to wonder, if your local park isn’t hosting some kind of Halloween event or jumping into the business of scaring… then why not?