Every year towards the end of September, you’ll undoubtedly start seeing advertisements for local haunted houses, promising to scare even the bravest of those who dare to enter. They’re often abandoned looking mansions, with the sound of chainsaws echoing within and terrifying figures lurking in the shadows. While walking through a fright-filled house might sound unappealing to some, millions choose to visit these during the month of October every year. So, why do people like haunted houses? And what is the scariest haunted house out there? Here are a few haunted house facts.
Why Do People like Haunted Houses?
There is evidence to suggest that scary stories have been told as entertainment for hundreds of years. Haunted houses, however, have not been around quite as long, and only started to gain prominence in the last century. Being scared is a feeling that most people tend to stay away from if they can help it. However, for many, the adrenaline rush that comes with feeling frightened is sometimes too good to pass up. Haunted houses offer guests a place to be scared while also providing a sense of security. They are a lot more fun when you know there is no real risk of being harmed.
Where Did Haunted Houses Originate?
Haunted attractions have been around since the 19th century, but didn’t gain traction in the United States until the Great Depression. American parents needed a cheap and easy way to keep their kids entertained around Halloween. In those days, it was much more common for youngsters to partake in “tricks,” like vandalizing properties and harassing strangers around this particular holiday. So any fun distractions were welcomed.
While haunted houses were around in the early 20th century, it really wasn’t until Walt Disney opened the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland that they became a cultural icon.
Where Did the Idea for the Disney Haunted Mansion Come From?
The idea for the Haunted Mansion came after Walt Disney took a visit to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose during the 1960’s. This house was constructed by a widow named Sarah Winchester who inherited millions from her husband in 1884. After his death she decided to rebuild an abandoned mansion and designed it to be…strange. Some of these oddities included a number of staircases that led to nowhere, and windows that looked into other rooms. She had only one working toilet in the house and made all of the others decoys in order to confuse spirits. To further confuse them she slept in a different room every night.
After her death the house was made available to the public and tours of the mansion were offered daily. Disney was entranced by the spectacle of it all and saw potential for an attraction similar to the Winchester Mystery House at Disneyland.
On August 12, 1969, Disneyland introduced the Haunted Mansion to the public. The ride was an instant success. Shortly after it opened, they broke a single day record of over 82,000 visitors. This solidified the public’s interest in horror and similar haunted attractions began to pop up around the country.
The Early Issues with Haunted Houses
Once haunted houses began to rise in popularity, many businesses and amusement parks started to create their own. These makeshift houses were a gray area for state building inspectors and as a result many of them went unchecked. This ended poorly for the Haunted Castle, a house built by a Six Flag amusement park in New Jersey in 1984. The house’s flammable building materials and poor construction led to a fire that killed 8 teenagers and injured 7. This brought about a series of lawsuits, criminal charges, and investigations that had a ripple effect nationwide.
What Is Scariest Haunted House in the World?
This brings us to what’s been called the scariest haunted house in the US and potentially the world. It’s called McKamey Manor and is a fully interactive experience that has a current wait list of over 27,000 people.
There’s no admission fee but there is a 40 page waiver you need to sign before going in. It’s 21 and over unless you’re 18-20 and have parental approval. They guarantee that the actors will touch you and warn that you will feel like you’re near death multiple times throughout the experience (if not the entire time). You also have to obtain a note signed by your doctor stating that you’re mentally and physically ready. On top of this, you have to pass a background check and be screened via FaceTime. You must have proof of medical insurance and pass a drug test the day of the show. They warn on their website that it can be an ‘aggressive experience’, which seems to be putting it lightly.
What Goes on Inside McKamey Manor?
Once inside McKamey Manor, visitors are in for a terrifying experience. Some of the participants have had their heads shaved and been given unwanted haircuts, submerged underwater, forced to eat and drink random substances (which we will not be covering in this blog post), and been bound and gagged. This is not to mention the rumored cage of snakes that is said to be a human-sized glass box filled with snakes. The whole experience lasts 4-8 hours and no one has made it all the way through, the record being at 6 hours currently.
The creator of the experience, Russ McKamey, says that haunted houses aren’t very scary anymore because people know what to expect. He feels that people have become desensitized to horror and that it can only be felt under extreme duress. He states that of course you won’t actually die, but there’s violence, claustrophobia, force feeding, and choking that make you think you will.
What Are Haunted Houses Like Now?
Most haunted houses do not require a waver and don’t allow the actors to touch you. While haunted houses remain a popular fall activity, they’re not all quite as extreme as McKamey Manor. If you’re easily spooked, we’d recommend sticking to local haunted houses where the chainsaw wielding clowns won’t give you a surprise haircut.