By Anna Bradford
What is it about Halloween that transforms ordinary people into seekers of anything dark and unknown? Cemeteries at night, horror films by the dozen or one of the most popular and oldest traditions - the haunted house!
A haunted house is defined as a building that is the center for supernatural occurrences or paranormal phenomena. A house is said to be "possessed" or "haunted" when Satan or ghosts take up residence. Some cases involve otherwise normal people hearing strange noises or having visions of dead people or of objects moving with no visible means of locomotion. That is the type of illusion that most actors, animatronics, sound, lighting and other special effects bring to today's haunted house making them such excellent scary venues. It is estimated that there are over 3,000 haunted houses operating every year in North America alone.
A haunted house should terrify, mystify, shock and disorient its patrons and then let them laugh at their own fears upon exiting. Fear is one of the strongest emotions a human being can experience. There are two basic types of fear a good haunted house can generate; first, the "boo" scare. This is the cheapest but most sought after fright. In the human psyche, there are no lingering effects from this threat. It is accomplished by simply introducing a shocking element by surprise. While causing a scream and a jump in blood pressure, the effects wear off quickly when the person realizes there is no real threat. Chainsaws are typically the favorite for invoking this type of fright. Second is the "lingering" fear. This type of fear is actually a deep sense of dread of what is to come. Approximately 70% of the population is afraid of the dark and their imagination goes into overdrive for what they perceive might happen. The boo scare is the release of this dread. Without the release, the lingering fear can bother guests even after they have left the haunted house.
According to The Haunted American Tours in 2007, the top 10 best most haunted, scariest and creepiest Spook Houses are:
1. Universal Horror Nights, Orlando, FL
2. Shocktoberfest, Reading, Pennsylvania
3. Bennett's Curse-House of the Vampyres
4. Netherworld... Atlanta, Georgia
5. Headless Horseman... Ulster Park, New York
6. Thrillvania, Dallas, TX
7. Frightfest, St. Louis, MO
8. Terror on the Fox, Green Bay, WI
9. Fright World, Buffalo, New York
10. The Nest, Phoenix, AZ
Whether you're a fan of haunted houses or not, one thing is for sure ... haunted houses are here to stay.