Halloween Scares Up Big Business

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – It’s uncanny how Halloween season has morphed into such a big business.

Americans spent about $9 billion on the holiday in 2018, the second-highest amount ever and just shy of 2017’s $9.1 billion, reports the National Retail Federation. More than 175 million Americans partake in celebrating the holiday that many consider to be their favorite. And these celebrants spent an average of $86.79 on costumes, candy, decorations and greeting cards, the trade group says.

Big parts of the fun are the seasonal attractions designed to raise goose bumps. Haunted houses draw thrill-seekers like a carload of lost teens to a depraved murderer’s cabin in the woods in a slasher flick. According to America Haunts, which keeps track of the industry, there are more than 1,200 haunted attractions in the United States, averaging 8,000 paid guests per season.

These attractions generate a total of $300 million per season, with Halloween evenings at amusement parks such as Cedar Point and Kennywood adding another $150 million to $200 million.

 The Mahoning Valley has its share of major Halloween attractions, including Fear Forest and the Canfield Scaregrounds.

Alan Tura of Southington has owned and operated Fear Forest since he opened it about a decade ago. The 68-acre attraction at 6780 Tod Ave. SW (state Route 45) in Lordstown features four attractions: Insane-A-Tarium haunted house, Psycho Path haunted trail, Haunted Hayride and the Forbidden Cornfield.

 In the days leading up to its opening, Tura could be found on the site, spearheading the construction and landscaping where the roughly 100 actors who play ghosts and ghouls will lurk. The only thing that scares him is the weather.

“It’s been a little crazy this year,” he says. “All the rain at the beginning of the season caused a delay in planting.”

 A rainy fall last year also took a bite out of his attendance, he says.

Fear Forest is open for five weekends, Friday through Sunday. It opens at 7 o’clock each night and closes at 11:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Tura says the attraction draws a total of between 9,000 and 10,000 customers over those 15 evenings.

“We’re not big, but we’re not small potatoes, either,” he says. “We’re medium potatoes.”

The largest haunted attractions can pull in up to 50,000 paying customers per season, he says.

Fear Forest is just one part of Tura’s empire of offbeat fun.

He also owns GEP Productions, based in Southington, makers of the Vortex Tunnel. What’s that? It’s basically a giant rotating cylinder with a walkway or vehicle lane running through it. Coupled with strobe lights and other effects, it creates a vertigo effect in anyone who goes through it. Tura has sold them to haunted houses, amusement parks and other attractions throughout the world.

“Ripley’s has it in all of their museums,” he says. “We are now in the middle of shipping one to Paris next week and we just sent one to a Mideastern country. They can also be found all over the United States.”

 GEP manufactures the Vortex Tunnel at its small factory in Austintown.

Tura is also well-known in the monster truck industry as one of the earliest builders and drivers. In fact, he has been inducted into the Monster Truck Hall of Fame in Indiana.

His most famous creation might be Megasaurus, which can often be seen at monster truck shows. A 40-foot metal dinosaur on tank tracks, the fire-spewing Megasaurus picks up junk cars with its pneumatic arms and rips them in half to the delight of spectators.

The Canfield Scaregrounds, which takes over the Canfield Fairgrounds every October, boasts six attractions: the Barn of Evil, the Gore Reformatory, Slaughterhouse, Last Ride Haunted Hayride, Zombie Paintball Massacre and Haunted Circus. 

The Scaregrounds is open weekends through Nov. 2. Hours are 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 7 to 10 p.m. on Sundays and also on Oct. 10 and 31, and Nov. 2. 

From hayrides to haunted houses, here is an overview of select events and attractions:

FILM

  •  “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 27. Tickets to see this 1921 silent film with live pipe organ accompaniment are free but must be reserved. Go to StambaughAuditorium.com, call 330 259 0555, or go to the box office.
  • Silent films “Edison’s Frankenstein” and “Beauty and the Beast”: 2 p.m. Oct. 12, The Soap Gallery, 117 S. Champion St., Youngstown. Admission is $5.
  • Wizarding Weekend, Oct. 4-5, Ward Beecher Planetarium, 84 Lincoln Ave., YSU. Shows are Oct. 4 at 7 and 8:30 p.m.; and Oct. 5 at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. All shows are free and open to the public (donations are appreciated). No reservations are needed. Doors open 30 minutes prior to show time. 
  • “Nightlights”: 8 p.m. Oct. 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, at Ward Beecher Planetarium.

THEATER

  • “Living Dead, the Musical” at Rust Belt Theatre Company, 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown ; 330 507 2358. Performances are at 8 p.m. Oct. 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26
  • “Addams Family” musical at Salem Community Theater, 490 E. State St., Salem; 330 332 9688; Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26, and Nov. 1 and 2; and 2 p.m. Oct. 26 and Nov. 3.
  • Ghost Walk of Warren: Oct. 11, 12, 18 and 19, 6:30-9 p.m. Ghost Walk is a one-mile historic walking tour which begins each night at 6:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 256 Mahoning Ave. NW Warren. Guided tours will leave every 10 minutes from the church parking lot and will include stops along Warren’s Millionaire’s Row, where actors will portray the restless spirits of people who once lived in Trumbull County.  This years Ghost Walk will focus on the Perkins family. The last tour of each night will depart the church parking lot by 9 p.m. Tickets are $9 ($5 for children 12 and under). Call 330 392 9306 for group rates.

PUMPKINS, HAYRIDES AND MAZES

  • Molnar Farms, 3115 E. Western Reserve Road, Poland; 330 757 3142. Hayrides to the pumpkin patch and farm tour every Saturday and Sunday in October. Admission is $5 (free for age 2 and under) and includes hayride, corn maze, straw tower and corn box. Pumpkins are extra, price determined by weight. Final hayride departs at 4 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.
  • While House Fruit Farm, 9249 Youngstown-Salem Road, Canfield, 330 533 4161. Horse-drawn wagon rides, play area, pumpkin pavilion, petting zoo, pony rides, live music, Oct. 12 and 13, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Mill  Creek Metroparks Farm, 7574 Columbiana Canfield Road, Canfield. Open 1-4 p.m. Oct. 6, 13 and 20; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 19. Take a tractor-wagon ride to the pumpkin patch. Barns are open to visit the animals. Additional size pumpkins will be for sale. Ride is $1, pumpkins in patch are $3 (cash only).
  • Detwiler Farm, 4520 Renkenberger Road, Columbiana. Hayrides to the pumpkin patch, and corn and straw mazes, petting zoo. There is also a farmers market of fall decorations. Price is $6 per person. Age 2 and under ride free. Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 28.
  • Wagon Trails Animal Park,  907 Youngstown Kingsville Road SW (state Route 193), Vienna. Hayrides and apple toss to the animals, Oct. 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20. Go to WagonTrails.com.
  • Fellow Riverside Gardens, 123 McKinley Ave., Youngstown. Pumpkin Walk at Twilight, Oct. 16, 5:30-8 p.m. Hundreds of lit jack-o’-lanterns will be set up around the gardens in this popular free annual family event.
  • Boardman Park, 375 Boardman Poland Road: Family- friendly haunted wagon rides. Tickets are $5. Oct. 11, 12, 18 and 19, 6-10 p.m. 
  • Boardman Park, Great Pumpkin Carve Out display. Admission is $5. Oct. 11, 6-9 p.m., Oct. 12, noon to 9 p.m., and Oct. 13, noon to 5 p.m.
  • Maze Craze, 14070 Woodworth Road, New Springfield. Wind your way out through 21 acres of corn transformed into a life-size maze. This year, there are 9.2 miles of trails that twist, turn and sometimes come to a dead end. Activities include hayrides, gem mining, children’s zip line, corn boxes, games, fire pits, tractor playground and more. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight, Fridays; 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Go to GetLostAtMazeCraze.com for pricing.
  • Catalpa Grove Farm, 41473 state Route 14, Columbiana. One-mile hayrides to the pumpkin patch, corn maze, straw maze and petting zoo. Saturdays in October from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Kuchta Farms, 4480 state Route 82, Newton Falls. Hayrides to the pumpkin patch, corn maze, kids zone, hay mountain, corn pit and old-fashioned milk and ice cream. Open every weekend in October. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 1-6 p.m. Sundays.

HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS

  • Fear Forest, 6780 Tod Ave. SW (state Route 45), Lordstown. Features four separate attractions: a haunted house, trail, hayride and cornfield. Prices start at $10 ($8 for child). Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week through Oct. 27. Go to FearForest.com for complete pricing and schedule.
  • Canfield Scaregrounds, 7353 Fairgrounds Blvd., Canfield (at Canfield Fairgrounds). Features six separate attractions: Barn of Evil, Gore Reformatory, Slaughterhouse, a haunted hayride, haunted circus and zombie paintball battle. Prices start at $20 ($10 for paintball). Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week through Nov. 2, and also Thursday, Oct. 10 and 31. Go to CanfieldScaregrounds.com for complete pricing and schedule.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.