Is My Child Ready For A Haunted House?

September 22, 2011

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By: Chris Handa, Castle Blood
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One of the most common questions we get at Castle Blood is “My 3 year-old/6 year-old/10 year-old/grandmother” may be coming with us? Is your haunted house appropriate for him/her?”

In most cases, the honest answer is “I don’t know because I don’t know your family member. We are a high startle, no gore guided tour that does not use either chainsaws or clowns. There will be things that jump out and make noise. Your group will be in darkened areas. If your family member does not like these things, then maybe our attraction is not for you, but I cannot be the judge of that. You know your family, what they know is done in fun and what keeps them up at night.”

At Castle Blood, we offer two types of tours. Our “Halloween Adventure Tour” is a guided tour that requires audience interaction with our actors in most of the scenes. In-between, the halls and passageways are “scare zones” that feature the elements that you would associate with a typical haunted house. Things pop out at you, make noise, and distract you in a way to set up a scare. In the scenes themselves, you collect the clues and puzzle pieces to “win the game” and become “Honorary Vampires.” Many of the areas, especially the hallways, are dimly-lit but not total darkness.

Our “No-Scare Matinees” are essentially the same tour, but without the scare actors, pneumatic props, and air canons in operation during daylight hours. Since the attraction is largely outdoors, natural daylight creates a “friendlier” atmosphere. More intense makeup and characters are toned down, and the addition of “trick-or-treating” for the young ones as they go with their guide is also part of the experience.

Given the above, there are some things that I can tell you to help with the above  decision, which also applies to selection of other haunted or seasonal attractions:

1.     Can your family member differentiate between fantasy and reality?

This is the biggest one that I try to explain to parents. The Haunted Schoolhouse and Lab in Akron, Ohio actually lists this as a bold-print rule. If a person can understand that this is all pretend, done in fun, and even in our case an adventure game, then they should be OK. If the person thinks that all of this stuff is real, then they will have a much more difficult time going through than a person who understands that haunted houses are pretend. Please note: I did not use the word “child” at all here. There are many adults who do not know the line between fantasy and reality and do not deal well with haunted houses.


2.     If they get scared and cannot go on, how do you plan on dealing with it?

When we take our own daughter (age 6 ½) to haunted attractions, we always have a safety plan in case she freaks out or has a meltdown. We sometimes go through as two groups while one adult stays with her; sometimes one adult opts out of the experience altogether. In addition, if she chooses to go and freaks out in a way that disrupts others with us or other tours, then somebody is designated to take her to the “chicken exit” and not give her a hard time about it. We’ve dealt with all three scenarios, sometimes within the same trip because her reaction is not consistent attraction to attraction.


3.     Can your group go through without disrupting another tour, even if a party member has a meltdown?

The worst part of an experience for us is dealing with unruly, loud, or otherwise disruptive members of a party that has no connection to us, but we are somehow stuck with for the duration of the tour. I will not subject my daughter’s crying upon another party. If we can go through separate from people we do not know, then this is the best option. If we are grouped with strangers, then the rule is “ditch the tour at the first sign of disruption.”


At Castle Blood, we try to group according to age whenever possible. This minimizes a family with children or an adult couple on date night being mixed in with the middle school cheerleading party. It doesn’t always work, but we try our best to recognize when one group will detract from the experience of the other.


4.     What do they prefer to watch on television or other video media?

Some children are naturally drawn to Scooby-Doo and Goosebumps. Others are not. If you know that they have a tolerance for watching scarier movies, then your family member stands a better chance of completing the tour. In our case, we describe our tours as “the last 20 minutes of a Harry Potter or Indiana Jones movie” and “classic movie monster images combined with a live-action game of Clue.” Groups who can deal with a bit of suspense and surprise are going to be OK.


5.     Who is the target audience for the attraction?

I look more at the demographic in line than I do the attraction itself. Much like choosing a movie, I research the attraction for suggested audience age, level of graphic violence, and other hints such as admission price and hours of operation. If an attraction opens after 9:00 pm and has no child admission price, then it is probably not appropriate for children and many sensitive adults. There are attractions that cater toward a large demographic, some that focus upon the tween/teen group, and still others that are clearly 18 and over. I have been known to “push the envelope” with our daughter, but I have never deliberately broken a rule regarding age restrictions. Some attractions do post age-related rules and restrictions. It is good to follow these, even if they are recommendations.


I also look for other cues, such as whether an alternative tour is offered. If there is a less-intense option, as a consumer I can decide which tour is the right one for our group. Some tours (even here in PA) are not the “touch nothing and no thing will touch you” experiences that you might assume are the standard in such a litigious society. Ask questions. Read signs. Look for hints in the advertising and the age of the audience standing in line.


One of the main reasons that we offer no-scare matinees is so that families have a choice between a typical tour and the “no-scare” option. In addition, there are adults who do not like to be scared, but still like to have fun in October, and there are plenty of “big people” who enjoy the no-scare matinees as much as the young ones. It is also easier to take photos in the daylight, and we encourage those who ask about cameras to consider this option since flash photography is not permitted within the attraction during tours.


6.     How comfortable are they with strangers in strange situations?

One of the main tactics of a haunted attraction is to create the feeling of uneasiness by placing people in strange situations with strange people. Children who do not deal well with strangers in day-to-day interaction are far less likely to deal well with the makeup, masks, and costumes in strange settings. Sometimes, a young one who is typically shy will surprise me by having no problem with a costumed character, but this is an exception.

I offer the “Santa Claus Rule” to parents: if a child is frightened by Santa Claus or other costumed characters in non-scary situations (clowns, amusement park mascots, etc.) then they may not have a great time in a haunted attraction.

The decision as to whether some or all of your family members should attend a haunted attraction this October should be made by the adult guardians with strong deference to the child. Listen to him or her. Know when it is OK to stretch a comfort zone and when pushing too hard will result in everyone having a bad time. Given the options at Castle Blood, we recommend “training up” the young ones with the No-Scare Matinees and giving them something to look forward to when they are older with the nighttime tours.

We hope to see all of you in line! Halloween Adventure Tours are every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday beginning Friday October 7 as well as Halloween Night. Tours begin at approximately 7:00 pm, but will start slightly later depending upon time of sunset upon that particular day. No-Scare Matinees are from 1:00 pm-4:00 pm Sunday October 23 and Sunday October 30. Night tours are also conducted on both matinee days. If you want to see pictures or get more specific information, please visit castleblood.com or find us on Facebook.



1) jennifer goulet said:
2 years, 9 months ago
2) shannon diven said:
Sounds perfect for our Halloween-lover!
2 years, 9 months ago
3) Evonne said:
Thanks for this. My 6 year old really wants to go to a haunted house, but I'm not sure if he would like it. The no-scare tour sounds great, but he might be able to do the regular attraction here as well.
2 years, 9 months ago
4) Chris Handa said:
Thank you, Evonne, for the vote of confidence. One of the things that sets Castle Blood apart from other attractions is that from day one, there has been a unique mix of professional enteratiners (clowns, magicians, costumers, etc.) and human/social service professionals (teachers, therapists, PA's, etc.). I'm fortuntane enough to be one of those who works in both fields year-round. We have done our best to structure an entertaining experience that can be enjoyed by several audiences, sometimes at the same time.
2 years, 9 months ago
5) Gail said:
This is great advice. If I ever have doubts about a haunted attraction, I visit and go through a tour a week before. Then I decide if my kids would be okay. The no-scare Castle Blood tours are great for the very young and faint of heart. The guides at Castle Blood are really good when guiding children through the night tours. We had a child in our group once. The guide told the child that the word waffle scares away any monsters. We waffled through the tour with no problems.
2 years, 9 months ago
6) Cherie Bachor said:
Sounds like a great first haunted house for my son to go to.
2 years, 9 months ago

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