Living in Southern California, I have partaken in the annual celebration known as Knott’s Scary Farm. Its success (not that they were the first) has not only inspired other haunted homes throughout the region but across the nation as well. In Linda Palmer’s docu-series, Halloween Obsessed: Haunted Attractions, she dives deep into the history and business of these makeshift haunts.
Halloween Obsessed: Haunted Attractions goes into the history of the first haunted attraction. Ironically, the haunted attraction first appeared in Christian circles with the creation of Hell Houses. Guests would wander from room to room, experiencing the horrors of abortion, raves, and drugs until they found themselves face to face with Satan himself. Then, after the traumatic experience, a loving counselor would guide them through the steps of salvation.
The more modern idea of a haunted attraction sees its origins found in France with the creation of a live horror theater experience known as Phantasmagoria. It employed several optical illusion devices and birthed the infamous Pepper’s Ghost effect. Then the famed Madame Tussaud would enter the horror game in her museums, scaring the hell out of her patrons.
The phenomenon then moved across the ocean to the U.S. with the creation of the Halloween holiday. One small mid-western community sponsored a night of scary pranks and hijinks. The pranks got so out of hand that the community produced a manual, leading to the creation of trick or treating.
“…sees its origins found in France with the creation of a live horror theater experience known as Phantasmagoria.”
In telling this history, Halloween Obsessed: Haunted Attractions spotlights several owners/producers of these attractions, called Yard Haunts, popping up across the nation. Sisters Jordan, Payton, and Elena founded the Wraith House in their parent’s front yard. For Payton, it was a way to boost her confidence and to be involved in a significant project that fueled her passions. Elsewhere, Jim and Gene Schopf turned their family farm into the Field of Screams with hayrides and corn mazes. Planning for this annual event never stops, and many locals look forward to the “acting” opportunities it provides.
There’s no denying the joy of watching this show. Unlike the other episodes of the series, this is much more fun than scary. The interviewees are ardent (and obsessed) about their creations. It’s hard to believe they make any money doing it, as clearly their expenses are exorbitant, but this is their passion, and they’d have it no other way.
Along with the interviews come countless clips of the haunted homes/attractions in action. Men and women dressed as demons, monsters, and zombies reeking terror to those who dare enter their maze. For obvious budget reasons, famous haunts such as Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal Studios Horror Nights, and the granddaddy of them all — Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, are discussed in detail but never shown.
With Halloween approaching, consider Halloween Obsessed: Haunted Attractions as a primer to attend one of your local haunted attractions this year. Better yet, use it as inspiration to build a yard haunt of your own.
"…a primer to attend one of your local haunted attractions this year..."