They have been dreaming up nightmares for months.
And now it is time for area haunts to scare the bejeebers out of everyone.
Halloween season is officially here and most of the area’s haunted houses are rising from the dead.
Instead of spending the off-season sprucing things up, these purveyors of all things spooky have been busy adding dust, cobwebs and peeling paint to the attractions.
The king of scare, at least in Akron, is John Eslich.
He owns the Akron Schoolhouse and Laboratory in Akron and the Factory of Terror in Canton.
This will be his second season at the venerable haunted house in Akron and he is slowly putting his own bloody fingerprint on the place that’s been scaring folks since the 1970s.
Eslich said he knows folks love their traditions and the two attractions are known for some pretty elaborate scenes that pretty much have stayed the same all these years. Most of the scenes in the attractions this season still remain pretty true to the way they’ve always been, but Eslich said, true haunters will notice some changes this go around.
They’ve added some new scares — some mechanical and others in which actors will jump out at you.
He’s also spruced up some of the rooms with new looks and old antiques.
Eslich said when he bought the place he also inherited large storage areas with props and stuff.
Much of the off-season was spent going through everything from spooky odds and ends to large furniture and some of these great “finds” are finding their way into the haunted attractions.
The schoolhouse has a revamped “tilted” room along with new classroom and voodoo scenes. The biggest change is in the classic attic scene.
“We took the fallen tree out,” Eslich said. “That might be controversial but we wanted to change some things up.”
To help ease the pain of change, the Akron location will offer beer and wine sales for the first time.
A bar area will be part of the midway between the two attractions that was added last season.
There will be a special Beer Before Fear Happy Hour before the attractions open for the night and some liquid courage throughout the night for folks waiting to venture inside.
Eslich said there are a lot of parents who wait outside for their kids to tour the haunts and this, along with the food on the midway, will be a place for them to wait instead of in the car.
“You see a lot of parks already offering alcohol, even Cedar Point is doing it,” he said. “This is something the customer now expects. I think it is going to be a hit.”
Down Interstate 77 in Canton, Eslich’s other haunt, the Factory of Terror, will have a bit subtler changes this Halloween season.
He said they are always moving things around and making improvements here and there and this year is no exception.
One change will be an improved photo souvenir area where for an extra fee a custom photo is taken. This will include an animatronic twerking zombie that guests can gather around for a video souvenir.
“This should be a lot of fun,” he said.
They are also putting together another side attraction where guests have to reassemble a zombie brain.
There is also a new pumpkin animatronic figure inside the haunted attractions that Eslich is particularly excited about.
A real meat market
It has been a distressing off-season for Vaughn Lekan.
He and his crew have been busy making things look more depressing — if that’s even possible — inside the Slaughter House in Medina’s Chippewa Lake.
This will be the sophomore season for the haunt set inside a genuine abandoned slaughterhouse.
Grampa Karver is back at the Chippewa Meat Factory where it seems just about everything and everyone is fair game to end up in the meat market or on the family’s dining room table.
Lekan said he wanted the grim storyline to evolve over time so there are some new recruits both alive and dead inside of the place. There are five new characters including three meat factory workers in pig masks to greet and scare visitors this year.
“Some of them are pretty big boys,” he added.
They have also been working on the existing scenes to make them even scarier.
“We went through and distressed the heck out of the place,” Lekan said.
And the walk from the meat plant back to the car will be a bit more stressful this season.
Instead of one man and a chain saw, Lekan said, they have added more deranged folks and “hillbilly hangouts” along the path that is also now littered with abandoned junk cars and a tow truck mixed in for good measure.
“We want this to be a quality haunt,” he said.
The Carnival of Horrors has once again set up shop at the Blossom Music Center.
There will be four different walk-through haunts ranging from a freak show to an abandoned fun house.
Proprietor of scares Ryan Pluta said that as with the past 28 years, the scares will all be actor-generated. And they have been busy in the off-season tinkering with the layout. They are also adding a so-called gravity room to the haunt this year.
Pluta said the optical illusion makes your brain think a room is askew.
He said his noggin is so fooled by the illusion it even made it difficult to move his own two feet.
“We are still trying to figure out how to keep people moving forward through the room,” he said.
There will be some 100 costumed freaks and fiendish monsters scattered both inside and outside of the attractions.
Since they rely on live scares, Pluta said, the show varies by night as the actors hone and modify their characters.
“We are always improving and coming up with new scares,” he said.
Craig Webb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3547.