Like spotting the first set of lights at Christmas time, the ghoulish billboards that advertise The Haunt are like emblems that herald the countdown to fall’s fiendish holiday– Halloween.
The popular “spooktacular” attraction has become a Grand Rapids institution, having occupied multiple locations in the community throughout its two decades of operation. In 2018, The Haunt moved from its longstanding Walker location to some new digs, where it continues to delight those who like having the wits frightened out of them.
Now in its 21st season, The Haunt is a 50,000-square-foot virtual scare factory, located at 1256 28th St. SW, in Wyoming, where 80 ghoulishly-clad cast members skillfully frighten visitors, all in good fun.
Guests are invited to creep around five separate, sure-to-terrify themed attractions: an abandoned tunnel under the circus grounds, a creepy hospital, a spooky old manor, a defunct factory and a brand new haunt called Tinkle’s Torment.
“Our iconic character, Tinkles, has died and Frenzy, the new clown, has taken over,” said The Haunt’s general manager Matt Ablan. “People seem to be enjoying it”
For thrill seekers looking to level up on the fear factor, The Haunt offers special “Blackout” sessions on Nov. 5 and 6 during which patrons make their way through the spooky premises with only a glow stick to light their way.
The Haunt has a less scary special event planned for young tots.
On Oct. 30, noon-5 p.m. younger kids can trick or treat with the lights on. “Non-scary” monsters will pass out candy and there will be face-painting, games and a costume contest.
Older kids can go through a Circus-themed attraction, which Ablan classifies as a “low-scare” haunt.
“The Circus is not as aggressive as our regular haunt,” Ablan said.
What defines an older kid?
“We let the parents decide that,” said Ablan. The only delineations that are made relate to pricing: kids under five years of age are charged $5, kids six and up are $10. Any adults that come with the kids are free.
This is Ablan’s sixth season with the spooky attraction. He said he came to be general manager by working his way up through the ranks. It all started when he saw that The Haunt was advertising for set builders, artists and designers.
“I’ve always been a Halloween and horror fan, into theater. I’ve worked professionally as an actor, traveled across the country. I still make all the costumes,” Ablan said.
The Haunt employs about 100 people for a month every year and holds auditions at the start of the season.
“The actors who are chosen go through two weeks of training where they learn how to do scare acting, how to work the room and interact with patrons,” Ablan said.
While it’s only a part-time job for Ablan, he’s helped make quite a success of it. In 2018 it was listed in the top three scariest haunted attractions in the nation and last year, 2021, The Haunt had its best year on record.
Visit The Haunt’s website for hours of operation, reservations and pricing.