One would think the Moody on the Market crew would be more worried to receive an envelope with a bone tied to a note inviting us to enjoy ‘bone chilling entertainment.” But with the hint of fall breeze in the air it can only be yet another creative way for the Niles Scream Park to announce the opening of its Halloween season this Friday night September 10th at 8 pm.
Niles Scream Park Manager, Aaron Smith, says it is the second oldest haunted attraction in the United States. Having started in 1974 as the Niles Jaycees Haunted House, it called a few different locations home until moving to their permanent location on Mayflower Rd., in 1998.
Every year the owner and staff work to bring us the newest ideas and attractions. Beginning each year in October they start planning the next year’s event by visiting haunted houses all over Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and as far south as Georgia, so they can always provide the most groundbreaking haunted experience.
“We send our staff around to area haunts as not only a thank you for their work all year, but so they can come back with new ideas,” says Aaron. “Our owner Pete has been to over 500 haunted houses. This he will take some of us to Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis and other places we have heard have unique ideas and attractions Then we all get back together in November and talk about what we saw, what scary movies are coming out, what techniques other houses used and get creative with all that information. We have a great team that really enjoys the creativity of making this event happen every year.”
The Niles Scream Park is a non-profit that donates their ticket sales every year. While they were worried that COVID would lessen the financial impact last year, they were pleasantly surprised to have donated $109,000 in 2020, which is on par with that they normally are able to raise. Smith says the park has donated over $2.1 million to local organizations and fund-raising groups since 1996, which is the year they started to track their impact.
“With COVID we expected to half the community impact we’ve had in previous years, but with a new system we call ‘time ticketing’, where attendees select a certain date and time to come to the park, we were able to still raise money and keep the experience safe,” he says. “We have had a lot of people ask us to keep the time ticket system in our ticket offerings because it also provides a better experience for those coming to the park. It lessens lines and reduces the crowds, so attendees can really take the park in. And we are able to keep everything clean and sanitized.”
New attractions this year to the Niles Scream Park include the Nuclear Nightmare-A Post-Apocalyptic Experience, The Gruesome Gallery Wax Museum, and an authentic feeling Catacomb. They also have the ‘Dark Terror-Tory’ Haunted Hayride with witches and wizard sets, nicknamed by the staff as Scary Potter as well as sets that include ‘Malice in Wonderland’, the ‘Wizard of Odd’ and ‘Moby Dick’. The ever-popular escape rooms and crowd favorite, the Field of Screams, will make their return as well.
The event is also almost all volunteer based. From behind the scenes to those in makeup ready to give you a fright, individuals from about 50 to 65 charitable groups comprise the 500 volunteers needed for 23 nights of operation. The number of hours they contribute times an hourly rate determines the contribution to their organization.
“Its really fun. At any given time we have 200 plus volunteers on site. They are there to help raise money but also some of them are there because it’s a fun acting experience, or it’s a great way to do something completely different than their day job, or they just like haunted houses,” laughs Aaron.
The Niles Scream Park opens this Friday September 10 at 8 pm. To get tickets and all the gruesome information you need to plan a fun, frightful, family night, that benefits local charities, visit https://haunted.org or call (269) 445-3871.
By Julee Laurent, MoodyOnTheMarket.com Contributor