It's not as easy to scare people as it was 20 years ago. Jim Bugos, operator of Ghoul Mansion in Sharon, Pa., said horror movies are more graphic now, video games are more extreme and haunted houses also have had to up their game.
"When we started, you could throw up black walls and dark hallways, jump out from behind a curtain and it was scary," Bugos said. "It's a lot harder to impress the customers these days. We work hard to keep up with the changes in the industry. We try to keep up with new techniques, special effects, stuff like that."
Ghoul Mansion, located just off the main drag in downtown Sharon, is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Bugos has seen plenty of scared customers over the years.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Andy Gray
Colors pop — and characters await — in CarnEvil Fear 3D, one of the attractions at Ghoul Mansion.
"We had a girl literally collapse inside the haunted house," he said. "It was funny after the fact, but at the time ... she went into convulsions in the house because she got so scared."
The mansion also has been there long enough that Bugos now has the children of some of his original employees working at the attraction and maybe helped make some of those children possible.
"We've had actors who got engaged and married from meeting there," Bugos said.
On any given night in October, as many as 70 people will be working at Ghoul Mansion with the actors, security and management, he said. The actors range from teenagers who enjoy scaring their classmates to local theater performers looking to make some extra money.
"You need somebody with a lot of energy obviously," Bugos said. "And they have to be able to follow directions for safety and security and for the scares to work."
Several special guests are planned during the Halloween season. Makeup and special effects artist RJ Haddy, who appeared on the SyFy reality series "Face Off," will meet and greet with folks this Friday and Saturday. Horror / comedy characters Do-Wayne Hazzard and Granny will be there Oct. 4 and 5, respectively. And the all-female fire-breathing act Discordia will perform on Oct. 12, 18 and 25.
"There's places out there that claim to be the scariest or the longest," Bugos said. "We not staking any of those claims, but we guarantee you will get scared, you will get startled."