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You can’t cancel Halloween, but you can modify it

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As a horror fanatic, I jumped at the chance to cover Indy Scream Park’s 2020 season. After all, what could possibly be scarier than our current reality: a global pandemic, economic uncertainties … and there’s no way, I thought, a haunted house could be scarier than my student loan payments.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

After getting our temperatures taken at the door, my friend and I walked into the Midway, where guests can grab fair food, try their hand at hatchet throwing and grab a custom Indy Scream Park hoodie to warm up. Within seconds of entering, we were accosted by dancing clowns and “asylum” patients. My red hair caught the attention of a few actors, who asked if I “dyed it with blood” or that it reminded them of the fires they were fond of setting. Conversing with the actors – who were creepy without being hostile – I got a false sense of hope that the attractions wouldn’t be severe.

From the comfort of the Midway, we were able to take a look at the various attractions to pick from: Nightmare Factory Blackout, Kilgore’s 3D Circus, Mutation and Zombieland: Unchained. Backwoods and Zombie Paintball Assault didn’t open until after dark. The themes for this year are both creepy and innovative. Every worker can wear a mask and still be in costume, including the asylum patients, who were wearing Hannibal Lector-esque masks.

We decided to start with Blackout, a pitch-black attraction where guests have to navigate without sight. We headed to the beer tent beforehand for some liquid courage. (It didn’t help).

Before going into the attraction, we were instructed to use the hand sanitizer that was available in each line and were told numerous times that our masks must be worn throughout the attraction. The second I began walking through the dark, narrow hallways, anxiety kicked in. Funneled in sound, screams and the occasional flashing lights successfully freaked me out, and when we finally made it out, I felt like I had been holding my breath the whole time.  

After taking a quick break to collect ourselves, my friend and I hopped in line for Kilgore’s 3D Circus. I wasn’t worried about this one, because I’ve never really been afraid of clowns. However, some of the COVID-19 precautions taken by the park make the attractions scarier. Instead of sending in a group of about 10 people, you’re only allowed into the attraction with the group you entered the park with. So that means it was just me and my friend, and all the actors in the attraction had just two people to gang up on, er … scare.

About five seconds into this attraction, I was ready to leave. Creepy music and sound effects mingled with green fog in the air, and around every corner, someone was ready to pounce, usually screaming in your face. Feeling on the verge of a panic attack, I found an emergency exit and stepped out with my friend. A few seconds after we left, a worker opened the door and motioned us back in. Thinking he would lead us to a correct exit, we went back in, only to be forced to go back through the attraction. I’m not sure if this was by design, or this particular worker thought, for whatever reason, we were up to something, but the reentry spiked a full-blown panic attack. I was not a fan.

After we narrowly escaped the circus, my friend and I decided to wait about an hour for Zombie Paintball Assault to open. We passed the time sitting next to one of the bonfires lit in the Midway, watching clowns and other character actors scaring groups hanging around. We had already decided against going through “Backwoods,” where actors armed with chainsaws waited for guests to navigate through the trails, guided through the dark with only one glow stick per group. Yeah, no thanks.

The paintball experience was by far the most fun aspect of the night. Guests hop on a bus, about 16 people at a time, and shoot paintballs at zombies walking through a field. Although it’s impossible to social distance on the bus, workers are vigilant about making sure guests keep their masks on at all times, and hand sanitizer is available virtually everywhere in the Midway. And, with it being the last attraction to open, it’s the perfect way to wrap up a long night of scares.

While I was a little nervous to head out to a haunted house in the middle of a pandemic, the precautions taken by Indy Scream Park helped me enjoy the upcoming spooky season and made me feel safe … at least from COVID-19.

Indy Scream Park, 5211 S. New Columbus Road, Anderson, is open now through Nov. 4. It opens at 7 p.m. every night and closes at 1 a.m. on Fridays and 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays. Ticket prices vary each night. Go to indyscreampark.com for more information.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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