The beginning of September means a new school year, falling leaves and… haunted houses.
Utah’s main haunted attractions open for business to deliver early haunts before October even begins. The Castle of Chaos in Salt Lake City opened Sept. 5, with The Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus and Nightmare on 13th following on Sept. 12.
Preston Smith, the general manager of Strangling Brothers Haunted Circus in Draper, attributes the early openings to Utahns and their love for a good scare.
“The Utah haunt industry is a unique one,” Smith said. “Utahns love their haunted attractions. This makes the haunt industry here quite competitive.”
Smith opens his haunted attraction earlier and earlier each year to keep up with standards of the haunt community. A competitive market brings new attractions with more thrills and chills.
“New haunts pop up every year in Utah,” Smith said. “You have to prove yourself in the industry.”
Haunted houses can only survive if they find their niche, Smith said. Smith proved himself in the industry by being the only completely circus-themed haunted house in Utah. The Haunted Circus comes with fully developed creepy characters, an interactive ticket line and a “scare cam” hidden within the haunt.
Smith and his crew aren’t the only terror creators making improvements to vie for the most screams in Utah.
Nightmare on 13th in Salt Lake City presents three new “nightmares,” or shows, a year. Melissa Riley, PR director for Nightmare on 13th, said the customers want a bigger and better show every year, so they deliver.
“Plenty of fans here in Utah wish we were open year round, but we actually close during the year and open again in September because we spend the entire off season recreating the inside of the house,” Riley said.
General managers use customer feedback each year to gauge the most-liked and scariest haunts.
“We attend conferences that showcase the latest industry trends,” Riley said. “Then we make sure to incorporate those materials in our house.”
But at the end of the day, what’s the real reason haunted houses thrive in Utah County?
A haunted house has to keep a few mysteries going, but one clue could be that BYU students were the first in line when the houses opened in early September. Braeden Carter, a senior studying public health, frequents the houses every year with his wife and other married couples.
“It’s like a freaky, yet fun, date night,” Carter said. “You only get to go to these places once a year, and hey, who doesn’t like it when you get to be the brave guy and protect your date from freaks with chainsaws?”
Both the Haunted Circus and Nightmare on 13th are top ranked in the state. They open weekends during September, and every night except Sundays beginning in October. Customers who come in early September will get access to exclusive promo codes and even concert tickets to get them coming back for more fright.