July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Big haunts at Blossom, I-X Center

It’s all about the “boo” during Halloween season in Northeast Ohio, where local haunted houses are attracting thrill seekers searching for the best screams and shrieks.

One of the longest-lasting scare offerings is the Carnival of Horrors, which returns for its 10th season and is open weekends through Nov. 2 at Blossom Music Center. The professional production boasts four distinct haunted areas — The Insane Asylum, The Funhouse, The Freakshow in 3-D Terrorvision and Wicked Woods.

“We rank really high because every single scene and experience the customer walks through, we make sure we plan this all around the scare,” said Carnival of Horrors owner Ryan Pluta. “We’ve survived for so long because we try to create a unique experience. We never lost sight of that.”

One way to achieve that experience is simply allowing each group to visit the four different venues as their own group. Pluta said visitors aren’t rushed and as much as possible are allowed to experience the nightmare at their own pace.

What originally began in the 1990s under a few names at different venues became Carnival of Horrors in 1998 when Portage Lakes resident Pluta relocated to the Medina County Fairgrounds.

Today the annual October affair attracts more than 20,000 visitors to Blossom Music Center, where they’re going to find new twists to the four haunted areas.

“We’re always trying to take what we’ve done and not ruin the success of the past but improve it,” Pluta said.

This includes the crazy Funhouse, which is described as a high-intensity scare. There’s the Wicked Woods, where people venture in with only a flashlight and their fear, The Insane Asylum is very hectic, while The Freakshow in 3-D Terrorvision provides a unique experience with visitors wearing 3-D glasses.

“All four haunted attractions are different,” Pluta said.

For children and families looking for a different type of Halloween attraction (you know, one that doesn’t involve your 5-year-old having nightmares for the next 10 years), there is the fourth annual I-X Trick or Treat Street on Saturday and Sunday at the I-X Center.

Whereas the aforementioned scary attraction is all about requiring visitors to wear Depends, the I-X Center affair actually caters to those still in diapers.

“It’s coming back yet again because it’s just another year to do a fun family safe event that’s inside,” said Trick or Treat Street show manager Katie Seeley. “People can come out who are worried about the weather or their neighborhoods not being safe. There are rides, entertainment and, of course, plenty of candy.”

Featuring 12 themed candy stations, kid-friendly haunted house 3-D Mystery Manor, a bounce house and not-too-spooky storytelling with costumed entertainers, as well as magic shows, performances by local dance and martial arts groups, Trick or Treat Street is viewed by many families as a safe alternative to going out on Halloween evening.

While some parents may think of Trick or Treat Street as being similar to the I-X Indoor Amusement Park every spring, Seeley said there are differences.

“This feels like a festival attitude with more decorations, cornstalks, pumpkins and plenty of areas for people do to photo ops with their kids,” Seeley said. “It’s great to get all of the families out with moms and dads and kids.

“You see huge groups of families coming out and enjoying it. They like to see the little kids when they walk through all of the stations.”

While the event is spooky-free, the same can’t be said for when the kids get home and attack the trick or treat bag.

Seeley laughed: “Right, that’s when the little monsters will be running around like crazy.”

Contact John Benson at Ndiffrence@att.net.