On a breezy October night, chatter fills the air as people of all ages stand in line outside of Fearfest Haunted House. For some it is their first time at Fearfest. For others, the haunted house has become a Halloween tradition for them and their friends, something to create memories around, something fun, something scary.
Fearfest owner Greg Allen has been running the haunted house attraction for a decade and has been in the spooky business even longer.
“It all started when my ex-wife gave me a sign that said, ‘Bates Motel,’ and I put a few pieces of wood up in the driveway and painted doors on them and people started stopping and asking where the haunted house was. And I was like, ‘Seriously?’” Allen said. “So we opened up the garage door and put a little Frankenstein lab in there and then before we knew it, a year or two later we were getting about 650 people coming through my yard, so it was getting a little crazy. And the neighbors said, ‘OK, that’s enough’. And then in 2003 we were looking for a place to do a haunted house, and we just happened to stumble across a property here in Columbia.”
Wanting Fearfest to be a frightening but lighthearted experience for all ages, Allen makes sure all customers are aware of what it is they are getting into.
“When I see a child about to go through the haunted house, I ask them what their name is and talk to them and the parents. I just give them a heads up and tell them that we’re gonna pretty much put them in their own movie,” Allen said. “All we’re trying to do is scare you, but we’re not trying to give you nightmares. I try to remind them that it’s all fake, all smoke and mirrors, but we are trying to scare you. I just say to them that they know their kids way better than we do, we’ve had three year olds make it through the whole thing, we’ve also had 30-year-olds not be able to make it through the front door.”
But the customers are not by any means the only ones having a good time at Fearfest. Senior Kyle Zynda has been working at Fearfest Haunted House for two years now and is very appreciative of his unique work environment.
“There’s some times when you just scare someone so good and they have such a great reaction that, at that moment you realize that it’s the best job in the world, I would work there for free any day,” Zynda said. “It’s definitely something that I look forward to.”
Becoming a larger part of Columbia every year, Fearfest acts as an escape from everyday life, allowing for people to simply relax and be entertained, senior Katie Neu said.
“As soon as you step into the house, everything else kind of melts away,” Neu said. “You don’t think about school, or work, you’re just focused on having a good time with your friends, and thats something that everyone needs.”
A firm believer that Fearfest has done nothing but help her, Neu believes that it does good for all who attend.
“Every time I go in, I have this huge goofy smile come across my face. I get so excited just standing in line, knowing that i’m about to go through the house because I know how i’m going to feel once I go in,” said Neu. “I don’t think I can even adequately describe how great Fearfest is. It kind of feels like when you get off of a roller coaster. I try to go as many times as I can because I know it’s the most fun I’ll have all year. It does so much good for people, and they don’t even realize it, it’s a legal, healthy and cheap way to make memories. And you’re not stuck inside. I can’t imagine Columbia without it.”
By George Sarafianos