Not a big attraction in the UK (yet), there are over 1,200 professional haunted houses, 3,000 charity-run spookshows and 300 theme parks that operate horror-themed events in the United States.
Creating scares is not a recent phenomenon –
but in the past it was used for different purposes.
The ancient Egyptians used scares to keep body snatchers and tomb raiders away from the contents of their pyramids. They employed moving walls and self-opening doors, traps and mazes, as well as snakes and insects to provoke fear.
Mazes and labyrinths, often filled with monsters, can also be found in Greek and Roman folklore.
Theatrical scares were started in ancient Greek theatre, with productions including things such as trapdoors, ghostly images and fake blood. By the middles ages, travelling players performed mostly Biblical stories, including the scarier parts which were intended to frighten audiences into being good Christians.
The middle ages was also when the idea of Halloween, as we know it today, began. When the Europeans converted to Christianity, they carried over the idea of an autumn holiday from their Celtic and pagan religions. This included bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins or turnips, dressing in costume and trick -or-treating.
Communicating with the dead……
As theatres developed, so did the development of special effects for the Ghosts, demons and monsters that often appeared in plays. But these spectral sightings were make believe.
By the 1800’s additional forms of ghostly entertainment were available, with Mediums, fortune tellers and spiritualists communicating with the dead.
Or did they?
Harry Houdini and others debunked several famous spiritualists as frauds.
Amusement park thrills and beyond……
In the early 20th century freakshows and dark rides became part of the travelling carnival’s attractions. Then permanent sites for amusement parks sprang up. These included haunted houses and mazes.
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion did not open until 1969. It’s facade was based on the Winchester Mystery House. Inside the house visitors ride “doom buggies” through the haunted mansion.
Now haunted hoses are not restricted to amusement parks. Halloween enthusiasts known as “home haunters” create attractions at their homes. There are also haunted hayrides, mazes and scavenger hunts.
Last year the team attended Fright Night near Southampton.
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