The fall season is officially in full swing as Sept. 22 marked the first official day of autumn, and the scares and thrills of Halloween have already been unleashed. This past weekend marked the opening of Dorney Park’s Halloween Haunt and the Great Pumpkin Fest, a proud return after being out-of-commission in 2020.
The event has returned with frightening experiences for guests and new opportunities for Muhlenberg students to unleash their inner creatures. The event includes scare zones, shows and haunted mazes to terrorize visitors while providing a fun time with 15 total attractions. This is in addition to the numerous rides at Dorney Park, from Hydra to Talon.
Halloween Haunt has welcomed in two brand new attractions for this year’s season: The Hollow and Enigma. Enigma is a maze focused on optical illusions and hallucinations to confuse brave guests who walk through. The Hollow is a brand new scare zone and two Muhlenberg students currently reside within the haunted woods. The location may not have a descriptive or lengthy backstory, but the makeup, costumes and other elements help to bring the curse of pumpkins to life. The Hollow is focused on a town from the 18th century who have fallen under a wicked curse to turn the residents into pumpkins and the collectors chop off their heads to stop it from spreading.
Sophie Plaut ‘24 is a scare-actor in the area and dons a bonnet along with a pumpkin face to scare guests and to help tell the story of the area. Plaut says, “You’re on your feet for about four hours straight, improvising and interacting with guests, often who are being rude.”
Haunt requires scare-actors to be on their feet and be active to both perform and scare the guests, even when they are being unpleasant. The experience lasts from 7:00-11:00 p.m., but the monsters arrive early for the Overlord’s Incantation at 6:45pm.
The guests may be a little rude and use offensive language, but that is a defense mechanism for these frightened visitors. If guests are barking in fear, the scare-actors must be doing something right.
Plaut is never offstage and only has one break, with no frequent pauses between visitors since she is in a wide space with a constant flow of guests. Scare zones require the performers to be fully engaged with their surroundings and be prepared.
Sarah Hansel ‘24 is also a performer in a scare zone with The Lair, a haunted area with various vampires in their coffins and tombs. Hansel was named the creature of the night for The Lair on Saturday, Sept. 18, and scared from a coffin and the throne of the vampires. The creature of the night title is given to one standout performer from each maze or scare zone for that night. Hansel said, “It’s been great! I’m working in The Lair attraction which is all about vampires. It’s been a super fun experience seeing the behind the scenes of something most people wouldn’t always get to see.”
“I think the Haunt community that I have associated with is super kind and welcoming though some people, like at any job, are difficult and rude. The people I surround myself with are encouraging and want to help you succeed,”
The performers of Halloween Haunt get to discover the beauty and mystery of the event, from getting makeup done at The Crypt to training in the park with no other guests around. The performers also got to meet Tara Santa, the operations supervisor for all the design elements of Haunt, from hair and makeup to sets and props.
Kailani Reis ‘24 is another one of the scare-actors at Haunt and acts as a child for the Trick or Treat maze, a trail focused on witches requiring the youth and innocence of children to remain immortal.
The maze is located by Steel Force in the back of the park and has a brand new ending scene for this year’s experience. “Some challenges for me were lack of direction. I really had to be my own boss and I wasn’t really given anything to help me in my efforts to scare people. It was especially difficult during the opening ceremony because my character isn’t traditionally scary out of [the context of] my [scare zone] and that made it difficult to stay in character and still be scary,” said Reis. These students have to translate a traditional acting experience for an over four hour long improv experience.
For Reis, she has to figure out a way to scare people as a traumatized trick-or-treater, a challenge in comparison to strolling zombies and frightful clowns. The performers are able to utilize their Muhlenberg experience as theatre scholars to their advantage.
“It constantly keeps you on your toes. As a theatre major, it helps bend me out of my comfort zone. I would really recommend anyone looking for a shift in routine,” Hansel stated. The process also allows for students to perform without having to compete for a spot in one of the productions this semester here at ‘Berg. Instead of a singular stage experience, Dorney Park is now entirely their theatre.
“I think the Haunt community that I have associated with is super kind and welcoming though some people, like at any job, are difficult and rude. The people I surround myself with are encouraging and want to help you succeed,”-Kailani Reis ’24
The community of various actors allows for support and communication as it is a friendly group of performers who have all come together just to scare. “Only weirdos work at Haunt, and no one loves weirdos like other weirdos,” said Plaut.
“I think the Haunt community that I have associated with is super kind and welcoming though some people, like at any job, are difficult and rude. The people I surround myself with are encouraging and want to help you succeed,” Reis mentioned.
Halloween Haunt continues every Friday and Saturday night until Oct. 30, with an additional event on Sunday, Oct. 10.
A scare-actor playing Hecate, the Goddess of Witchcraft in Greek mythology, screamed during the Overlord’s Incantation, “You can cry for help, you can try to fight, but I will have your souls by the end of the night. I wish you all the best of luck.”