Healthy haunting

Madelynn Dake

The only thing scarier than a haunted house, is a haunted house during a pandemic. These attractions are a huge part of the Halloween season, but COVID-19 has definitely affected how they run. The Petersons are a Xavier family who is a part of The Fifth Realm, a haunted house at Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids. Sydney Peterson, a senior at Xavier High School, is an actor with her sister, Adelaide, her mom, Nancy, and her dad, Jesse, is the Technical Director. As Halloween approaches, they have been gearing up for some big changes.

“In terms of COVID changes for actors, we all wear masks 100% of the time, we take temperature checks every time we come in, and we are always socially distanced,” Sydney said. “I don’t really mind the changes. It’s nice because makeup is only on half your face so it’s less clean-up.”

Actors must also keep their distance from the participants. The overall layout of the house has been changed for safety as well. There were many online haunt industry seminars discussing with owners how to safely operate this year.

“We changed our plans for the haunts by removing all of the doors and curtains that our guests would normally go through. There are many animatronic props that help reduce the number of actors out in the mazes,” Jesse said.“We have added plexiglass windows throughout the mazes with triggered lights and recorded audio screams so that there is a barrier between the actor and guest.”

All tickets are sold online, and a limited amount are sold during each time slot. Guests are required to wear masks at all times,guests’ temperatures are also taken before they are admitted and only families can enter as a group. Despite all of these changes, The Fifth Realm is still plenty terrifying.

“I don’t think it makes it less scary. I literally scared two grown men so much they broke a wall,” Sydney said. Other popular haunted attractions such as Scream Acres and Circle of Ash are adapting to COVID-19 safety precautions as well. Scream Acres is having strict health testing for all actors. Circle of Ash is doing virtual queues where they send a text message when it is a guests’ turn. Both attractions are also requiring masks and taking sanitation seriously. COVID-19 has changed a lot about haunted houses, but they all still guarantee a scary good time.