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Haunted houses and COVID, here’s what to expect

Posted at 5:57 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 19:57:31-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A popular downtown haunted house is preparing to open their doors to thrill seekers, carrying out 30-years of tradition with COVID-19 friendly changes.

At the crossroads of 320 West and 1300 South in downtown Salt Lake City, familiar freights greet passersby and patrons.

A load ‘ROAR’ booms out of a larger-than-life green, horned dragon that is perched atop an entrance.

Keep walking, a multi-pumpkin headed monster dangles a wayward trick-or-treater by the foot, two stories above the ground, as its many heads partake in conversation.

“I will smash you!” shouts the largest pumpkin.

At the Nightmare on 13th haunted house, the animatronic characters are all part of its terrifying traditions.

“We’ve been here so long we’ve scared people’s parents, and even some people’s grandparents,” said owner, Mike Henrie.

This 2020 season, the haunt celebrates 30-years of successful scares.

“We have a lot of animatronics and animations and people love those kind of things, it’s more of, a Disney Land feel,” Henrie said. “We change 30 to 40-percent [of the freights] a year.”

After 3-decades, Henrie said they have faced their share of challenges – but there is one thing he looks forward to year after year.

“The first people that come in, you know, hearing those first few screams,” he smiled.

This year, he wants to hear those first screams again – so, they implemented changes, making it possible with COVID.

For the cast, face coverings are required. If the actor is wearing a spooky mask, then they will also be wearing a face covering underneath. For those without masks, face coverings will be painted to match their makeup.

Actors are required to stay 6-feet from groups entering the haunt and will use sound effects to scream or yell things at them.

Guests are also required to wear masks, if it is removed while inside the attraction, the actors have been instructed not to interact with you.

Employees are well-versed in the safety protocol, and as soon as thrill seekers enter the building to buy tickets, they are too.

Signs line the entrance reminding patrons to wear masks ‘to protect the monsters,’ and stay 6-feet apart to ‘avoid the doctor’ (a popular character).

Large bottles of hand sanitizer are placed at the entrance and throughout the area so guests can ‘keep their claws clean,’ and lines are placed on the floor to ensure proper distancing between ghouls and guests.

Despite well thought out attention to spooky sanitizing detail, Henrie said the signs are no joke.

“We want everybody to be safe, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

A large component of that safety is spacing and the ability to keep groups six feet apart at all times. In order to do so, the haunted house has implemented timed entry for the first time.

“Which means only a certain amount of people will be allowed to be here each half hour, so this year when you buy a ticket, you’ll have a lot less of a wait than you’ve ever had,” said Henrie.

Pre-pandemic, Nightmare on 13th would serve thousands of guests on any given night. With timed entry, that is being knocked down to hundreds of guests.

To help off-set costs, tickets will be priced higher for weekend entry and lower for weekday entry.

Despite a slew of changes, Henrie assured one thing will stay the same.

“It’s your worst nightmare,” he laughed.

In celebration of 30-years, the haunt features a number of new freights, and a few classics to drive home some nostalgia.

You never know what’s around each blood-curdling corner, but each step is sure to take you deeper into a world of weird.

“We provide an opportunity for people to forget the outside world for an hour, and this year more than any year, I think that needs to happen,” Henrie said. “We need to provide something for [guests] so they can get away from this crazy world.”

The haunt opens on September 11, but tickets are already on sale.