Keeping COVID-19 out of the spooks at haunted attractions

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — It’s almost spooky season, but local haunted attractions want to keep the scare of COVID-19 to the minimum.

At the DAM Haunted Woods, Halloween masks won’t be the only masks you’ll see. They are requiring staff to wear masks, but visitors are just encouraged to wear their masks.

This isn’t new to the Haunted Woods; they stayed open all season last year. They’re following state guidelines and keeping some extra measures in place to keep their guests safe.

“We are one way in and one way out,” said Starr Beverly. “We don’t bunch people up together. The victims that arrived together go through together; we don’t group people together that don’t know each other.”

The Haunted Forest Hales Community in Jonesborough is taking a similar approach. They aren’t requiring masks, but are encouraging people to wear them and will have masks available. They also plan on keeping people of the same groups together rather than mixing groups of visitors.

The Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department re-launched their haunted house after 20 years last year due to the pandemic. They wanted to give people a way to get out of the house and help raise money for a new firehouse. They will not be requiring masks, but plan on social distancing.

“We’re probably still going to go with the same group that they came with to just try to space people out a little more,” said Benny Lyons, Assistant Fire Chief of Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

Organizers want to chill you to the bone — but with fear, not fevers.

“We do have something new this year; it is 48 feet of locked-in terror,” said Beverly. “On the scare factor, I would like to say this year is going to be right up there with a nine or a 10.”

Beverly explained the DAM Haunted Woods got its name from an eerie story dating back to the creation of the Boone Dam. You’ll have to go to the woods to hear the full story.

In addition to their backstory, the DAM Wood’s theme this year is horror movies paying tribute to some scary favorites.

In Jonesborough, you’ll see a lot of scary favorites, like werewolves, witches and plenty of skeletons.

“It’s probably one of the scariest seasons we’ve had,” said Rob Phillips the manager at Haunted Forest Hales Community. “And it’s built for teenagers and adults, but children of all ages are welcome.”

The haunted attractions will have opportunities for less scary events and fun for little ones as well.

“We do have several other attractions that are more for kids like the escape room,” said Kathy Shephard, a manager at Haunted Forest Hales Community. “It’s got a witch theme this year, but it’s not really scary. So it’d be good for kids to go through that.”

Some are even willing to adapt their haunted houses to make them a little more kid-friendly.

“If kids want to come through, we can leave the lights on for the kids or something so it won’t be so scary for the kids,” said Lyons.

The DAM Haunted Woods is hosting a “Not So Scary Trick-or-Treat” event for kids on Saturday, Oct. 30 from 1-5 p.m. Kids can walk through the forest in daylight and pick up candy throughout the trail. The entrance fee is dog or cat food to benefit the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

The DAM Haunted Forest in Kingsport opens Friday, Oct. 1 and will be open every Saturday and Sunday in October from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Part of the proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.

The Haunted Forest Hales Community Ruritan opened this past weekend and runs through October 31st. Beyond the haunted forest, they’ll also have a maze, escape room and a haunted museum. Proceeds from the event benefit Ruritan community outreach.

The Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department Haunted House opens Saturday, Oct. 2. It will run from 6:30 p.m. until the last person leaves every Friday and Saturday through the end of the month.

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