Haunted houses are gearing up for October, with many having to change their regular setups to ensure the scariest thing this Halloween isn't COVID-19. From physically distanced zombies to vampires in masks, here's what haunted houses in Manitoba are doing to keep thrill-seekers safe.
Tim Muys and his wife Michelle have been running Heebie Jeebies for three years now. Muys believes haunted attractions are a perfect pandemic outing.
"People arrive here, they enjoy it and they leave as a cohort," said Muys. "Naturally, guests just keep themselves separated.
Muys said a lot of people won't notice the changes made to keep customers safe.
After a discussion with the province, Muys said he'd developed a plan that goes above and beyond all guidelines.
Guests will buy tickets online and choose a staggered start time to ensure there are no crowds.
Then they’ll provide their contact info and complete a questionnaire to ensure they are safe to go inside.
Next, customers will put on a facemask, a requirement for entering "the haunt."
"We are going to be providing masks for free," said Muys. "There are going to be Heebie Jeebies branded mask that we'll be handing out at the door."
Heebie Jeebies will be providing branded masks to all patrons. (Source: Heebie Jeebies)
Once donning a mask, guests will be free to enjoy the four haunts offered.
Guests might not notice the many other changes made to enhance safety.
Muys has vastly expanded the haunting grounds to allow for better distancing.
Added staff this year will also be cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and be making sure people physically distance.
All of the actors must wear masks too.
"Even all our actors will be wearing masks under their masks," said Muys. "We have over 100 actors here, and they're actually going to be broken into six or seven smaller groups."
With many precautions in place, Muys hopes the frightening event acts as a model for others.
"We are going pretty far to ensure everyone has a safe time here," he said. "Our hope is that our event serves as a benchmark for others."
SIX PINES HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS
Judy Thavenot, the owner of Six Pines Haunted Attractions, has been running the haunt for 23 years. Like Muys, she has to make similar changes to her haunted attraction.
"We hummed and hawed whether we were going to be opening or closing," said Thavenot. "We thought about what was in the best interest of the public."
After a chat with the health inspector, Thavenot and her husband were confident they could open safely.
Construction has started for the new 2020 haunts at Six Pines Haunted Attractions. (Source: Facebook/Six Pines Haunted Attractions)
The haunted attraction will have increased cleaning, physical distancing, face masks and modified lines to ensure patron safety.
It will also be limiting the number of guests.
"A lot of haunted houses, we belong to the association down in the United States, are doing that too," Thavenot said. "We know our numbers will be down quite a bit."
While she sets up the haunts for October, Thavenot is worried a spike in COVID-19 cases could impose new restrictions.
"We could be going to this extreme just to not be able to open," she said. "Just the unknown and how to deal with the unknown I've really been struggling with."
But that isn't Six Pines Haunted Attractions from going all out.
"We are just going to do the best we can do like every year," said Thavenot.