Scaring a small child may seem like fun from afar (and when it’s not your kid), but it is simply not cool. The child ends up hating you as a character. Children can end up hating their parents; hating the dark; and hating anything that is even remotely theatrical. They can quickly begin to have fight or flight tendencies. Worst of all, they can start to hate, and ultimately miss out on, the incredible holiday of Halloween and genres like horror, suspense, and sci-fi.
I’ve been to many haunted attractions through the years. I have seen characters who are merciless against the youngest of patrons; those patrons who are sometimes there against their will, dragged by their parents because THEY thought it would be “fun”. I have witnessed terrifying-looking characters startle, scream, and prey upon small children who are clearly not enjoying themselves (usually indicated by tears rolling down their tiny cheeks or them whimpering as they hug their elders a little tighter). The truth is, kids have every right to be able to enjoy a Halloween attraction, but there is a fine line between them asking them to be brave and making them hang on for dear life.
I once was at a small town parade where a haunted attraction was represented by a few characters roaming the route. They were dressed to impress, and handing out candy and coupons. I watched as they worked the crowd. Just as they turned the corner, I saw one of the characters aggressively run up to a 3-year-old, scream in her face, and prompt the poor child to immediately burst into tears. All the people standing near and around the mother were absolutely appalled at the character’s actions. Talk about negative marketing.
At The Dark Woods, we tailor our haunted show to our audience. If there are little ones who have arrived at our gate, and they appear frightened, we approach easy, introduce ourselves, and start some small talk, asking fun questions like, “What’s your name?” or “What are you going to be for Halloween?” Our goal is to make them as excited to be at our show as we are to have them there. Once we put their mind at ease, we judge what level of 'scary' they may need to still be able to have a good time. Our fantastic cast is then informed, and a lighter version of the show is set into motion for that group. It's a personal and professional level of the guest experience that sets The Dark Woods apart from other haunted destinations.
Halloween is a holiday that is meant to safe and fun for EVERYONE. In this day in age, people have the right to enjoy every opportunity to express themselves and have fun during Halloween. That right is especially critical for our younger generations. Without them learning to love and appreciate the Halloween season, we risk future generations of guests more interested in sitting at home on an October Friday night watching reruns of The Bachelor.
Written by Chad Zingales on 4/2/23 while knitting a scarf out of human hair and old puzzle pieces.