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The four-story haunted house, tower of terror, is located in Downtown Pontiac, MI.


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The scariest haunted house of is a giant walk-through attraction located in the former Georgia Antique Center in the outskirts of Atlanta. Named Netherworldit features 3D special effects, aerial performers and, of course, flesh-eating clowns. Netherworld frightens so effectively, so inescapably, that people with heart conditions are warned against buying tickets. This is what a haunted house is supposed to do. They exist to scare people.

"one of the top haunted houses in the country."

The idea behind haunted houses is not new, of course— people have entertained themselves with spooky stories for centuries — but haunted houses are different because they are inseparable from the holiday that vaulted them to cultural prominence. The tradition could not exist without Halloween; Halloween would not be the same without it. The origins of the haunted house date back to 19th-century London, when a series of illusions and attractions introduced the public to new forms of gruesome entertainment. Tussaud's likenesses were remarkably accurate, and with good reason — she created death masks of the French Revolution's many guillotine victims.

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When she set up a permanent London exhibition, she dubbed her grotesque collection the "Chamber of Horrors" — a name that has stuck to the wax museum to this day. At the turn of the 20th century, as Rebekah McKendry describes in Fangoria magazinethe closest relatives to modern haunted houses began experimenting with macabre themes.

Now open through halloween

In Paris, the Grand Guignol theater became notorious for its on-stage depictions of graphic dismemberment ; the theater's director, Max Maurey, famously boasted that he judged each performance by the of people who passed out, shocked, in the audience. Inan English fairground in Liphook debuted one of the first " ghost houses ," an early type of commercial horror attraction. The public appetite for horror was picking up.

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Those first haunted houses were very primitive. Kids could spook themselves by traveling from basement to basement and experiencing different scary scenes.

This party pamphlet describes how parents could also de "trails of terror" to spook their children. The effects may seem familiar to anyone who has ever been disappointed by a sub-par scare:. An outside entrance le to a rendezvous with ghosts and witches in the cellar or attic.

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Hang old fur, strips of raw liver on walls, where one feels his way to dark steps Weird moans and howls come from dark corners, damp sponges and hair nets hung from the ceiling touch his face Doorways are blockaded so that guests must crawl through a long dark tunnel At the end he hears a plaintive 'meow' and sees a black cardboard cat outlined in luminous paint The haunted house didn't become a cultural icon, though, until Walt Disney decided to build one. The attraction, which was deed in the style of the Evergreen House and the Winchester Mystery Housequickly became a success.

In a single day shortly after its debut, more than 82, people passed through the Haunted Mansion. The attraction's centerpiece is the Grand Halla foot-long ballroom sequence of dancing ghouls at a birthday party.

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Disney brought to scene to life through an exceptionally complex series of illusions known as Pepper's ghost, which use refracted light to project and shape ethereal images. It's the start of the haunted attraction industry," Morton says.

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The attraction was revolutionary, as she explains in Trick or Treat :. What made the Haunted Mansion so successful and so influential, however, was not its similarity to haunted houses and "dark rides" that is, tawdry carnival haunted houses of the past, but its use of startling new technologies and effects.

Ghosts were no longer simply sheets hung in a tree, but were instead actual shimmering translucent figures that moved, spoke and sang.

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Within a few years, the haunted house had spread across the country. The United States Junior Chamber, also known as Jaycees, became famous for raising money through its haunted houses. The fundraising venture was successful enough to spawn its own how-to guide.

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In California, Knott's Berry Farm began hosting its own Halloween night attractions, which soon transformed into a multi-week slate of events. Every year, a man named Bob Burns attracted national media attention for his detailed recreations of classic horror movies. Evangelical Christians even made their own anti-Halloween attractions; Jerry Falwell and Liberty University introduced one of the first " hell houses " in As Hollywood began to embrace slasher movies like HalloweenA Nightmare on Elm Streetand Friday the 13ththe haunted house industry reaped the benefits.

The horror boom fueled a demand for scary attractions, not to mention cross-promotional advertisements.

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The haunted house industry really followed the movie industry at that time," Larry Kirchner, president of Haunted House Associationa trade group for haunted house operators, tells Smithsonian. Professional haunted houses first emerged as a force in the same era, quickly outspending non-profit groups like the Jaycees.

"an experience you won't forget"

Then, tragedy struck: A fire at a haunted house in New Jersey trapped and killed eight teenagers. In the aftermath of their deaths, attractions were shut downand politicians enacted stronger safety regulations. Volunteer organizations struggled to compete against new competition under tougher rules. Soon, many were forced out of business.

It was a watershed moment for the industry, says Kirchner: "The Jaycees got pushed out because their haunted houses were fairly basic. It was based on the premise that people would volunteer, but when you have people opening big haunted houses with lots of advertising, that's hard," he says.

During the next two decades, the of professional haunted houses erupted.

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Kirchner estimates that roughly 2, of them operated nationwide last year. These days, haunted houses are no longer just about creepy characters and hyper-realistic horror. Instead, the industry has flocked to all sorts of new, extreme frights: zombie runsescape gamesand experiences seemingly deed to traumatize.

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How long will these successes last? Can the haunted house last another half-century? And if it does, what will it look like? Kirchner doubts that the haunted house is here to stay. Chris Heller is the assistant digital editor, humanities, for Smithsonian. Post a Comment.

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