A global pandemic with no known cure rages across the globe claiming lives, forcing people to shelter in place, and turning main streets into ghost towns. Is this the plot of the movie 28 Days Later, Patient Zero or even World War Z? Nope, welcome to the reality of the year 2020. We have already seen our vacations ruined, our social lives decimated and several holidays lost. However, the onset of Fall has us contemplating a new set of challenges, compounded by the prospect of s time of year generally marked by parties and celebrations; starting for me, with Halloween.
Now before you get totally bummed out, consider this. If the movies have taught us anything, its that we humans are resilient and adaptable. We can figure out a way around just about any obstacle, especially when it comes to having fun. So even though the CDC has warned against parties and traditional door-to-door Trick or Treating, I found it hard to believe we were going to collectively give up on Halloween this year.
What I discovered is, we are definitely not.
Like everything else in 2020, Halloween is going to look different. But the innovations are impressive. Here are a few ways how “normal” October activities have evolved.
The drive through haunted attraction
I thought this might be the toughest one to solve. I mean a large part of the scares of any good haunt is confined spaces and very close encounter with ghoulish actors. Black Gate photog Chris Z and I should know as we visit roughly twenty of them every year. Well, just Google “Drive Through Haunted Houses” and you’ll find that nearly every major city is playing host to at least one of these this season. Chicago in fact, has several and they sound pretty darn interesting. Here is the description of one set to open October 2nd.
Our haunt is set in an alley in the shadows of the Red Line where a horrible incident occurred not long ago. You’ll first settle in with a drive-in movie experience that sets the narrative. The undead, demons, zombies and more jump out at and rock your car accompanied by sound effects and sprays of blood. That’s right… your car gets covered in blood. Ours is a drive-in haunted house, where you are confined to your car for 30 minutes so you can’t escape the horror until the end. Can you beat the fear coming at you from all directions?
Okay, yes please.
And in case you want to opt out of the vehicular blood bath, you can actually rent one of their vehicles for $25, which is sanitized stem to stern after each use.
Even the traditional haunted attraction experience isn’t entirely off this year. Like me, Universal Studios in Florida cannot imagine an October without scares. This week they did a test run of two attractions they are opening, even though their Horror Nights event has been cancelled. It was an unannounced trial, so no press invitation for me.
One of two haunted attractions at Universal Studios Florida
However, I did get the scoop from a friend who lives down there and knew someone who was working one of the attractions. Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives and Revenge of the Tooth Fairy got good fan reception based on the social media buzz. Plexiglass was added to both attractions as an extra barrier between the guests and the actors, but word is this had no impact on the fun. Universal is known for elevating the scares using sound and lighting effects, which went a long way to masking the barriers.
Of course, the actors can’t leap into your face as they normally would do. However, the intense level of detail Universal puts into their attractions meant the physical distance from the actors allows you to appreciate the sets without worrying about being accosted every few seconds. Their “no line” queue concept also stopped one of my biggest annoyances, which is guests getting so bunched up in the attraction that all you really see is the back of the shirt worn by the person in front of you. Universal isn’t the only one trying out a new approach to the traditional haunted house. Search locally and you’ll find this type of thing is happening nationwide.
All in, it sounds like the innovations in this year’s attractions could be very interesting.
The dragon from Home Depot
Believe it or not, most retailers purchase their Halloween merchandise at the beginning of the year, which in 2020 was the onset of this mess. However, from what I can gather, chains like Home Depot and Menards must have had a working crystal ball. It seems like they anticipated the idea that we’d still be stuck at home in October and their holiday buyers went big. Both retailers have always had a fairly nice selection of décor, but this year the quality of their offerings is nothing short of amazing.
For example, Home Depot has a nearly 6-foot, smoke-spouting dragon. And an actual front-end of a pirate ship, along with all the accessories to turn your yard into a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.
A pirate’s life for you if you hit up Home Depot
You can also pick up a 10-foot inflatable “Sand Worm” from the Beeltejuice movie, and a 7-foot animatronic werewolf. The quality of these items is outstanding, ensuring multi-year outdoor displays which isn’t exactly usual. I admittedly lost my mind a little, buying for this year and future years’ displays.
Menards seems to have upped the ante on indoor decorations. Their “Pumpkin Hallow” line has more “family friendly” offerings in a variety of price points ensuring your indoor space is as festive as your yard. If you can’t go anywhere to experience the joys of “the season” bring it to your house instead.
Which bring us to the actual night itself; October 31st and the impact on Trick-or-Treating. This one is tough if you have little ones who cherish dressing up and collecting a bag of goodies, or if you’re like me and can’t wait to hear that doorbell ring.
Enter the “candy chute.”
The candy chute distribution system
This is about the most innovative idea I have come across so far. It does rely on your neighborhood parents allowing the kids to go out at all. However, on your part it only requires the purchase of 6 feet of PVC pipe with a large enough diameter to fit the candy of your choice. The one shown is propped up by a plastic skeleton and the whole set up is covered in mummy wrapping. But you could definitely incorporate your pirates or dragon themes as well. The chute ensures the safe social distance while providing the kids with a fun way to receive their treats. I’m already planning my own costume for manning the shoot and thinking about the positioning of the outdoor smoke machines to add atmosphere.
So yes, things are different this year. But the fun can still go on.
Let “The Season” begin…