Throughout the state, many haunted houses and trails got their start as a fundraiser.
Ghouls, goblins and zombies appear in haunted houses throughout the state for good scares – and for a good cause.
Many Halloween attractions in Delaware started because the owners loved the holiday and they wanted to collect donations for food banks, cancer research foundations or high school organizations.
Twenty-three years ago, Nick Ferrara had a friend whose child was diagnosed with cancer. This inspired him to start a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and that was the haunted house Frightland.
Frightland is one of Delaware’s most popular and biggest haunted destinations. The Middletown park has eight attractions, including a 2-mile hayride and four houses. It has a full amusement park with rides and carnival games.
It is known for its donations to the Leukemia Research Foundation of Delaware, which Ferrara’s wife Denni founded.
Parking fees – $5 a car – are donated to the foundation.
They used to donate a portion of their ticket sales, but it became difficult to find actors who would volunteer to work. So the ticket revenue had to pay for the actors.
One year after Frightland’s inaugural season, the Ferrara’s 3-year-old daughter Natalia was diagnosed with leukemia, so they decided to start giving to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. But after several years of contributing, they wanted to create a foundation focused solely on funding research, Nick Ferrara said.
“Because we wanted to focus a lot of the donations to go toward research, we weren’t able to do that to our satisfaction with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” he said. “So my wife started the Leukemia Research Foundation of Delaware.”
Kyle McMahon, Frightland’s marketing manager, said they have raised more than $500,000 since the park’s opening. They also raised more than $100,000 over the years from mud runs and golf outings they sponsor.
Frightland is open Thursday through Sunday until Nov. 2 at 309 Port Penn Road, a Middletown address, north of Odessa on the east side of U.S. Route 13. Ticket booth hours are 6-9 p.m., except Saturday, Oct. 26 when it’s open from 6-10 p.m. The hayride line closes a half-hour after the ticket booth closes, with the other attraction lines closing about an hour after the last hayride. Standard tickets are $40 and VIP passes are $60. More information can be found at www.frightland.com.
Nightmare’s Haunted House
This Sussex County-based haunted house began with a good cause and a group of volunteers who loved Halloween.
Cindy Matthews, one of the operators, said people from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware and St. Jude Children’s Hospital came together in 2000 to start Nightmare’s Haunted House with a purpose to gather donations for their respective organizations.
All money collected goes directly to those groups, she said.
Visitors ride the Phantom 13 bus to the house, but patrons have to wait to find out what evil or ghoulish characters are waiting inside.
Monetary donations are not all they give. Anyone who brings canned goods gets a $3 ticket discount in a partnership with Adams Radio Group. The donations go to the county food bank.
As they enter their 19th season, they have collected more than 20,000 cans, and usually get about 2,000 or 3,000 a season, Matthews said.
Nightmare’s Haunted House is open every Friday and Saturday until Nov. 2 from 7-11 p.m., at 10912 County Seat Highway in Laurel. Standard tickets are $20 and VIP tickets are $30. More information can be found at www.nightmareshauntedhouse.info.
This haunted trail sits on a 60-acre farm in Wyoming southwest of Dover, and 30 of it wooded. When owner Robert Ridgely saw the woods was not being used, he thought turning it into a Halloween attraction would work.
Wicked Woods is a 30-minute tour. Riders are plucked from a wagon and guided through a trail where they encounter ghoulish and evil creatures.
“People who really want to be scared will come out here,” Ridgely said.
This Kent County haunted destination’s first year was a fundraiser for the Future Farmers of America group at Caesar Rodney High School.
After the students who worked as actors misbehaved that year, he decided not to work with the organization anymore, Ridgely said.
Later, Wicked Woods partnered with Kent County Parks and Recreation for its Fright Night. Again, that did not last for more than a year.
“Theirs is a bit more tame and family-oriented. Ours is scarier,” Ridgely said. “They didn’t want to be partners anymore. Ours was a little too scary for their clientele.”
He has kept the place open as a mom-and-pop shop for 15 years.
“It’s a lot of fun to scare people,” he said with a laugh.
Ridgely said about 30 to 45 people work the trail as actors, including his children and their friends. As he gets older, he doesn’t enjoy it as much as he used to, but he still loves being a tour guide.
Tour guides “really get to interact with the crowd,” Ridgely said. “They really set the tone of the night and set the scenes up, because if you allowed people to stroll through the woods at their own leisure, they wouldn’t be ready for the next scene.”
Wicked Woods is open every Friday and Saturday night in October from 7-11 p.m., at 2621 Sandy Bend Road, Wyoming. Tickets are $15. More information can be found at www.wickedrwestern.com.