As Halloween approaches, many are wondering how to celebrate this holiday while taking precautions not to spread the coronavirus. Some professional haunted houses, like Terrorplex in Little Rock, have decided to close their doors for the year. Owner Michael Higgins, who has Type 2 diabetes, said it wasn't worth the risk.
Most other haunted houses in central Arkansas are opening by following guidance provided by the Arkansas Department of Health. According to state mandates, participants and actors in professionally-run haunted houses are required to wear masks. John Veasman, who runs Fear Factory 501 in Little Rock, said the ADH precautions are similar to those used by the state for eateries.
"We're requiring people to wear masks. We're doing the whole social distancing, which is more down the lines of how the restaurants are doing it," Veasman said. "If you come in as a group, you can be next to somebody in your group. You can sit with them and they can go through the haunted house together. And then [groups] just stay six feet apart. We're allowing plenty of time in between groups."
Hand sanitizing stations and plexiglass barriers at ticket booths are also among the additional safety measures being used. The Little Rock Zoo felt some families would want even more precautions. For that reason, the annual Boo at the Zoo event has been replaced by a drive-through experience in a downtown parking garage. The Zoo partnered with the Little Rock Downtown Partnership, the Rep and CWP productions to create "Shadows at Sixth."
Ellen Lampe, spokeswoman for the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, says the collaborators wanted to create a no-contact, family-friendly option. Participants will remain in their cars for the entire experience.
"We fully recognize the fact that this is a spooky event, while driving a car could be a little tricky, so nobody is going to be jumping out at you at this event. It's going to be very family friendly—just the right amount of spooky, just the right amount of fun," Lampe said.
"Shadows at Sixth" will be open every night through Halloween. Fear Factory 501 and several other area professional haunted houses have already opened their doors after receiving approval from the health department.