The CEO of a Texas haunted house had to get creative to reopen. Here's how he's helping people feel safe in a place meant to scare them.
- Norm Glenn is the founder and CEO of the Scream Hollow Wicked Halloween Park in Smithville, Texas.
- Before he opened up his own haunted house, Glenn spent two decades working in the haunted attraction industry; he loved
haunted housesgrowing up.
- When the pandemic struck, Glenn wasn't sure if the haunted house would reopen.
- But through COVID screenings, mandatory masks, and "Monster Repellant" to keep actors more than six feet away, the attraction has reopened.
Many haunted houses across the country opted not to open up this
But one haunted house owner was determined not to be deterred by the global pandemic, and created a terrifying — yet safe — experience for his guests.
Norm Glenn is the founder and CEO of the Scream Hollow Wicked Halloween Park in Smithville, Texas. Before opening up his venue he had over two decades of professional experience working in the haunted attraction industry. He grew up in Connecticut adoring scary legends like the Salem Witch trials and the Headless Horseman.
"I loved the local haunted houses and stepping into a strange scary world. I'd count down the days until they opened up," he told Business Insider. "I remember being so afraid waiting in line to get in, and then the euphoria of getting out alive from the creatures inside."
To say that Glenn loves to give people a good spook would be an understatement — the park has several haunted houses that tap into fears of evil witchcraft, revengeful ghosts, otherworldly monsters, and plenty of blood and gore.
"Haunted houses sprang up during the great depression. The rationale was that during difficult and stressful times people want an escape from everyday life," he said. This is part of why he decided to open his haunted house this year, as he wanted to serve his community with a family-friendly activity.
Glenn operates and funds the operation. He's responsible for recruiting a creative team of managers, set builders, actors, special effects makeup artists, and more.
"I'm very fortunate to have built a haunt family who are just as passionate as I am," he said.
On any given day, he does the backend work of scheduling all deliveries, ordering, budgeting, and staffing. The park consists of four haunted attractions across 22 buildings, set within 20 acres of forest. The Mansion of Terror Coven is a former orphanage haunted by the wicked Saint Adelia. Decide your fate as you choose your path while navigating through the bodies of victims at Lost Pines Asylum or get lost in the Wicked Darkness Maze.
When the pandemic hit, Glenn wasn't sure if he should open for the haunted house's sixth season.
Soon people from his community started to ask what his plans were and encouraged him to open.
"Talking with all of those people made me think how important family traditions were and how people use Scream Hollow as an escape and stress reliever," he said.
As a business owner, he's used to being nimble and adapting to change, which he sees as caveats of running a business: "My biggest concern is keeping my immune system up. I try to get plenty of rest, drink a lot of water, and take Emergen-C every day."
To cope with the extra stress right now, he carves out time every day to exercise and just sit in peace. Every morning he enjoys drinking coffee on his front porch.
He was determined to open safely, and met with his team of 11 managers to take a walk around the park.
The creative bunch started to brainstorm ideas right away about changes they could make that would protect patrons without hindering the experience.
"We're an open-air outdoor venue. All of our food was already served to go with outdoor seating with six-foot spacing between tables," he said. The major challenge was how to manage lines and maintain social distance between patrons and monsters in the attractions.
Actors wear masks under their costumes or as part of their costumes. Only one group of patrons can enter a building at a time.
Glenn and his team created Monster Repellent — an orange glow necklace that guests wear if they don't want anyone to come within six feet of them.
"Given it's an evening event, a bright glow necklace is easy to see in the dark. If our creatures in the attractions see a group with an orange glow necklace they know to keep six feet away," Glenn said.
Bastrop County requires guests to wear masks on property. Patrons don't seem to mind wearing masks, and socially distancing; some groups even wear matching custom painted masks or Halloween-style ones.
"I love walking around Scream Hollow and talking to patrons," he said. "I love hearing their stories and how Scream Hollow is impacting their lives this year. It reinforces that we did the right thing."
All staff wear masks in addition to having their temperature checked and passing a COVID screening before their shift. It takes two hours to sanitize the park at night.
Glenn said that what's changed the most about his job is that his purpose has transformed from "how scary can we be" to "how can I make our customers feel safe," which he recognizes is ironic — since haunted houses are meant to make people feel scared and unsafe.
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