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Haunted houses make changes to "safely scare" people this Halloween season

The CDC's Halloween guidelines describe indoor haunted houses as "high risk activities." Local attractions are taking steps to make things as safe as possible.

POWELL, Tenn. — Many haunted houses in East Tennessee opened for the season over the weekend. They adjusted safety guidelines to scare people in a more sanitary way.

The CDC said in its new guidelines going to indoor attractions like haunted houses is a "high-risk activity."

At Frightworks Haunted House in Powell, new rules mean a safe scaring experience. 

The front of house manager, Dustin Payne, said the staff stepped up cleaning and social distancing protocols to be able to open back up this year. On their opening night on Saturday, plenty of screams could be heard through the parking lot and building.

"Screaming here is great as long as you do it behind a mask," Payne said.

The decades-old attraction in Powell is making safety and sanitary changes for this season to comply with the Tennessee pledge.

They are even asking each volunteer, cast member and customer to do a COVID-19 questionnaire before they enter the attraction.

"So you are still gonna get the same exact experience that you would get coming through this attraction that you would in 2019 and 2018," Payne explained. "It's the same exact show that as the consumer, you may not even realize some of the changes that we're making."

This season, everyone is required to wear face masks: customers, volunteers and even the performers. Most of the time the masks are incorporated into the costume and covered with more theatrical masks in some cases.

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They also got rid of high-touch zones throughout the house. Things like the airbag tunnel and the hanging plastic in hallways are all pinned back this year.

"The few things you may come into contact with like door handles and handrails, all of those performers are in those scenes with antibacterial wipes and as soon as your group goes through, it immediately gets cleaned for the next group to come through," Payne said.

There's even a virtual queue line, so you don't have to be packed in with people waiting to get in. Rather, customers can wait in their cars and tune into the new Frightworks radio station: 92.1 FM.

People only go through the house with the group they came with.

"So we're able to take a couple hundred people that were compacted into one queue line and we're able to let them spread out to the whole outside of the facility and we only have about six groups in line at a time, so it really cuts down on people being close together," Payne explained.

They hope to keep haunting while keeping it clean.

“So we’re very optimistic on how this season will go," Payne nodded. "Our guts tell us that it’s gonna be a great year.”

Payne mentioned the staff is committed to creating a safe and scary experience for everyone, they are doing more cleaning than recommended as a precautionary measure.

Frightworks is open this year every weekend in October. They operate Friday-Saturday at the beginning of October and switch to offering haunts on Thursdays and Sundays halfway through the month.

The theme for the haunted attraction this year is "Dream Reavers: The Portal" a continuation of the storyline from 2019. Guests will experience new additions to the all-inside haunted house, including more robots and a portal to the other side.