Home > Halloween, Lower Southampton > It’s a Scary Business

It’s a Scary Business

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Valley of Fear operator Tom Yaegel (Tom Sofield)

On a recent afternoon in Feasterville a cool breeze ruffled the multi colored leaves at the Phoenix Sport Club on Bristol Road; the club is the location of the Valley of Fear haunted attraction which Tom Yaegel has operated at this location for almost 15 years.

The haunted hayride, two haunted houses and haunted walking tour nets tens of thousands of visitors every fall season.

The Valley of Fear has its beginnings at Stepping Stone Farm in Buckingham where Yaegel in the early 1990’s started operations of the area’s first widely promoted haunted hayride. You may even remember the advertisements featuring legendary genre actor Vincent Price.

He got the idea to open a haunted attraction after reading about it in an edition of Entrepreneur Magazine. Yaegel said he thought, “Hey this would be popular because people in Bucks County love to get scared and love the outdoors.”

The business of scaring people has changed since Yaegel entered it in the early 1990’s.

Yaegel said the Valley of Fear’s busiest nights are Saturday’s close to Halloween.

The National Research Federation released figures early this month that reported that attendance at haunted attractions around the nation was up almost 21 percent compared to a few years ago. They credit the rise in attendance with the downturn in the economy.

Yaegel says it depends on the year and this year’s figures seem to be comparable with last year’s figures, he also says that weather and Phillies post season baseball drew people away from haunted attractions earlier in the month.

The national Haunted House Association also says business is up nation-wide due to an increase in marketing and help from the internet.

Valley of Fear runs many radio promotions with different stations from across the area. Yaegal estimates that 65 percent of advertising money for the attraction goes toward radio advertisements.

Online sales and off-day promotions like Family Fright Night, which is a reduced price ticket bundle which aims to attract families to come out on Sunday nights, have lead to a uptick in business in recent years.

The Valley of Fear which employs a few people year around to run the business, design and build attractions recruits more every season to scare people who visit the attraction. These are seasonal employees of whom only two are under the age of 18, the others are in their 20’s, 40’s, 50’s and one is even a school teacher.

On a busy night the attraction will employ up to 5 makeup artist as all the actors wear make-up to scare people because today’s crowd does not find mask as freighting anymore.

Between Valley of Fear employees and Phoenix Club workers some of whom are volunteers, 125 staffers can be found on site on a Saturday night scaring people, selling tickets, providing security, making food, driving tractors and directing traffic.

“The way we scare people has changed tremendously in the past 20 years. The First year we spent $6,000 on fog machines and costumes, now it cost excess of a quarter million dollars“, said Yaegel.

Large pumkin anamatronic which can cost in excess
 of $20,000  (Tom Sofield)

Yaegel said in the past few years they have bought large animatronics to try to scare people which can cost between $10,000 to $25,000 each.

This year Valley of Fear ditched its traditional haunted house, Miles Manor, and replaced it with the Zombie Research and Control Center; the change was due to the recent popularity of zombies in popular culture. The attraction also offers a haunted pirates ship wreck in addition to the hayride and Haunted Tales Haunted Forrest Walk which is new for 2010.

Yaegel said each year’s additions and modifications take, “several months of preparations.”

He says the facades of the haunted attractions stay up year-around but props are stored at a near-by warehouse.

The Valley of Fear is proud of its commitment to safety; all its attractions are inspected by the state and local fire departments and must meet code before being able to open for the season. Every day the Valley of Fear team must inspect the attractions to ensure safety. Also all the tractor drivers have years of experience with farm tractors or other heavy equipment.

As we speak in a grove of trees near the ticket booths Yaegel is quick to point out that the Valley of Fear is a local, safe and affordable way to spend a fall evening for people of all ages.

The Valley of Fear runs tonight until Sunday (Halloween) night for more information go to their website at ValleyofFear.com.

More Photos:

Scary Tale Haunted Walk

Zombie Reseach & Control Center

 Tom Sofield(tsofield@buxmontnews.com)
Online Editor

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