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Murrow College of Communication at WSU

Virus Scares Away Haunted Attractions

PALOUSE, Wash. — Nicole Flansburg hoped the town of Palouse would be able to host its largest fundraising event of the year, even if it looked different due to COVID-19 regulations. But the cancellation of the town’s annual Halloween attraction will disappoint fans — and the hurt local community groups. 

“We see thousands of people over the last two [October] weekends,” said Flansburg, co-chair of Haunted Palouse.

“It’s a really big, positive event that takes a lot of coordination and there’s really talented people [who] are extremely selfless that carry out this event each October.” 

This October, the city looks more like an actual ghost town than a spirited community. A worrisome rise in coronavirus cases has changed several community Halloween events in the Inland Northwest. 

Last year, the Palouse event raised $77,000 for local projects including the community center and skate park, as well as supporting youth sports and other organizations. 

“Our main concern is everything has to change and evolve this year and we are really hoping that people will go to the Palouse chamber website and donate directly, so those organizations that are affected can [still receive funding], Flansburg said.   

In Athol, Idaho, Silverwood Theme Park will also look different this Halloween season. The park usually hosts Scarywood every weekend in October, said Stephanie Sampson, public relations manager at Silverwood Theme Park.  

Silverwood was able to open its park for a late season this year and put in place many safety guidelines to keep guests safe. But opening Scarywood would have been even more challenging as organizers wanted to keep a frightening atmosphere while adhering to safety regulations at the same time. 

“There’s also the art of scaring people and a lot of the time, that means being up close and personal. It’s hard to do that when you’re six feet away and we wanted to be safe,” Sampson said. 

Every September, Silverwood hosts community appreciation weekends in which it donates a portion of ticket sales to local food banks. This year, Silverwood donated $31,000, the most ever raised, Sampson said.  

Located about 12 miles outside Spokane, people can visit a new pandemic-friendly Halloween event in Nine Mile Falls, Wash. Fear in the Headlights, which began on Oct. 1, lets people enjoy a haunted experience without getting out of the car.   

“We’re sold out and have been since after the first night we opened,” director Mike Toone said. 

Fear in the Headlights takes about 30 minutes to drive through. Tickets are sold per car and are $40 on Thursdays and Fridays and $50 on Saturdays, said Toone. 



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