A lot has changed since the 1990s when Northampton resident Tom Yaegel opened the haunted attraction at the in Lower Southampton.
From the characters appearance to the haunted house themes much has changed, but one thing remains the same -- scare the customers.
In 15 years, actors at the attraction, which features two haunted houses and haunted walking tour, have gone from putting unrealistic rubber and latex masks over their faces to wearing realistic make-up applied by a group of professionals, Yaegel said.
“We have really increased the quality of the actors and their appearance.”
His professional scare team and their more realistic looks has gotten nothing but compliments, Yaegel said.
“We try to find people who have a background in acting,” he said.
Last year, in an attempt to increase scares the attraction renovated its traditional haunted house, Miles Manor, and replaced it with the popular Zombie Research and Control Center.
How did Yaegel and his team know zombies would be next be horror fad? Research, he said.
Planning, much of which comes from reading trade publications and keeping up with popular culture, for the next year takes place close to a 12 months in advance, and construction work on attractions begins in May or June, Yaegel said.
Many of the props and sets are built by craftsmen Yaegel employees, while some are bought. A large 15-foot-tall pumpkin animatronic cost more than $15,000, he said.
On an average October Saturday evening, a small traffic jam can be found on Bristol Road leading into the entrance to the Valley of Fear parking lot.
Yaegel said, he expects about 20,000 paying guests this season, but that number depends on the weather for the rest of the season.
“If only the weather were predictable,” he said with a chuckle.
During the past several seasons, the biggest competition to Valley of Fear has been Phillies post-season baseball. With the Phillies playoff chances squashed, Yaegel expects an uptick in business.
Data from the National Research Foundation from 2010 found that attendance to haunted attractions around the nation was up almost 21 percent compared to a prior years. The data credited the rise in attendance with the downturn in the economy.
“We have been seeing people using a lot more coupons over the past several years.”
One of the biggest boosts to business has been online ticket sales and social media, Yaegel said.
Yaegel has found that in addition to word of mouth, radio and internet advertising are the best way to draw customers to the attraction.
“We have visitors come from Harrisburg, Toms River and Long Island, but most of our business is local,” Yaegel told Patch.
One of the things the Valley of Fear has going for it is the fact it is known a safe and fun attraction, he said.
“People feel safe dropping their kids off here.”
After the guests finish the four attractions they can sit by a campfire and enjoy treats from a snack bar run by members of the Phoenix Club.
For more information on the Valley of Fear visit its website at ValleyofFear.com.