Is My Child Old Enough For A Haunted House?
Halloween ‘Haunted House’ attractions have become a natural extensive of the ‘scary house’ at the local amusement park or yearly state fair. They started as a way to raise money for college fraternities and sororities sometime in the 1970s, but quickly caught on and became a fund raising tool for all sorts of charities and organizations. Today there are thousands of annual ‘Haunted House’ attractions throughout the USA and most run for a month or more. With so many available and usually accessible for just a few bucks, it’s no surprise that nearly a million people visited them last year. Among those visitors were lots of kids, but are these places really family friendly?
Is my child old enough for a Haunted House? The first consideration that a parent should think about before bringing any child to a ‘Haunted House’ attraction is whether it is safe or not? Most local ‘Haunted House’ attractions are not generally regulated apart from requiring something like an attraction, event or public gathering permit in some cases; while in others nothing more than a Building Code Compliance or Fire Marshall Inspection is all that is needed. These attractions are not normally required to have building safety or evacuation plans in place, or available, and that is troubling. Children under twelve can easily become disoriented in an emergency and may not be able to escape if a fire or other dangerous situation occurs in one of these places.
The common sense thing to do for any parent is to visit a ‘Haunted House’ attraction before they bring their child or children there. Ask if you can do a walk through to judge the safety and content of the attraction before or during operation hours. With no rating system available, many of these scary attractions have over the top frights and even sexually explicit scenes. This is especially true if the event is being run as a fund raiser for a fraternity or sorority. Most of the haunted houses on or near college campuses that I have visited over the past few years were definitely R or even X-rated.
How much fear is too much for a child? It is a tough question. When I was thirteen years old I lived near a Wax Museum with a House Of Horrors. I can honestly say that place scared the daylights out of me due to the realism of the wax figures. Although I loved going there and getting scared, that attraction did give me nightmares and that was probably not a good thing. I believe that when it comes to deciding whether a ‘Haunted House’ attraction is age appropriate for your child CONTENT is the key and your next consideration.
Everyone brings up their children with their own set of values, so the only way to be sure any ‘Haunted House’ attraction is something that you want your child to experience is by investigating what types of scenes will be depicted inside. The importance of this step cannot be understated. You might walk into an attraction that for all ages that is even less scary than a typical Halloween cartoon, or you could end up in a place modeled after a ‘True Blood’ episode or ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ film which may be for mature audiences only.
Some ‘Haunted House’ attractions now offer web pages that show photos and video from their Fright Fest and will tell you whether they are or are not appropriate for most children under a certain age. They also tend to reveal what local permits they have or safety inspections their attraction has passed. That makes your job a lot easier and helps you to decide if the content they offer is age appropriate for your child or children, based on your own values.
Because some of these attractions are extremely high tech and cost more than just a few bucks for admission, you might want to get the inside scoop on your local haunted houses by looking for online reviews before you plunk down any cash. There are tons of haunted house visitor comments and reviews available on the Internet, so you will likely find some about your own local attractions. You should also browse by YouTube for piles of phone videos and photos of haunted houses everywhere.
In the end, deciding if your child is old enough for a Haunted House can be as simple as deciding if that attraction is geared more towards FUN or FRIGHT. Most ‘Haunted House’ attractions that advertise ‘family fun’ or ‘scary fun’ should be at the top of your list to check out before all the others. Attractions that promise to ‘scare you to death’ will probably not be appropriate for you and your family. With physicians recently warning pregnant women to avoid most ‘Haunted House’ attractions, you just know that many of these annual events are over the top scary and not for children: so choose wisely if you plan on visiting one with the kids.