MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — 'Tis the season for terror. Halloween is almost here, but the fate of hayrides and haunted houses looks a bit grim in Ohio. The state strongly recommends those attractions be canceled this year out of fear of social distancing and potential coronavirus exposure may be a problem.
Though, that isn’t stopping “7 Floors of Hell” located at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds.
Owner Rodney Geffert said his team spent about 40 hours working with the Cuyahoga County Health Department, not to mention local law enforcement agencies.
“The haunted house should be a safe, fun thing,” said Geffert. “I feel that if the state wanted them shut down, they wouldn’t have the order to shut them down. The state wants people to respect the guidelines and they know large crowds go to haunted houses.”
The attraction opened Friday night and hit capacity early.
“It was by far the busiest open night we’ve ever had in 20 years,” Geffert said. “At 8:15 We started turning customers away. We got hit with what we normally see in a four-hour period in one hour.”
Normally the large crowds would be a good thing for Geffert and his team, but that was before coronavirus forced new health regulations.
“We’re very happy with the masks. It’s the social distancing. That where we’re seeing groups that slowly are pushing together,” he said.
His team went back to work Saturday morning, making changes out of fear of being shut down.
They’re operating at half capacity cutting off customers once they reached their limit. Only those with a red ticket will be able to purchase attraction tickets during that time. Geffert’s team has already placed sanitation stations throughout the fairgrounds and cut down on shows and concession stands. They’ve also created space for social distancing inside five haunted houses and are requiring customers to wear masks.
“We all have to live with this. It’s all of us and we all have to respect the other person,” Geffert said.
Planning terror isn’t easy during a pandemic, but Geffert said they pulled it off and are doing so safely. Though the screams forced between laughter won’t last without help from customers.
Depending on how things go Saturday night, the team here may switch to an online time ticketing system next week. If that happens, only a limited number of tickets would be sold per hour to help create smaller crowds and force social distancing.
“We want a fun safe time for everyone but if the crowds aren't going to listen, we’re going to limit the crowds.”