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Keeping patrons safe a priority for Fort Wayne haunted house owner

More Information

Haunted House safety requirements:
-Fire sprinklers must remain free of obstruction
-No smoking is allowed inside the building.
-No open flame devices or temporary heaters in the building
-In maze-like setups, exits must be available every 50 linear feet and must be clearly marked
-Maze paths should be at least 3 feet wide by 5 feet high. The maze can contain a 4-foot section that is 2 feet wide and 2 feet high
-A smoke detection system is required
-Fire extinguishers shall be good for most any kind of fire
-All material used in all display areas must be flame retardant
-Entrances and exits must remain free from obstructions
-Candles and open flames shall not be used on or near decoration vegetation
-In additional to the requirements for the use as a haunted house, the structure shall comply with all applicable provisions of the fire code

Source: Indiana State Fire Marshal

Monday, September 30, 2013 - 8:23 am

Of course Brett Molitor likes a good scare, and thank goodness he does, because scaring people is his business.

Molitor is the owner of Fort Wayne's Haunted Cave and Huntington's Haunted Castle. While the spooky sensations of a haunted house provides a lot of fun for a lot of people, Molitor is busy on a mission. He's on a mission to keep his staff and his patrons safe.

As the Halloween season ramps up, Molitor and his staff have been setting up props, buying bottles of blood and makeup and, most importantly, training volunteer actors at an orientation on that proper procedure in case of an emergency.

“Scheduling the actors and having them go through orientation is mandatory in my mind,” he said. “What happens a lot of times at haunted houses is that you might be short-handed and then somebody comes and is like, 'Well my friend is here and wants to help.' Without a background check, interview and full-scale walk through, we just can't do that,” he said.

In a place that can be cramped and dark as night, haunted house owners have a huge responsibility to protect their customers. It can be nearly impossible to keep track of exactly how many patrons are inside the industrial-sized building at a time. However, Molitor and his team have ensured that each volunteer actor is aware of two emergency exits at all times in addition to the emergency radio walkie-talkies which connects each team leader with staff members inside the spooky maze.

In case of emergency, each actor is trained to follow the proper evacuation procedure. There is also a fire drill every weekend.

To protect people from themselves, most venues, including the Haunted Cave, discourage young children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with heart or other serious health problems claustrophobic and people who are prone to seizures (from strobe lights) from entering the haunted house.

Yes, there are a lot of rules, but that's what you have to do to run a successful and safe haunted house. It's not all fun and games.

But for the volunteers, the weight of the responsibility is just another aspect of being a part of the Haunted Cave family.

Rose Bair, front office manager for the Haunted Cave, said she has been working at the Haunted Cave since it first started.

“I've been working at the Haunted Cave so long. It started out as only family, but with all the other people coming in, they've been incorporated to the family. It's nice to come back, know everybody and get to have fun at the same time,” she said.

Bair also helps train the volunteers.

“As long as we have enough volunteers, it always works out great. The volunteers pretty much call this place home. They look forward to it each year. You'll hear them talk about it even through the summertime. They ask, 'Is it Cave time yet?'”

Zachary Sowles, 21-year-old Haunted Cave volunteer, said he originally starting volunteering when a friend brought him along to try it out a few years ago. Today, that friend is training as a Marine in South Carolina. Sowles decided to volunteer again, this year without his friend, has a way to continue their tradition.

“I've always enjoyed scaring people, too. So I thought, hey why not doing it at the cave again this year,” Sowles said.

He also has a few good scares under his belt, too. For these volunteers, there's a structure and art to invoking a good scare.

“My friend worked the Mad Hatter room and I hid under the table. Then two Michael Myers characters came in and approached this one female customer who was horribly scared already. From there, you see her get nervous just as I jumped out from under the table doing a horrid banshee scream. Then she peed her pants right there,” he said.

Molitor calls these scares “a pee or poo scare,” and for these folks, it's a sure sign of a successful night of scares.

Well, it is officially cave time! Molitor opened the doors to the Haunted Cave Saturday and will continue until Nov. 2. Tickets to the haunted house are $20 for VIP or “fast pass” tickets for $12 for regular admission. Only people 10 years old and older are permitted to enter the cave.

Do you want to visit the Haunted Cave? Then enter in our contest and you could win tickets! Just check out News-Sentinel.com for more information.