It's a chilly fall Friday evening outside The Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel in Forest Inn.
Just after sunset, the line begins to form outside around 6:30 p.m. with customers eager to experience horror at its finest.
Every so often, Freddy Krueger comes out to entertain the crowd, in what will prove to be but only a brief glimpse of the eerie sights and sounds the customers have paid to experience firsthand.
At that, the door opens and a 30-something couple anxiously enters the new Waldorf, which is filled with special effects and high tech lighting and sound.
Once inside, they walk gingerly, fully prepared to encounter dozens of terrifying rooms and the scary cast of characters that awaits.
Their hearts pulsate at a fevered pitch every step along the way, until the last leg of the journey is complete.
Just across from the Waldorf, about a dozen customers prepare to hop on a wagon to take the Terror in the Corn Haunted Hayride and Trail.
While on the wagon, patrons get to experience over a dozen sets and scenes spread throughout the haunted cornfield.
It's attractions such as this that keep customers coming back for more.
But, why is that people want to be scared in the first place?
Perception of control is the key
Micah Sadigh, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, said that when it comes to fear, perception of control is the key.
"Fear is a biological, as well as a complex psychological phenomenon, consisting of perceptual and historical elements," Sadigh said. "When we experience fear, we produce very powerful chemicals in the brain that excite the entire nervous system."
It's all about the thrill.
Sadigh said, "If you put a large plastic spider in front of me, I may jump and get scared. I produce the same biochemicals; the difference is a few minutes later, that rise in those biochemicals drops and goes down to the normal level."
However, Sadigh said, "It's a thrilling experience, an enjoyable experience, but when the stimulus causes me to experience great fear, elevated levels of certain biochemicals for an extended period of time, then there are going to be negative effects, both physically and psychologically."
He said that's especially true for children. "If a child gets frightened, and an hour later is still in fear mode, we need to do something about it. We have to help the child process that experience, and explain it was not a real thing. We need to help them change their perception of the fear-inducing stimulus."
Sadigh continued, "But, normally when we experience "fear" and a rise in these biochemicals which give us energy, the levels are supposed to drop and go back to a baseline level. When they don't, we are causing harm."
Advice to those embarking on a scare this weekend: "The fear response, or ultimately any kind of stress response, is more of a matter of perception than anything else," he said. "We can overcome many of our fears by changing our perceptions of them."
Haunted Fast Facts
Whether the fear is real or perceived, haunting is big business. There are over 2,000 haunted attractions nationwide that charge admission fees to their events, according to www.hauntedhouseassociation.org.
More than 300 amusement facilities that produce some sort of Halloween or haunted house event, such as an amusement park or family fun center.
Further, there are over 1,000 charity attractions produced by a local charity group that open for one day on Halloween or one or two weekends in October.
One of the biggest industries going today is the Halloween attraction industry, where farmers convert large areas to corn mazes, hayrides, and pumpkin patches which include all kinds of other attractions.
The website, www.hauntedhouseassociation.org, estimates that the Halloween attraction industry is equal in size to the Haunted attraction industry, grossing between 400 and 500 million dollars, with more than 1,500 events nationwide.
Combined, the two industries, gross over one billion dollars in annual revenue and keep many farmers from losing their farms.
The typical haunted attraction averages around 8,000 paid guests, depending on the market and the size of the attraction.
Fortunately for Carbon County residents, there is no shortage of haunted houses to pick from.
The following are several of the more "spooktacular" ones:
The Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel
Fright nights are indeed back at Country Junction.
Located at the former Jack Creek Steakhouse at 6325 Interchange Road, the Waldorf has been transformed into a 1960s Inn.
Outside its confines are Shane Mull and Amanda Slusser, haunted house buffs who took the one-hour trek from Berwick to the Waldorf.
The couple said they couldn't wait to see what the Waldorf had in store for them.
"I really like just having my wits scared out of me," Slusser said.
Mull added, "I've been into horror since I've been a kid."
Just behind them waiting in line are Madyson Dyer and Michael Dino.
For Dyer, of Lehighton, this marked the second time she's been to the Waldorf.
Not so for Dino, of Hazleton, who said, "This is my first time. I don't know what to expect."
That thrill of the unknown is what makes customers flock to the Waldorf on weekends, according to owner Angie Moyer.
Moyer said the past few weekends have especially been a real boon for the business.
"We're at a bigger, better location," Moyer said. "Every great haunted house is in the middle of a field, and now we are too."
The Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel is open weekends through Saturday, Nov. 2.
For more information, visit www.hauntingathewaldorf.com, or call 610-824-6835.
Terror on the Mountain, Nightmare's Revenge
Blue Mountain Resort has become host to a new breed of evil.
Nestled in the mountains at 1660 Blue Mountain Drive, Palmerton, Terror on the Mountain is a haunted hayride that features the area's largest glow experience, which includes 3D scenes. The hayride is about 20 minutes and features 15 scenes that vary on different levels of intensity, as some scenes are visually explosive, while others are unearthly grotesque.
Sales have increased this year, according to Heidi Lutz, director of marketing.
Lutz said Blue has invested in glow props and special lighting in order to create a unique, fun, and most importantly, scary hayride that you'll be telling friends and family about for weeks.
"Additionally, some of the scenes contain 3D elements that are sure to create eye-popping visuals," Lutz said. "Our hayride will remove you from your comfort zone, and fear will enter your soul."
Terror on the Mountain is open Fridays and Saturdays up through Nov. 2.
For more information, visit skibluemt.com, or call 610-826-7700.
The Freak and Funhouse
This most unusual haunted house is situated at 422 White Street, in Bowmanstown.
Here, visitors can expect to see highly detailed scenes, complete with cutting edge props and animations.
The Freak and Funhouse is open through tonight.
For more information, visit www.thefreakandfunhouse.com, or call 484-629-5428.
Halls of Horror Terrorfest
Prepare to get messy upon taking an excursion through the old union hall at 320 Delaware Ave., in Palmerton.
New this year is the extreme adventure known as the blood experience.
Halls of Horror Terrorfest is open up through Saturday, Nov. 2.
For more information, visit www.hallsofhorrors. com.