I am incredibly easy to scare. It can be a centipede, the floors of my house creaking at 3 a.m., or even closing the back door too fast. Naturally, I’ve stayed away from Halloween movies, ghost stories, and any kind of haunted house my whole life.
Yet Saturday I found myself in a rickety bus in pitch black, pelting zombies with paintballs in the newest attraction at Indy Scream Park, Zombie Paintball Assault—and having a wonderful time. From funnel cakes with sweet black-raspberry topping to the chill-thrill of hatchet throwing, my first time at this perennially popular Anderson haunt was more fun than my scaredy-cat self ever thought it could be. Turns out that in month seven of a pandemic, a dropping floor or a revving chainsaw is actually a lighthearted relief.
Which then brings up the question: How do you terrify the average stranger when touch isn’t on the table, masks have lost their creep factor, and the most horrendous thing isn’t torn down at the end of the season? Indy Scream Park says business as usual—but with a scary amount of sanitation gear and at half capacity. With a widened Monster Midway, spread-out tables, required masks, and temperature checks at the door, ISP began welcoming its regular Halloween crowd for weekends on September 11, switching to full daily operations on October 2.
This year’s lineup features more characters, more maintenance staff, and maybe a few more chainsaws from their annual budget for an extra-spooky night. It’s the perfect year to attend if you’re not a fan of being grabbed or pulled around—you can still be startled by loud noises, flashing lights, and quick-footed monsters in more ways than you’d think. Scares can still definitely be up-close and personal, but it’s all in good, safe fun: the 900 actors hired for the season sport custom face masks that match their characters and settings.
Jon Pianki, ISP’s marketing director, is confident the COVID-19 guidelines can coexist with adrenaline-pumping adventures: “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel it was safe.”
First-time guest Lily Freese found that the mask mandate and social distancing were the tamest part of the park experience: “It feels very safe, with the mask regulations and everything, it’s been very comfortable here—I haven’t been overwhelmed with people or anything like that. Definitely no worries for me.”
“It’s still just as scary as it was last year,” said Laci Jeffries, a regular ISP attendee and all-around Halloween enthusiast.
Indy Scream Park’s weeknight openings end November 1, and they’ll be open for one last weekend on the 6th and 7th of November. Tickets are available online and at the door, but to guarantee the best frights, buy in advance and for a weekday. “We will sell out this year, on Fridays and Saturdays especially,” said Pianki. “Come on a Monday!”
I’ll be taking up that invitation. Paintball, deep-fried food, and getting scared silly by clowns and zombies is just too great an opportunity to pass up in a year that could use a little Halloween spirit.
Photos by Colleen Schena.