Look out for goblins, ghouls, zombies, and werewolves this month, as two new haunted houses are raising goose bumps around the Valley.
Monsterland in Mesa and The 13th Floor in Phoenix are new additions to the Halloween-based businesses that crop up this time of year.
Both facilities bring twists to the haunted house theme: Monsterland will be open year-round as a horror museum starting in January. Over the years, the owners have collected hundreds monster props and animatronics. For the month of October, Monsterland serves as a haunted house with 15-20 actors on staff as monsters, gremlins, and characters that will keep you up at night. The building’s lower level has a network of dungeons and caves.
“We’re making a difference being more than just a haunted house,” said Kevin Wynn, Monsterland’s co-owner. “We’re going to be a horror museum. You will be able to come back and see how all this stuff is put together come January.”
This is the first year The 13th Floor has opened a location in the Phoenix area. The house, which gets its name from the superstitious belief that it’s unlucky to have a 13th floor in a building, also has facilities in Colorado and Texas. The Denver location recently was ranked No. 11 on USA Today’s list of the scariest haunted houses in the country.
Co-owner Chris Stafford said the company has big expectations for the 60,000-square-foot Valley facility. It is housed in a former Albertson’s grocery store that the company purchased in April, and has since transformed into an alternate world full of monsters, zombies and deranged lunatics.
“Our attractions are very successful; they are at the top tier in terms of attendance levels for the nation,” Stafford said.
The new Arizona facility features four areas: a New Orleans cemetery, a haunted mansion, an asylum and a pirate jungle. An area called Zombieland immerses visitors in a city street overrun with the undead.
“It’s not like your traditional haunted house where you’re walking through rooms. You’re actually walking through city streets ravaged by zombies,” Stafford said, “It’s a unique, environmental haunted house”.
In a time where “Paranormal Activity 2” was crowned the highest-grossing horror film in history, businesses around the country are trying to capitalize on the human obsession with being scared.
“You can live in a horror movie but you know you’re going to be OK,” Stafford said. “You can still feel the fear but actually live to tell the story on the other side.” People are looking to escape the real-life horrors of today’s economy, and find escape in fantasy and being scared, he said.
The business of scaring people can be just as scary for owners, who face the same economic challenges as any new business. Owners of both facilities said they believe that the draw of a unique “scare” experience will bring out Valley residents and grow their businesses.
The two newest “boo” businesses have long-term plans to stay in the Valley. Monsterland will be open year-round, but Wynn said the bulk of its revenue will be made in October. He said Monsterland is a long-term investment and the Mesa location will set the business up for success years down the road.
“This is a turning-over period for Mesa. There’s opportunities financially that are more conducive to buying a building and trying to get something started. The light rail will be down here in about five years; it’s an opportunity,” Wynn said, “We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and I think Mesa is a good fit for us.”
Stafford said it cost $500,000 to build The 13th Floor, and the company has a three-year business plan, anticipating it will take a year or two to turn a profit.
“I think as with any business you start, you need a business plan and you need to know it’s going to take you a while to be profitable in order to do it right. We may not make any money this year and that’s OK with us,” Stafford said.
Wynn said Monsterland’s goal is to have 20,000 people come through the haunted house during October. That would put it in the top tier of haunted houses. Wynn says the top 3 percent of haunted houses generate about 15,000 visitors per year.
The 13th Floor is located at Interstate 17 and Bell Road in Phoenix. Monsterland is on the north side of Main Street in downtown Mesa.
Where: 18 W. Main St., Mesa
Hours vary before Oct. 20, then open every day from Oct. 20-31.
Fridays: 6 p.m. to midnight
Saturdays: 5 to 6 p.m. is “lights on” haunt for children accompanied by an adult, then 6 p.m. to midnight.
Sunday through Thursday: 6 to 10 p.m.
Price: Adults $22, children $15; keep your ticket and it’s free admission to the monster museum in January
Information: (480) 461-3300
Where: 2814 W. Bell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85053
Select weekdays and Sundays: 7 to 10 p.m.
Friday/Saturday: 7 p.m. to midnight
Price: $25 general admission, $35 VIP “fast pass”
Information: (602) 456-2250