Thursday, October 23, 2014

Get Cursed at the Haunted Mansions of Central FL

My first cover story for Creative Loafing Tampa!
I love haunted houses. 

Maybe it’s because I basically grew up at Walt Disney World’s The Haunted Mansion attraction, where this year Disney is releasing Haunted Mansion Authentic, a large assortment of merchandise sold in a new store at the Magic Kingdom, featuring everything from dinner plates, bookends, and towels (sadly, no doom buggies), which means I can finally live in my own version of it (ghosts not included.)  I’ve also enjoyed visiting real haunted houses across the country with my favorites being the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego, The Jerome Grand Hotel in Arizona, and The Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada.

But what is it about haunted houses that make some of us excited to be scared?  How is fear actually defined? 

According to Dr. Machiel Kennedy, a licensed medical doctor and longtime leader in wellness and healthy living, “The acronym for FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.  When you are scared, you are turning on a part of the midbrain (the location for emotions and memory) that is fight or flight.  It shoots adrenaline through your body and you feel nervous, your heart begins to race, your pupils dilate so you can focus, you have acute hearing, your stomach and GI track turn off because you don’t need to be digesting, and finally your blood is sent to your muscles so you can either run or fight.” 

He also says that people like haunted houses because of the adrenaline rush they get, while knowing they are in a safe environment.  And no, you can’t die from being scared unless of course you already have a previous medical condition.  Which was good to know because I was about to visit seventeen different haunted houses in one week.

***Click here for more of my story about HHN24 & Howl-O-Scream in Creative Loafing Tampa.

Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Orlando

Video interview with HHN24 Creative Director Mike Aiello.

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa:

Video of Dead Fall haunted house at Howl-O-Scream.

The Radley House in St. Petersburg:

Not to be overshadowed by the theme parks, St. Petersburg native Cody Meacham is the brilliance behind Radley House, a haunted house he started over eight years ago when he was still a student at Northeast High School.  Cut to 2014, and Meacham’s haunt this year is Dr. Radley’s Nightmare Machine, featuring a captivating story about a sleep therapist desperately searching for the answers to why nightmares happen, where visitors are invited to be patients.  Throughout the ten intricately themed scenes, patients can expect to encounter a creature and machine Dr. Radley developed for therapy treatments, amid an original score, captivating special effects, and handcrafted environments.  The Radley Haunted House is like no other Halloween experience in Central Florida.  It is also the cheapest.  A five-dollar donation is encouraged.

***Click here for my story on Cody Meacham in Creative Loafing Tampa.

With Cody Meacham.
With the Creative Team at The Radley House.
If You Dare To Go:
Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Orlando runs on select nights thru Nov 1st, starting at 6:30 p.m. ($95.99, discounts available for Florida residents and annual pass holders, add-ons include front-of-the-line access or Frequent Fear Pass). For more information, visit:

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa runs Thurs – Sat nights thru Nov 1st, 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. ($89, discounts available for annual pass holders and at Publix & AAA locations, add-ons include front-of-the-line fear passes, VIP tours, Fright Feast.) For more information, visit:

Radley House runs Thurs – Sun nights thru Nov 2nd, 7:30 – 11 p.m. ($5 donation), 3900 19th Street North, St. Petersburg. For more information, visit: