Every year, one of the toughest decisions to make is which haunted attraction (or if you’re lucky, attractions) to choose from. Luckily for SUNY New Paltz students, the northeastern region, and New York in particular boasts some of the most terrifying, blood curdling, gruesome haunted houses in the country.
One of the drawbacks of the haunted house experience is the crowds. That’s why many have chosen to stray away from the more renowned haunts this year and look for a smaller park to scare their pants off … and they’ve found it.
TerrorDome Haunted Scream Park, located in Newburgh, NY, provides the same exhilaration found at other, more well-known attractions. The only difference is that there’s about half the crowd to deal with, which if you’re familiar with these places, is a major advantage. Not only do throngs of people make navigating around the different parts of the park more difficult, it can sometimes ruin the experience altogether.
For owner Ken Darrigo, it’s a special balance that keeps the experience unique.
“It’s always the quantity versus quality type thing, it’s a constant balance … the business part sets in, but then you have the creative aspect coming in too, so you try to balance those.”
If anyone knows what makes a great Halloween haunt, it would be Darrigo, who created TerrorDome when he was 15 years old.
“I’ve had this for 16 years, for three years prior I was at another haunted house, so I actually started when I was 12,” said Darrigo. “I’ve had Halloween in my blood for many years. More than half my life I’ve been doing this, so that’s why it’s like I don’t know what else I would do.”
However, owning this type of business doesn’t come without challenges. One of the greatest aspects of Terrordome is that they change things up year after year.
“Since we do change everything each year, everything is different,” he said. “Even though we have the same product at the end of the day, we don’t know how the group’s going to react to the new scene, we have to pretty much work ‘till the end of the season. We don’t build everything and then stop, we’re constantly working … trying to get the best experience possible.”
Hope Thorpe, one of the actresses specializing in horror, said that her favorite part of working at TerrorDome is the release it gives her from the rest of her day.
“I absolutely love to just go, dress up and play,” she said.
Since the park is family-owned, it lends the place a friendlier, less automated feel than other haunted attractions, boasting a concession stand with hot cider and snacks.
“We’re family oriented, we invite you to spend the night with us,” said Thorpe.
To Shawn Rubenfeld, fifth-year English major, TerrorDome stood out because they were less concerned about their image, and being a conventional haunt.
“TerrorDome felt more raw,” said Rubenfeld. “The actors were more intent on not just scaring you, but scaring the crap out of you, and doing anything possible to do that.”
The mark of a great haunted attraction is its ability to leave an impression on its visitors.
“Two years ago TerrorDome had a haunted insane asylum, which to date is the best, scariest attraction I’ve been to. Waiting for it to come back,” said Rubenfeld.
If your budget is a factor in visiting a haunted house this season, don’t fret. TerrorDome, priced at $22 for three attractions, is already less expensive than other haunts in the area. What’s more, Darrigo has offered all SUNY New Paltz students $5 off general admission for this Friday, Oct. 29. Yes, you read right. That means that as long as you bring your student ID, you can experience three quality haunted houses for just $17.
What it really comes down to is that any attraction you decide to attend this year should communicate a real love for the craft, and there’s no doubt that TerrorDome does just that. This is not lost on Darrigo, whose favorite part of owning TerrorDome is hearing people scream.
“Create some memories for them,” he said. “I mean, that’s what I like to hear when I hear that this place is either a tradition or something like that, that makes me feel good because I’m a part of their life; this is what they do during Halloween. That makes me happy.”
Local Treats in New Paltz:
Taking place this Sunday, New Paltz’ annual Halloween parade starts at 6 p.m. at Main Street and Manheim Boulevard in the village and ends at the fire house on Plattekill Avenue. Come join at any point on the parade route and march with other villagers. A 40-year-old tradition, the conclusion of the Halloween Parade includes cider and treats provided by the New Paltz Lions Club at the fire house, and is a great way to kick off Halloween.
Night of 100 Pumpkins
Like to try your hand at pumpkin carving? New Paltz’s Night of 100 Pumpkins is a must-see Halloween event where over 1,000 people come every year to view the entries for The Bakery’s pumpkin carving contest. With a range of categories from humorous to political and traditional, the pumpkins on display are a visual treat for any who attend. Enjoy free hot cocoa, cider and pumpkin bread while scanning the many pumpkin creations. Entries are due at The Bakery by Oct. 30, and the judging is held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Halloween night.
Haunted House at the New Paltz Youth Program
Looking for a cheaper alternative to some of the more expensive haunted attractions this year? Try the haunted house that’s put together by the New Paltz Youth Program, at 220 Main St. With an admission of only $3 for adults and $2 for kids, even those on a tight budget can get a taste of Halloween this year. Open to the public on Oct. 30 and 31, the haunted house runs from 6 to 11 p.m. both nights.
Haunted Huguenot Street
Is it the historical aspect of Halloween that interests you? Historical Huguenot Street offers a 75 minute tour of New Paltz’s Huguenot Street, where costumed guides take you on a gruesome journey through some of New Paltz’s more scandalous and gory history. Not intended for children under 12, this tour shows New Paltz’s darker past. Tickets are $9 in advance, $11 at the door. Held from Oct. 29 to 31, from 7 to 11 p.m.
Cabaloosa’s, Oasis Café and Murphy’s:
Costume Contests and Live Music
If you’re looking for more of a night life crowd on Halloween, Cabaloosa’s and Oasis Café both offer live music, with Bad Princess playing at Cabaloosa’s, and The Big Shoe Playing at Oasis Café. There will also be a costume contest at Cabaloosa’s on Halloween night, with a first prize of $50 on the table. Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub is also hosting on Halloween, with parties being held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There will be costume contests with cash prizes all three nights, and music spun by their DJ. Bud Light will host the party on Saturday night.