MANSFIELD -- This has been a frightening, not-much-fun year in a lot of ways.
But the folks at the Ohio State Reformatory's Blood Prison plan to change that, starting Oct. 9.
Oh, it will still be frightening.
But haunt manager Vic Amesquita promises it will also be a good time, a supernatural change-of-pace during a pandemic, open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through Nov. 1.
"We are following all the state (COVID-19) guidelines," he said.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced earlier this month the state was "recommending" haunted houses and hayrides not open during the pandemic. But he stopped short of forbidding them.
"We have scaled back some of the things we normally do. We aren't going to be open as many weekends," Amesquita said.
"We are going to keep the groups to no more than 10 at a time and we will keep them spaced out for social distancing," said Amesquita, who added facial coverings will be required at Blood Prison for customers, actors, volunteers and staff.
The route through the haunt will be sanitized every hour of operation. Daily temperature checks will be done on all staff members. All equipment and costumes will be sanitized nightly.
Blood Prison is a significant fundraiser for the Ohio State Reformatory Perseveration Society, which is restoring the famous prison that closed its doors to inmates 30 years ago.
Amesquita said about 25,000 customers came to Blood Prison in 2019. He said much smaller crowds are expected during COVID-19, estimating attendance may be reduced by half.
"We don't really know yet," he said.
Organizers delayed making a decision on the popular haunt, wondering if the state would allow it to open.
"We love doing this," said Amesquita, who has managed the haunt since 2017. "It just hurts to think we might not have been allowed to open ... it was a dagger. So the fact we do get to open is a blessing. We are extremely excited."
Though the haunt will be scaled down a bit, visitors can still expect to see some old favorite scares, as well as some new surprises, Amesquita said.
A stroll through the haunt, even during daylight hours, shows an immense amount of attention to detail in each scene, which will soon be joined by 50 to 70 actors a night, dedicating to scaring the folks who attend.
Amesquita praised the work of his small team that is continuing to prepare the venue.
"They have done a great job. Our goal this year is to deliver a low-contact, high-quality visitor experience," he said. "This will still be the event people have come to expect from the No. 1 haunt in Ohio."
All tickets this year will be general admission only and can be purchased for $25 online or onsite from the ticket bus.
All entry to the event will be by order of arrival of individual vehicles. This will help remove congregating in lines and also keep family groups together as they tour the venue. Guests will be granted entry with the groups with which they arrived.
BLOOD PRISON DETAILS:
DATES AND TIMES FOR THE HAUNT:
Friday, Oct. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 1
Fridays: 7:00 p.m. to midnight Saturdays: 7:00 p.m. to midnight Sundays: 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Tickets and information can be found at www.bloodprison.com