There are haunted houses, and then there is Niles Haunted House. This haunted house isn’t just a haunted house, it’s a whole them park with multiple attractions and a haunted carnival feel. And this haunted house doesn’t just get you in the Halloween spirit, it’s actually frightening.
The Haunted House and Scream Park has over 44 acres of haunting to scare visitors right into that Halloween spirit.
I had been to the Niles Haunted House once previously, but it was all the way back in high school, probably in 2005. Even back then, it had been talked about in high regards. I remember being chased through a maze by men with chainsaws.
My visit this time was a little different.
I brought along a fellow Herald journalist, and good friend, Meghan Neuland with me to take pictures and get a tour of the various attractions the haunted house and theme park had to offer. We arrived shortly after 6 p.m., just before sunset on a clear fall evening as volunteers at the park began final preparations an hour before opening to the general public for the night.
We had been set up for a private tour of the park’s main attractions. As Meghan and I waited for our guide to arrive, we both noticed a very family-feeling amongst the various park volunteers. It was as if everyone volunteering knew each other, and not just from volunteering, but as though they were all family and friends to begin with.
Our tour guide arrived by car already in full Halloween form. He introduced himself as “Death”. Death was draped in an all-black cloak and a, rather impressive, full-headed pro silicon skull mask, complete with fake contacts that gave him black and white eyes.
“I want to be the essence of Halloween,” Death told us. “Everybody has their image of the grim-reaper or what Death looks like, and I wanted to embody that.”
We followed Death into the theme park as volunteers were beginning to get into places and group leaders were going over last minute safety procedures. Death led us into what is referred to as “the duplex”, which houses two of the park’s indoor attractions.
The first was a haunted Victorian house called Memory Manor. We made our way through the eerie, and dusty, Victorian home which is in dedication to the volunteers who have passed on, with Death demonstrating the various tricks and surprises on Meghan and I. The second was an old Western town called Ghostly Gallows complete with a Zombie Horse and skeletal bar patrons.
Even with the lights on, we found ourselves proceeding with great caution and even jumping in freight several times.
As we proceeded to our tour of the main attraction, the Haunted House, opening time was very near. As a result, we had to follow Death in the dark on this tour. Let it be known that there is absolutely no shortage of production value in this Haunted House, and it is not merely walking through a couple rooms in the dark as people jump out from behind corners.
Death credited co-owner, Joe Leach as the mastermind behind all this production and engineering.
As groups enter the Haunted House they are told to go through one of eight doors, each door leading down a different path through the Haunted House, giving multiple different experiences for various visitors. Not everyone’s experience would be the exact same.
Meghan and I repeatedly found ourselves jumping and shrieking, and I found myself laughing almost the entire way through. Being a person who doesn’t scare easily, if at all, I was genuinely surprised with the quality and production that went into making the house’s creation. I did jump, and I did scream. I even ran face first, square into a wall at one point.
Death was completely in his element, loving every second of watching us squirm and scream.
The park is advertised as a family-friendly park, which it is, but Death also explained to us that parents must use considerable discretion when taking younger children through the Haunted House.
Death would later reveal his name, Aaron Smith, but not his face. He, like many of the other volunteers, was very passionate and very proud of the House and the Theme Park as a whole. He explained to us that everyone there was indeed, a family. Even in his mask, everyone knew who he was.
Smith said that there are over 200 volunteers every night at the park, and over 80 different not-for-profit groups contributing volunteers and being responsible for different attractions. The volunteer groups range from Girl Scouts to the Make A Wish Foundation.
The park shows its appreciation to these volunteer groups by channeling money brought in by the Park back into these community organizations.
Smith explained that The Haunted House has been at its current location in Niles since 1998, but has been in production since 1974. In 1974 it was the old Carnegie Library in Downtown Niles, now the Chamber of Commerce. Since then it has gone everywhere from abandoned restaurants, to semi-truck trailers in a parking lot when the house fell on hard times.
“Now, it’s not going anywhere,” Smith explained.
Since, the Haunted House has become a mainstay in Niles and well-known throughout the Michiana area. Smith told us that in one night they can receive around 3,000 to 4,000 people.
Just as the park opened to the public and we began our tour of the Field of Screams & Maniac Maze, we parted ways with Death as he got in place to scare patrons throughout the night. This left Nueland and I to tackle Maniac Maze and the Field of Screams on our own.
We had the advantage of doing the Maze before the sun was completely set and dark had fallen. But somehow we still found ourselves struggling to find our way out of each stage, often times feeling trapped in the park. Just as you find your way out of one portion of the Maze, you begin another. The Maze begins to feel endless.
Neuland and I had been in the Maize for over an hour when we stumbled across a group of volunteers getting ready to take their places. We asked them how close we were to the finish.
“You’re about a quarter of the way through,” a young man by the name of DJ Jann told us.
He saw the look of disbelief on our faces, and offered to help us through the rest of the maze and gave us further insight into the intricacy within the Maze.
Jann, a 20-year-old from Niles, graciously led us through the remainder of the Field of Screams showing us various tricks along the way. He truly represented the park and the community surrounding it in an upstanding manner. Along with Smith, he represented the kindness and friendliness of the people involved in the production of this attraction. Without Jann, Neuland and I would probably still be in that Maze.
In addition to Memory Manor, Ghostly Gallows, The Field of Screams with Maniac Maze, and of course the Haunted House, the park also has a Haunted Hayride, multiple haunted carnival-like attractions, a Gore Store, and food concessions.
This indeed, is no roadside attraction.
Even one of the porter-potties was occupied by a dead guy and equipped with an air-horn that blew loudly as you opened the door in an attempt to use the bathroom.
From Kalamazoo, the drive only took a little more than an hour, and was well worth the visit.
The Niles Haunted House and Scream Park is located at 855 Mayflower Road in Niles, MI. During the September they are open Fridays and Saturdays. Starting in October the Park opens to the public Friday through Sunday and 7 p.m. Starting October 26th, the house is open every day until Halloween at 7 p.m.
More information about the Niles Haunted House and Scream Park is available online at www.haunted.org or by phone at (269) 687-FEAR.