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Niles Scream Park opens Friday

NILES — Upon entering the Niles Haunted House, patrons will find themselves facing six doors and paths to begin on. Each one leads to a different themed room including a haunted pirate ship, a possessed kitchen, a cornfield with surprises lurking between the stalks as visitors try to escape the house’s many twists and tight turns. The floorboards sometimes have a spirit of their own.

Pete Karlowicz is ready to give patrons a screaming good time once again.

On Friday, the attraction will open to the public. For more than 40 years, Karlowicz has been owner of the Niles Scream Park, located at 855 Mayflower Road. This year, for the park’s 47th season, he intends to do the same, with some added precautions.

The park will host its first night open on 8 to 11 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11. The park will maintain those three hours on Friday and Saturday evenings in September, before extending weekends in October. Once October arrives, the park and attractions will be open 7 to 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, and 7 to 10 p.m. on Sundays. The last two evenings, Nov. 6 and 7, are what the park’s organizers have coined “the last gasp weekend.” These nights, all the lights will be out in the attractions.

The park regularly draws Halloween thrill-seekers from the region, and Karlowicz expected this year to be no different in that aspect. He and his team at the Niles Scream Park have added other safety precautions to keep both those working and volunteering in the park, and attending for scares, safe.

According to Karlowicz, the park has more than 100 hand sanitizing stations installed. Patrons seeking entrance to the park will need to have their temperatures taken at the gate and wear a face mask at all times inside the park. Volunteers, workers and actors will have the same procedure when they arrive for the evening shifts.

“If you don’t wear a mask, you cannot come in,” he said.

Karlowicz said he has done everything he can to make sure the park is as safe as he can this year, in relation to COVID-19 concerns.

Even park volunteers and actors will be wearing face coverings, a neck-gaiter or a balaclava style covering, beneath their scary costumes and masks.

Due to COVID-19 mandates and precautions, timed ticket reservations will be available for the first time at the park. With timed entry, park operators hope to be able to stagger the number of people entering the attractions at once, allowing time to clean and sanitize in between interactions.

Tickets may be reserved online. First come, first serve tickets are still available, but attendees will not be guaranteed entry if the night’s schedule is fully booked.

Tickets are available for individual attractions and in bundles. Visitors looking for scares will find seven attractions at the Niles Scream Park, including the Niles Haunted House, The Basement, The Cursed Crusade, the Field of Screams, Dark Terror-tory Haunted Hayride, Hooded and mini escape rooms. The park’s midway will feature food concessions, a gift shop and a photo booth with 3D photos to prove to friends the brave survived.

Virginia Zimmerman, a worker at the park, showed off attractions including The Basement, a haunted setting staged in a 1920s ranch-styled house where an investigative reporter has allegedly gone missing. While touring the halls and rooms, Zimmerman laughed and smiled, as she was ready for the surprises around each corner.

Zimmerman has been working with the Niles Scream Park for more than 20 years. Originally, she intended to have retired from working with the park by now, but she keeps being drawn back in. According to Zimmerman, all three of her children have volunteered with the park as well.

Zimmerman said that on nights when the lights go out, patrons brave enough to buy tickets will be given one glow stick per four attendees to find their way through the Niles Haunted House. She insists this is the best way to experience the scares.

Karlowicz said he hoped Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would not hand down heavy mandates on indoor attractions again, but if she did, he would still be ready to offer some outdoor activities.

The Field of Screams maze and Haunted Terror-tory Hayride are already completely outdoors, with another attraction put partway together in the event it will need to be unveiled for a third option for patrons looking for a scream.

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