Oct 28, 2022 - Things to Do

Get grabbed, restrained and dragged away at Utah's haunted houses

A woman is dragged through a corridor of Castle of Chaos. Photo courtesy of Castle of Chaos.

Utah haunted houses have added another level to the jump scare: human touch.

What's happening: Most professional haunts are now offering "touch" ticket upgrades.

  • Because just having someone chase you around with a chainsaw isn't scary enough.

How it works: Guests who pay a premium wear a glowing necklace or bracelet that lets actors know they agree to physical contact.

  • Contact can range from taps and elbow grabs to having a bag pulled over your head as you're carried away from your group, or even mimicked torture.

What they're saying: Castle of Chaos owner James Bernard told Axios he began experimenting with "touch" upgrades in 2007 when only one other major haunt in the country was offering it.

  • Customers consistently asked for "more scares, more intensity," Bernard said. "Putting our hands on the customers really changed the intensity more than anything else I could do."
  • Now Fear Factory and Asylum 49 in Tooele also have touch options.

Threat level: Castle of Chaos offers multiple levels of contact at varying ticket prices, so visitors can match their experience to their fear threshold.

  • A regular ticket is $25, but for another $4, actors could briefly grab your shoulders or leg, or touch your hair. For $7, they might carry you away.
  • A $50 "Level 5" ticket guarantees the most extreme version of every hands-on encounter, and guests are taken (possibly dragged) to extra rooms.

Yes, but: Actors still need a lot of training to read visitors' reactions and dial it back — or even break character — if the participants aren't having fun.

  • At least a year of experience is required for Castle of Chaos actors to touch guests, only longtime staff do the higher levels, and there are training sessions all summer.

The latest: After years of escalating frights, some haunts are focusing on less scary options, Bernard said — a process that began at Castle of Chaos when visitors were literally wetting themselves.

  • "We got too scary," Bernard said. "At first we were like, 'This is great. We're the scariest ever.' And then I went, 'Look, guys, that's really not fun for the person pissing their pants.'"
  • Now visitors can get a "Monsters be gone" ticket, with a wand that cues the cast to act afraid of them — "so you have the power to lower the intensity," Bernard said.

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