By JOANNA PRISCO
For decades, haunted houses have made a killing in the runup to Halloween by frightening visitors with spiders, ghosts, smoke and other chilling animatronics. But one spectacle on the East Coast will literally scare the pants off of you this season.
The Naked and Scared Challenge is a new adults-only experience at Shocktoberfest, a 27-acre fear extravaganza located in Sinking Spring, Pa., where visitors are invited to disrobe if they dare.
"I've been a haunter for 22 years. When we started, we could scare people with plastic masks and knives," said Patrick Konopelski, president and owner of Shocktoberfest. "But over the years we've become desensitized. Hydrolics, pneumatics, special effects -- everyone's aiming for the scariest haunted house. So when we came up with the idea for people to take the tour naked, I thought 'Wouldn't that be wild!'"
The inspiration for the tour is a case of life imitating art. When Konopelski came home to find his four teenagers tuning in to the series "Naked and Afraid" on the Discovery channel, he said his first reaction was "What in the world are you watching?" But after viewing the show himself, he began wondering how he could emulate the experience at Shocktoberfest.
"People are afraid of being naked," said Konopelski. "And, in a way, it allows us to kind of go back to our roots. Instead of animatronics, now I can scare you with a feather."
In order to take the Naked and Scared Challenge at Shocktoberfest, which opens on Friday, participants must reserve tickets ($20) online beforehand and be at least 18 years old. After choosing the "nude" or "prude" (underwear-only) option, guests are asked to sign waivers before undressing in a communal changing room where all of their possessions are secured inside of a bag. Then, it's time for a clothes-free fright.
To ensure that nothing untoward takes place beneath the dimmed lighting, 12 security guards will be placed throughout the course, no cameras are permitted and visitors may only experience the Unknown Haunted House with the group they purchased tickets with, according to Konopelski.
"If you signed up alone, you will walk through alone," he said. "This isn't a place for strangers to meet. This is strictly the right to go through a haunted house nude so it heightens the experience of fear."
Konopelski acknowledged that there has been some local backlash to the tour from those who assume it will lead to debauchery.
"People have trouble disconnecting nudity from sex," he said. "But this is about being naked and vulnerable."
Whether the experience will haunt you afterward is still unknown.