The ScareHouse's Fright Site

From the Web to social media, the “must see” ScareHouse makes a terrifyingly good online showing.

In order to truly appreciate the coming-at-you-from-all-sides thrill of The ScareHouse, the acclaimed Halloween haunted-house attraction in Etna, you really have to visit it. After all, ScareHouse, ranked by the Travel Channel as one of “America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions,” is an immersive experience, filled with live actors, 3-D effects, jarring noises and elaborate props.

But props also go to ScareHouse for its use of the Internet, including and social media, which gives visitors a tantalizing taste of the terror to come.

Scott Simmons, co-owner of The ScareHouse, says the website is designed to do two things: serve as a way for people to quickly and easily get the information they need to visit the haunt (location, hours, etc.), and to act as a pre-show to the haunt itself. That’s the unique part, and ScareHouse’s site does it primarily with slickly produced videos that introduce the characters and allow behind-the-scenes peeks at the costume and prop designers, and make-up artists. A highlight is “The Haunts” area of the site, an interactive preview of the themes and plots of the three haunts; this year’s haunts are “Delirium 3-D,” “Rampage!” and “The Forsaken.”

“My ‘Yoda’ of Web design is my friend T.J. Mannarino, director of art and design for the Entertainment Division of the Universal Orlando Resort,” Simmons says. “He inspired me to use the site as a pre-show and taught me that when visitors know some of what to expect at an attraction, it heightens their anticipation and enjoyment.” Mannarino also introduced Simmons to Chad Cooper, who designed a ScareHouse site that is not only pretty (despite the very unpretty inhabitants) but also superbly user-friendly.

The ScareHouse site includes more than just information about the haunts: Site visitors can find links to podcasts on iTunes, ones that include the haunting history behind ScareHouse’s building.

Simmons is well-known (and well-liked) in the Pittsburgh area’s social-media community; he’s known for his genuine nature, eagerness to help promote charitable causes and his use of a medium like Twitter for far more than ScareHouse promotion. “Twitter is like a party,” Simmons says. “If all you do is talk about yourself and not take an active interest in others, that’s boring. People will just walk away.”

Owners of haunted attractions all over the country have taken notice of Simmons’ successful use of the Internet. But that doesn’t mean they understand. “I hear all the time from owners of other haunts who don’t understand why I put so much work into the website and social media,” Simmons says. “They may not see the value, but it’s clear to me.”

For Simmons, getting every aspect of The ScareHouse’s website perfect is practically an obsession. But when you’re the owner of one of the nation’s top haunted attractions, you know the devil is in the details.

Join the party by following @ScareHouseScott on Twitter.

(The ScareHouse, 118 Locust St., Etna. Open select dates between Sept. 24 and Oct. 31: Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.-midnight; Sun.-Thu: 7-10 p.m. $18. Info: 412/781-5885,

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