Every autumn, millions of Americans flock to haunted houses, happily willing to pay $20 or $30 to get petrified out of their wits. Scaring people is no amateur game: haunted houses make up a $300 million industry in the U.S. But there are only so many ways you can startle someone effectively (check out some DIY ideas here). So how do big-name haunted houses keep scaring customers year after year?
For answers, we turned to the creative team behind Terror Behind the Walls, a Philadelphia haunted house that’s regularly named one of the nation’s scariest and best. Now in its 24th season, the show uses a combination of animatronics, prosthetic flesh and boils for actors, and sheer surprise to properly terrify each and every visitor. (A Fast Company colleague who visited the attraction years ago describes her experience this way: “my high school boyfriend ended up screaming in the fetal position.”) It doesn’t hurt that this particular haunted house is located inside a building that would be a little spooky even in broad daylight–a decaying 19th-century prison that reportedly drove its inhabitants insane through its use of solitary confinement. […]