Haunterview, Doug Waterbury, Halloweekends at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park
Oct. 1, 2012
We "chopped it up" with Doug Waterbury, owner/operator of the new Halloweekends at Sylvan Beach...
What gave you the idea to create a Haunted Attraction out of Sylvan Beach?
It has all the elements in place, parking, restrooms, food & beverage, name recognition, it was all in place… It was a no-brainer to follow the lead of other “scream parks” who’ve done the same. Our edge though is the history of the park. It’s an old time park and after the sun sets, it definitely has a creepy-carnival aspect.
I can see that. The park dates well back into the 1880’s, I’ve heard rumors that the park is haunted. Is there any truth to that?
That's an Interesting question. Yes. There are 3 documented ghosts on the property of people who actually lived and worked on the property many years ago. All kinds of “interesting” things have happened to our park employees as well as guests & people in the community. There have been sightings, and all sorts of paranormal interactions. There is a ghost named “Jack”, who was a maintenece worker on the property many years ago, he lived in the old “Royal Hotel” which we also operate now as Yesterdays Royal Restaurant & Bar (next to the midway). A paranormal investigation organization with a television program has been in contact and expressed interest in the property, and in looking into what kind of activity is going on. We’re kind of excited about it.
You’ve owned the park for a few years now, how long have you planning to do this?
The concept was there years ago. We’ve been planning the event for a little over a year, with the execution taking place over the last 6 months We are putting the finishing touches on right down.
Tell us about the main Haunt- Blood Bath at the Beach… Did you design and build the Haunted House yourself?
I hired a gentleman named Richard Hanf, who is a nationally recognized professional in the industry with over 30 years experience. It’s an intense, indoor walkthrough that is not recommended for all ages. We think people are going to love it. He’s designed and run Haunted Attractions in New Jersey, NYC/Long Island, Nightmare in New England, New Orleans etc. I met Rich at the HauntCon convention where he put on a seminar years ago. He helped build the house and put together a team of Scareactors for the house. He’s helping manage the entire attraction. We’re very like-minded so it’s a good collaboration.
Right: The 10' Tall "REAPER"
What can people expect to see at Halloweekends that they may not see in the average mom & pop neighborhood haunted house?
Without giving too much away, we’ve invested in everything from high quality animatronics, to huge stalk-about creatures (from gore-galore) that stand 8, 10 & 12 feet tall. When a scare-actor gets in character, the costume becomes an “extension” of sorts. Very mobile, very flexible, easy to chase people. It’s quite imposing.
What age group would you say Halloweekends is appropriate for?
We’ve closed off the kiddy rides so people don’t get the wrong idea and bring small children. The rides and concessions will be running, and there will be creatures walking around. There will be plenty to do for pre-teens, and the Haunted Attractions are intense. Not recommended for young children.
You mentioned the rides. I notice the price is right around the same as it would be during the summer for just a ride pass, but this includes the Haunts?
Yes, we wanted to make it budget-friendly. We realize it’s a new event, and we want people to give us a shot. We do have all the amenities you won’t find at elsewhere. No muddy trails, lit paved walks, working restrooms instead of the dreaded porta-potties you see at most haunts. The beach hut restaurant with indoor & outdoor seating, hamburgers, pizza, fried dough… Sweet street with cotton candy, Candy apples & all the carnival treats. All with the backdrop of a spooky old amusement park. It’s truly a Haunted Carnival atmosphere.
You included the old “Dark Ride” Laffland in Halloweekends, I’m a nerd for dark rides so I have to ask...
Most of the scares in a 50's Dark Ride are usually low tech and mechanical; A twisting- turning ride through pitch blackness with unnerving low-tech sounds triggered by the carriage. What’s different now in Laffland?
It’s now known as “Scream Land”. There is all new sound and light effects as well as the “undead” waiting in the dark. The 50’s dark ride has come into the 21st century. Anyone going in expecting an old fashioned Dark Ride, is in for a surprise.
Any other things on the Horizon, or plans to expand in the coming years?
We’ll be eventually making use of the stage and 200 seats in Yesterday’s Royal for an interactive dinner theater experience. The vision is a live “rocky horror” type stage show.
All in due time. We’re committed in the long term to the haunt industry with plans to expand and grow.
Central New York is a fall-time loving, Halloween celebrating community that LOVES haunts. We appreciate your efforts, and look forward to checking out Halloweekends at Sylvan Beach. Best of luck!