Frightland endeavors to scare leukemia out of existence
ST. GEORGES – One of the nation’s top haunted attractions welcomes tens of thousands of visitors annually, with part of the money they spend earmarked to support leukemia research in Delaware.
With eight haunted attractions and a carnival-style playground, Frightland has been ranked in the Top 10 haunted attractions in the country by national media outlets such as Forbes, Huffington Post and Travel Channel.
Frightland co-founder and co-owner Nick Ferrara opened the attraction on 80 acres of the 1,300 acres that his family owns on Port Penn Road one year before his 3-year-old daughter Natalia was diagnosed with leukemia. Today, Natalia is in remission and Frightland packs in the families and high-school students from Sept. 27 to Nov. 2.
But over that time, the Ferraras and Frightland’s co-owners have done everything they can to help scare the life out of leukemia. All the proceeds from their $5 parking charges, and 10% of all profits go towards the nonprofit that Denni Ferrara began to help streamline their donations, Leukemia Research Foundation of Delaware – amounting to around $2.25 million. In addition to their Frightland donations, the Ferraras use their farm to play host to other events year-round. Over the last decade, the Delaware Mud Run and Mud Run Jr. have contributed $3.5 million to the Leukemia Research Foundation of Delaware.
In addition to marketing itself, Frightland helps promote the “13 Haunts,” which is a group of attractions, including Field of Screams, Fright Factory, and other establishments within 100 miles spanning from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Instead of viewing everybody as competition, they chose to view them as partners in crime and look to create a sense of a scare community in the tri-state area. Frightland Marketing Manager Kyle McMahon says the company’s research shows that most people visit multiple attractions during the spooky season, so it made sense to partner with other locations and enhance everybody’s experience over that time.
Frightland is always updating and improving its overall experience, not only year to year, but even week to week. “If you come week one, you could have a totally different experience than if someone comes in week five,” McMahon said. With 60% of its customers coming back every year, it is important to keep everything fresh. With such a high volume of customers, Frightland had to “find the delicate balance between putting on a show and being able to optimize the experience for the customers,” he added.
In order to avoid these issues, Frightland offers theme nights targeted at college students, fraternity and sorority members, and veterans on less busy nights like Thursday or Sunday to spread out the customers coming through the gates. These specialized offers include discounted tickets and getting your groups announced via the loudspeaker during the night.
Frightland has a very avid social media following, including more than 51,000 followers on Facebook. Their passionate customers are very active in the comments section of their posts and are always available to provide their opinions when asked. McMahon explained how they do take all feedback into consideration and have adopted some of the ideas.
Frightland asked its Facebook followers about their favorite attraction, and the Haunted Hayride and The Attic accounted for more than 60% of the answers. The Attic is as creepy as the ambiguous name infers. The complete darkness makes it impossible to see more than six inches in front of your face while traversing an extremely tight and narrow maze, where experienced employees in ghoulish garb are waiting to scare visitors into next week.
While they have a large following not only here in the tri-state area but across the country, Frightland also entertains a couple from Switzerland who come every other year to experience Frightland again and to see how it has evolved since their last visit. This sense of community also helps employee retention. Frightland averages roughly a 60% employee return rate from season to season, which McMahon said “can be attributed to the long nights and the weird experiences. It’s hard not to get close by the end of it.”
And in many cases, there is no end to the season as many staff members work year-round to fix, tweak, and in some cases, make major changes.
“In order to keep things fresh, we aim to completely renovate one to two major attractions a year” McMahon said. “This ensures our number of repeat customers get a new and exciting experience from year to year.”
By Max Osborne