Co-authored by Jacob Exline of The Collins Law Firm, P.C.
There is blood everywhere. A masked man is coming straight for you with an axe. Are you in danger? Maybe, but not for the reasons you think. It's October and you're at a haunted house. The masked man may not hurt you, but there are plenty of risks of injuries. Haunted houses walk a fine line by creating real fear without following through with the expected dangerous outcome. However, every now and again that line is crossed, whether it be negligent or intentional.
In 2014, there were multiple reports of injuries caused by haunted houses. Injuries can be caused by a myriad of things - slip and falls, trampling, exposed screws and nails, unstable props, actors going too far in their scares, and many other things. In Arlington, TX, a teenager was poked in the eye and required surgery when an employee "popped out of nowhere" and came too close to her eye.1 In California, a woman fell and broke her leg when a moving wall knocked her down.2 Also, in South Carolina, a woman suffered a concussion and minor cuts when a vertical pole fell and struck her on the head.3 The California woman is suing the haunted house for negligence due to defective and unsafe premises. An employee dressed as a clown from an Illinois haunted house was arrested after following patrons around the parking lot, making lewd and inappropriate comments and gestures while poking and touching them.4
In Illinois, a haunted house has to go through a rigorous inspection before being certified to operate. The haunted house must submit an application to the Department of Labor and then an inspection of the premises must take place prior to operation. If the haunted house is up to safety code then it will be allowed to operate. Permits are issued yearly so the haunted house must apply for the permit and be inspected every year.5 Employees must go through criminal and sex offender background checks as well as participate in random drug testing.
However, just because a haunted house has been issued a permit after a one-time inspection doesn't necessarily mean it is safe. Many haunted houses are dark, loud and scary. Patrons need to be aware of the dangers they may be encountering. As with anything, caution and safety are the most important parts to enjoying the Halloween season. Read the rules and policies and make sure you understand what you are getting into before entering the haunted house.
1 WFAA8 ABC - "Teen Claims Injury at Arlington Haunted House" (October 13, 2013)