By: JORDAN RAE LUCAS
Niles Scream Park, an autumnal staple in the Michiana area, is known across the Midwest for its tricks and locally for its treats.
It is no secret that the isolated plot of land off Mayflower Road is the place to go for Halloween thrills. Niles Scream Park appears on several different lists of best haunted attractions, including HauntedHouseChicago.com’s Top 13 list for six consecutive years and the South Bend Tribune’s 2015 Readers’ Choice award for “Best Halloween Activity.”
Pete Karlowicz, who has been involved with the nonprofit as an owner since 1980, credits the volunteers for the accolades the park has received.
“No matter how well designed or well built or well decorated this place is, it falls back on the volunteers staffing it,” he said.
Niles Scream Park is a non-profit organization run almost entirely by volunteers, and all the proceeds go right back into the community each year. With three haunted houses, a maze, a haunted hayride, a midway and 15 acres of parking, the staff required to run the operation is massive.
“On a busy night, most people have no clue we have over 200 people working here,” Karlowicz said.
According to their website, more than 65 different organizations send volunteers each year, but Karlowicz said that this is not an entirely accurate number.
“We use 65 because we really don’t know how many it is. We know that 65 is a comfortable number because we know it’s always more than that,” Karlowicz said. “We don’t have enough. Let’s put it that way.”
Volunteers work year-round to make the Niles Scream Park the success that it is. The organizations involved are rewarded for their hard work. Every year, the profits from the haunting season are donated to these community charities based on the number of hours each charity contributed.
In 2014, $100,494 was distributed to 68 different organizations, including five scholarships to area high school students. Organizations interested in volunteering should call the Niles Scream Park office, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round, at (269) 445-9184.
Aaron Smith, who is the marketing director for Niles Scream Park by day and Death himself by night, explained the year-round element of the park.
“We’re one of the few haunted houses in the country that will change everything completely,” Smith said. “We’ll just tear everything down each year, start over, to just blank walls and empty rooms.”
This year’s attractions include favorites like the Field of Screams maze—which is open but a top-secret new addition is still under construction—the nightmare-themed Dark Terror-tory Haunted Hayride and a clown-centric House of Horror 3D.
The Ashes to Ashes haunted house is a smaller attraction through the smoldering ruins of a girls’ boarding school.
“The nuns abused the children and they’re rebelling,” Smith said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The main attraction is, of course, the Niles Haunted House. The house has a different theme every year, and this year each room pays horrifying tribute to a different work by author Stephen King. According to the website, there are overall 100 possible paths through the attraction.
“[We use] multiple route systems. You can’t see the whole thing in one trip,” Smith said.
The park is open Friday through Saturday through the month of October with special hours on Thursday Oct. 29 and Saturday Nov. 7.
For more information on Niles Scream Park, the attractions and prices, head to http://www.haunted.org, if you dare.