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Thrills abound at local haunts

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013

Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 14:10

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LINDY BEYERINK/Northern Iowan

A frightening figure stands guard at The Heart of Darkness. The haunted attraction, outside Waterloo, is open until Nov. 2.

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LINDY BEYERINK/Northern Iowan

Skeletons line a wall at Panic Park Haunted House. The park is the only charity haunted house in Iowa, according to Kevin Schults, operator of the attraction.

Halloween is just three weeks away, and for some people that means it’s time to visit haunted houses. The Cedar Valley offers several “haunted” locations, including Panic Park Haunted House and The Heart of Darkness.

Panic Park:

A dark maze, The Exorcist and Santa Clause are just some of the occupants of Panic Park Haunted House. Kevin Schults, 41, operator of Panic Park Haunted House, said the attraction begins with a tram ride that takes guests up to the haunted house. Schults said University of Northern Iowa students built the cemetery that lies right outside of it.“You do have your one main theme with the Area 51 Alien Invasion tram ride, (but) Panic Park is designed as a multi-themed haunted attraction. Everything is a collage of the best things in horror," said Schults.

Schults said about 20 volunteers show up to help run the attraction every night it is open. He said volunteers are always welcome and that some are even UNI students. “This is the only charity haunted house,” Schults said. “All the funds that come in are actually designed to help the parks, bring a better park service and everything to the Cedar Valley. ... I'm really proud to be a part of it."

Panic Park Haunted House is hosted by the Black Hawk County Conservation Board, according to Chris Dunkin, ranger of the board. It can be found at 5932 N. Union Road in Cedar Falls in an old cub scouts' building.

Admission is $12 and coupons can be found online at www.panicpark.org.

Heart of Darkness:

At Heartland Farms near Waterloo, thrill-seekers can find The Heart of Darkness. Schults, who also owns the Heart of Darkness, said the attraction has the longest walk-thru in Iowa at about 30 minutes. This year is the 13th year the attraction has been open.There are 9 different themed areas in The Heart of Darkness, including Phantom School Bus, Slaughter Cabin and the new Clown Asylum, in 3-D. Another new feature is the “party room,” in which people can watch horror movies, grab a snack from the concessions stand or take a free picture at the zombie photo booth instead of waiting in line to enter the attraction. There will also be a disc jockey from Lynwood Productions. 

Schults said he wanted to “make sure people are not bored to death waiting.”Work for this year’s handcrafted attraction started in April and was not finished until right before opening night, Schults said. Volunteers helped construct the attraction, and now that it is open, they can also come in and get decked out to scare visitors. "We are adrenaline junkies,” Schults said. “When we come up and scare you, our job is to make you feel like you're that close to a life and death situation … You are either going to fight, flight or fetal."

According to Schults, 300 to 500 guests show up every weekend night in October to experience this haunted event. 

Heart of Darkness is at 5111 Osage Road near Waterloo. Doors open at 7 p.m. and admission is $17. Discounts can be found online, with special deals for students and those in the military.

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