Sidney’s local haunted attraction, Sinister Sidney-Frights on Filmore St., opens for its sixth Halloween season on Friday, Oct. 2. Tickets are $13, with discounts for non-perishable donations.
The outdoor horror adventure is located at 1308 Filmore St. in Sidney, and owned and run by residents Mike and Laurie Ross. Sinister Sidney is open every Friday and Saturday night in October from dusk until 11 p.m., weather permitting. Visitors are asked to check Facebook for open status if the weather is questionable.
Sinister Sidney is a self-led half mile jaunt through forest and open ground in which visitors encounter spooks and scenes just behind the next tree, over the hill, around every corner or sneaking up behind them.
Ross describes Sinister Sidney as “not a scream in your face” haunt, but rather one that preys on phobias and fears. They rely on the “creepy factor,” and intend for visitors to the haunt to still be looking behind them for the rest of the night after they get home.
Visitors to the haunt will be greeted by monsters created by the Rosses and their crew of haunt helpers, as well as props and scenes that are tweaked each year, so visitors will never see exactly the same haunt they saw the year before. Some possible scenes include a maze, a hillbilly shack, a witches hut and Euthanasia’s CarnEvil Big Top.
Natural props are incorporated on the trail, as well as “bio props.” When trees fall, they become part of the scene, safely. The dead raccoon prop in a scene may actually be a dead raccoon, so visitors may want to resist the urge to touch props, should they be so inclined. Conveniently, there is a real cemetery on the haunt grounds, the Mulberry Grove Cemetery, which visitors will not walk through, but will walk by.
COVID-19 has forced some changes to the haunt this year, as visitors will be required to wear masks just like the actors will, and social distancing will be followed in the waiting line. Groups being sent through will be no larger than six people, but this isn’t really a change, the Ross said. The mid-trail stopping point for a hot chocolate and warm up by the fire is cancelled for this year. George C. Grape Community Hospital in Hamburg was kind enough to donate some masks to the haunt for the cast and crew and for use by visitors who don’t have one.
Visitors to the haunt must be 12 or older. The crew keeps a coded count each night of visitors who are frightened into three types of biological accidents or just “chickening out” entirely, and consider it a measure of their success.
This is a trail adventure, and visitors are advised to dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. High heels and flip flops are not only impractical in this situation, but tend to impede quick getaways when visitors are frightened. The haunt has seen more than one visitor leave with one or more less shoes than they arrived with, and there is a part of one of the scenes that includes a pile of shoes from people who left them behind in their rush.
Sinister Sidney is a dedicated donor to the West Central Food Pantry of Sidney and continues its annual practice this year. Every night they are open, the haunt allows up to $3 off any $13 admission with a donation of at least three non-perishable items for the food bank.
In a normal year, the haunt would average about 40 volunteers, but COVID-19 has affected that, too, and Ross would be happy to accept additional volunteers this year. The Rosses consider their crew of volunteers one big family, and say that is why they keep coming back year after year.
“There is no way we could do this each year without our cast and crew,” Mike and Laurie agree, “and we love them all.”
Sinister Sidney has built a name for itself in the haunt industry. Out of 53-plus haunts in Iowa, Scare Factor named Sinister Sidney No. 2, on its “Must See” list in 2018, and No. 1 in 2019. The host of Sinister Sidney, The Grave Digger, was named the No. 1 International Scare Actor in 2019. Several of the haunt’s actors have also competed in the Scare Actor contest. Sinister Sidney has received all 5 star reviews. The Grave Digger and Mistress Laurie have a monthly talk show on Facebook and YouTube called Haunt Chat Live, and they are listed on IMDB.
For more information about Sinister Sidney, visit sinistersidney.com, where a link to the haunt’s Facebook page can also be found, as well as links to Sinister Sidney’s YouTube clips. Also see The Grave Digger, Reverend Michael and Haunt Chat Live with the Grave Digger and Mistress Laurie on Facebook.
This year in particular, many other haunted attractions may be closed due to COVID-19, and Ross encourages scare enthusiasts to come give Sinister Sidney a try. This is a great opportunity to try something new.
As their flyer suggests, “Enter if you dare, escape if you can!”
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