Camden Park opens 20th year of Spooktacular
HUNTINGTON — Jack Boylin is done with dark and stormy nights.
He just wants a dark and spooky night — preferably skeleton bone dry.
After one of the rainiest summers in his memory, Boylin, who operates the family-owned Camden Park, has the historic park prepped for the landing of the 20th annual Spooktacular, the Halloween-themed event which kicked off Friday and rolls through October’s end.
Spooktacular runs 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, and then every Friday and Saturday in October.
This special 20th anniversary edition of Spooktacular also expands into a Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 18-20 run, and then a four-day run Wednesday, Oct. 24 through Saturday, Oct. 27.
Admission on Wednesdays and Thursdays is $13.99, on Fridays it’s $16.99, and on Saturdays it’s $21.99. Area McDonald’s have discount coupons and there are discount coupons online as well at camdenpark.com.
Boylin said they’ve been working at the park for the past few weeks to get all of the haunted attractions and special decorations up and running.
The 1903-built park, which has its own level of creepiness at night thanks to its location on the banks of Twelvepole Creek and the Ohio River, and being home to one of the region’s Native American Burial Mounds, is transformed into a fog-filled stomping ground for ghosts, ghouls and goblins.
There will be more than 20 rides and attractions, including its historic Haunted House that is one of only two gravity-fed Pretzel rides still left in the United States. The other one is The Devil’s Den, located at Conneaut Lake in western Pennslyvania.
In 1961, Camden Park got a Bill Tracy-designed remake of its Pretzel gravity ride, which was re-branded as The Haunted House. The historic ride which dates back to the 1920s got a fresh makeover by Tracy-influenced Connecticut artist Chuck Burnham, who repainted the outside and the eight-turn inside a few years ago.
Camden Park will also have a haunted version of its train that has circled the park’s back 40 or so years behind the log flume and through a tunnel and by Swan Lake. Riders pass by static scenes as well as costumed actors who bring some frights to life chasing the train.
For those who want a little heart-pounding exercise, there’s two walk-through haunted houses, called Coulrophobia that is filled with clowns, as well as another new maze from last year — Camden Memorial, where the zombie patients are dying to get out.
“Everybody likes the train where it is a little bit laid back until its frightening, and it’s a little more interactive than the Haunted House,” Boylin said. “You can also walk through so you have a different experience than just sitting there.”
There’s also a kid-friendly hay bale maze, as well as the nighttime fun of park favorites like the Big Dipper, the Whip, the Rattler and Slingshot.
The park will be tricked out for Halloween, and games and concessions as well as the arcade and restaurant will be open.
Boylin said they are excited for Spooktacular, which continues to grow in its reach and crowds. Boylin said 20 years ago when they started it was pretty rare for amusement parks to do a Halloween themed weekends. In fact, King’s Island’s Halloween Haunts is in its 12th year.
“Now all of the amusement parks are doing it and it really has expanded and is getting bigger every year,” Boylin said. “I think the level of interest in it gets bigger as we have expanded it and for a lot of our customers it is their favorite thing that we do.”
That interest caused Boylin to go ahead and tack on additional weekdays in late October as folks get amped up for Halloween.
“It’s always dependent upon the weather but we are packed on the weekend days that we are already opened so hopefully this will help with some of the spillover,” Boylin said. “We normally get more of a local crowd than we do in the summer, from about an hour away, but sometimes more, and we there are people who are traveling from farther away and staying in hotels.”
Interestingly, Camden Park, which will be featured prominently in the new Bethesda Game Studios’ video game “Fallout 76,” that is set to come out, is already drawing additional response to the park.
The park, which held a July “Fallout 76” fan meet-up, hosted a German production team that interviewed Boylin and shot footage in the park for publicity for the video game, which is to be launched worldwide on Nov. 14.
“Fallout 76” is an apocalyptic video game set in West Virginia at such iconic spots as the state Capitol, WVU, The Greenbrier resort and Camden Park, and featuring a wide range of creatures from Mothman to the Flatwoods Monster.
“Today we had a group from Germany that showed up and they are touring the whole state and they had been at the Greenbrier and the Capitol and were heading up to Mothman and then heading north,” Boylin said. “They are making a documentary for Europe.”
Boylin said one interesting thing park-related about the game that they revealed was that in the game, players will be able to play amusement-park style games that are similar to Camden Park’s.
“This is an advanced part of the game so some of the higher level players could be spending a lot of time in the park in the game,” Boylin said.
He said after the July meet-up, while there was, and still is, a lot of buzz about the park being in “Fallout 76,” it has not translated to more crowds from farther afield — yet.
“It’s hard to tell right now what the impact has been because this summer’s rain affected everything,” Boylin said. “It’s been a weird year. I’ve never seen so much rain in our life. There was literally just one week the whole summer without rain and now it’s hot like August. So in the summer when we had a lot of interest from people about ‘Fallout 76’ it hasn’t translated into larger crowds because when people wanted to come it was raining. We may find out in October that we will get a surge. We do have people calling and asking, where we are and what we are.
“It is one of those things that we didn’t know was coming so it has been such a nice surprise and it is such good publicity for the state. One of the things that the Germans asked was if we were worried about them showing West Virginia being destroyed. and I said no we were worried about them showing West Virginians as hillbillies. This seems like it is going to be very well done and I think it helps that the guys who designed it and made the game are from the region.”