Mon. Nov 28th, 2022

Things were taking a turn for the ominous even at the gates of Adventureland Park as daylight waned and media waited for a sneak peek of the amusement park’s new Phantom Fall Fest.
“The gates are locked,” said Tami Hansen, Adventureland’s marketing director, as she searched for keys.
“Anyone here know ‘Goosebumps’?” asked Andrew Fuller, the Season One winner of the Nexflix show “Is This Cake?” and one of those invited to preview the new festival. He referred to the “HorrorLand” entries of R.L. Stine’s teen horror book series.
The keys to the gate were never found and Fuller and other media were asked to enter through the back.
“It’s seriously been my life dream to be trapped in an abandoned amusement park,” Fuller told the Des Moines Register once inside the park. “So bringing … my love of Halloween and theme parks together, it’s just an absolute dream come true.”
Phantom Fall Fest’s new seasonal programming opens at Adventureland, 3200Adventureland Drive in Altoona, for the first time this weekend.
Palace Entertainment, the organization that purchased Adventureland from its original owners late last year, puts on these fall festivals at amusement parks it owns nationwide.
This family-friendly event will see the park take on a spooky tone from 6 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, from 1 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 to 8 p.m. on Sundays through Oct. 30. The Halloween-loving Fuller will be publicly attending the event on Saturday, Oct. 1, as a celebrity guest.
“One of the exciting things about Phantom Fall Fest is that we’ll be open later than we’ve ever been open before,” said Alex Payne, a public relations manager with Palace Entertainment. That means the park will get to showcase new programable LED light packaging on most of the rides, which will be running. “If you’ve experienced the rides during the day, it’s a completely different experience at night.”
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The festival includes Halloween-themed food, a death-metal vampire DJ, four haunted houses and three “scare zones,” open-air-themed walk-through locations around the park.
Though Phantom Fall Fest is family-friendly, it is recommended for those age 13 and older. The event also comes with a chaperone policy that requires that anyone 17 and younger to have a chaperone of 21 or older with them.
The haunted houses throughout the park include “mAlice in Wonderland,” “The Corn Stalkers,” “CarnEVIL” and “Spirits of the Swamp.” According to Payne, the approximate walk-through time on most of these maze-like haunts is five to 10 minutes depending on how long attendees choose to move as actors and scares go bump in the night around them.
“We’ve hired in a lot of our own staff and we’ve also worked with Gaff Box, (who are) the creators of Slaughterhouse, as well as Binx Entertainment to be able to staff some of the houses,” Payne said.
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The scare zones located throughout the park are themed “Death Metal Vampires,” “Arachnophobia” and “MasqueRAGE: The Phantom’s World.”
“Scare zones will be fog and props and people popping out as you’re walking around,” explained Payne as he led media through the park. “We will have no-boo necklaces, which you can purchase and then you wear it and the scare actors aren’t supposed to scare you.”
Those interested will be able to access most of the features of the festival simply by paying for standard park admission.
“The cool thing is, this year it’s kind of the introduction,” Hansen said. “People are going to get the feel of it and it’s only going to get bigger and better from here.”
Fun Foods, the Cone Shop, and Doc & Leon’s Diner within the park will have a variety of treats for thrill-seekers.
As Hansen and Payne explained, most of the Halloween-themed items are candies and confectionary food — with popcorn and cookies being presented in glow-in-the-dark buckets. Visitors can also purchase alcoholic drinks such as red wine served as “blood bags” and Jello shots that are themed as “syringe shots.”
Also on the menu, pumpkin-flavored mini-doughnuts and creepy candy apples, as well as an array of fudges made in-house with flavors such as spiderweb cotton candy, caramel apple pie and killer candy corn that Fuller noted was one of his favorites.
Staff worked to finish other haunted houses and scare zones, so amusement park officials only revealed “mAlice in Wonderland” is the haunted house media visited.
This particular attraction, themed after Lewis Carroll’s classic novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” charges an additional $5, although platinum pass holders will be able to get in free the first two weekends and gold pass holders will be able to get in free the first weekend.
“It’s a more experiential house,” explained Adventureland’s general manager Bill Lentz regarding the extra price tag attached to “mAlice.” “It’s something that much more common now at all the parks to try to have a little more for one of the attractions.”
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The house stands in the shadow of the Dragon Slayer roller coaster in a spot that once housed the remnants of The Dragon, a ride replaced by Dragon Slayer in 2021.
Participants encounter Alice early on and choose to take a left through the looking glass or hang a right down the rabbit hole. Depending on the path taken, attendees will encounter different sights and frights before exiting and — if they so dare — going through again. 
Though there are similarly themed haunted houses across other Palace Entertainment properties, the dozens of actors staffing “mAlice” are able to make the experience unique.
“All of the ‘Alice in Wonderland’s are renting from RWS, so you can use the costumes (and) you can add to them,” explained Rebecca Moews, the assistant manager for Binx Entertainment, which manages that house. “So some of our looks, especially for our main characters, will look different because we added things and changed the makeup. So we added things. No other location has a Bunny Binx. No other location as far as we know has a Cheshire cat.”
Binx Entertainment is a locally based variety entertainment company launched earlier this year by Amy Nichols, a performer who’s worked with the magic show at Adventureland for years. Nichols’ character, Bunny Binx, has also been a part of The Slaughterhouse Haunted House in past years and was also able to slot nicely into the “Alice in Wonderland” theme.
“I am everywhere as the rabbit. I am through the rabbit hole constantly, so I am popping up wherever you’re least expecting me to be,” said Nichols in a costume that blends a magician’s assistant with an out-of-the-hat rabbit. “I’ll also be out front at the very entrance to the cue-line doing meet-and-greets and taking photos with people.”
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Fuller, who went through “mAlice” twice, had a great time and is looking forward to going through again when Phantom Fall Fest opens to the public.
“‘Alice in Wonderland’ (is) my vibe, it’s my whole thing, so I was expecting to be a little bit down, a little more chill… but there were some actual scares in there that got me,” Fuller said. “These actors are top tier and the set design is incredible.”
Those interested in purchasing tickets, which start at $39.99, or finding out more about adventurelandresort.com.
Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Des Moines Register. Reach him at ihamlet@gannett.com or 319-600-2124, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet.

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