Despite legions of workers disguised as pumpkins and tours of creepy places like underground tunnels, Fermilab’s biggest Haunted House in 20 years somehow missed the mark last month: Not a single visitor was reported to have screamed in surprise, cried out for a parent or fainted from shock.
“We brought in trillions and trillions of ghostly neutrinos for the day, and it’s like the guests didn’t even notice!” said Andrea Heeg, the Haunted Open House coordinator. “Kids these days are a lot more jaded than I anticipated.”
Other scary offerings included the Bus Ride of Doom, the 15th Floor of Mystery, possessed bison, the Incredible Invisible Mu2e Detector, the Trails of Fire prairie tours, an open portal to CERN and a few rituals performed in the art gallery. But neither those nor Nigel Lockyer’s patented “sneaky creepies” seemed to faze anyone.
“I’d tiptoe up behind people while they were staring at Muon g-2, or doing a hands-on activity at the STEM fair, then give them a big ‘BOO!’” Lockyer said. “And all they did was smile and ask me how our accelerators work. It started to freak me out a bit, actually.”
Some 10,000 visitors left the site better informed about particle physics, and more than 90 percent of respondents to the Haunted Open House survey indicated that they would like to come back and visit Fermilab again. Only one respondent mentioned fear, noting, “It’s scary how hard it was to get tickets to Mr. Freeze.”
A team recently submitted recommendations on how to improve the next Haunted Open House, which included opening up the Pioneer Cemetery, flying drones dressed as witches around the site and hiring zombies to eat brains in areas like the Cryomodule Test Facility.
“Our first mistake was probably holding the Haunted House on September 23,” said Katie Yurkewicz, head of the Office of Communication. “People weren’t really in the Halloween spirit yet for some reason. When we do this again next year, we should probably aim for October or November.”
Shortly after hearing her comment, Spencer Pasero, head of the Office of Education and Public Outreach, was spotted fleeing through the Big Woods, screaming in terror.