We've all gone into those cheesy carnival haunted houses. The kinds of places where there's maybe a strobe light flickering on a plastic skeleton, or a gin-breathed spooky-looking clown that touches you too much. These are just Halloween attractions: fun scares meant to get you in the spirit of the holiday; dumb rides where parents dutifully remind their children "it's not real" and "it can't hurt you."
Well, guess what? That's a lie. Sometimes these Halloween haunted houses and hay rides can not only hurt you - they can kill you. This list explores incidents where people got much more than a scare to keep them up at night - they got the dirt nap that lasts forever. Let's take a look at some occasions where fake Halloween attractions killed real people.
A High School Principal Hanged Himself In Front Of His Students
In September 1957, in the small farming community of Utica, Kansas, local parents and school officials were growing worried about the extent to which the high school seniors were hazing the incoming freshman. Annual gymnasium parties commemorating the new pupils had resulted in too much rough-housing, so English teacher Betty Stevens and Principal William Hobert Sallee devised something different for their students.
Mrs. Stevens led her charges to an abandoned farmhouse a couple miles outside of town. Her and some other school staff had decorated the dilapidated home as a haunted house for a pre-Halloween party. The centerpiece was Principal Sallee, who would pretend to be hanging in the middle of a dark room, covered in greasepaint and ketchup to simulate blood.
The students did indeed get a kick out of the moaning, limply hanging principal. Sallee had turned in what appeared to be a masterful performance. But when Mrs. Stevens slipped out of the party to get a picture of Sallee, she made a shocking discovery - he had slipped, causing the noose to tighten on his neck. The moaning and struggling principal hadn't been acting at all - the students actually witnessed the slow, painful death of Mr. Sallee.
A Teen Was Scared To Death In An Ohio Haunted House
On October 17, 2014, 16-year-old Christian Faith Benge visited Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park in Middletown, Ohio - a seasonal Halloween attraction where her father's band was to perform that evening. Benge entered one of the haunted house exhibits - a typical dark, maze-like environment where actors pop out to produce jump scares, not unlike countless other attractions across the country. About half-way through the exhibit, Benge collapsed. She was given CPR and rushed to the hospital, but Benge succumbed to a fatal heart attack.
Christian Faith Benge had been born with a birth defect where she had only one lung, which caused chronic breathing issues and put significant stress on her heart. The county coroners' office would later speculate that fear had exacerbated the teen's fatal condition.
A Fake Noose Delivered A Real-Life Hanging
On October 20, 1990, 17-year-old Brian Jewell was working at a Lakewood, NJ haunted hayride, performing a stunt he had done several times before. In the act, Jewell would simulate hanging himself with a fake noose by stepping off a platform and secretly putting one foot on the ground, out of view of the audience.
That night, however, the noose - which was designed to not tighten - inexplicably choked and killed Jewell when he stepped off the platform. About 40 people unwittingly saw a real hanging corpse, as the hayride operator only became concerned later when it dawned on him that Jewell had not delivered his usual scripted speech.
A Haunted Hayride Lead To Vehicular Homicide
On Halloween night in 2016, in the small town of Chunky, Mississippi, a haunted hayride ended in a fatal disaster. The modest ride, holding just 10 guests, was leisurely moving along the rural Mississippi countryside, offering up some minor, wholesome scares on a warm autumn evening, when tragedy struck - a large Ford F-150 pick-up truck bolted out of the darkness and blindsided the tractor-trailor. All 10 passengers were injured, and three were tragically killed: 33-year-old Kristina Shaver, and her two children Baylie (8) and Brooke (2).