Near Miss NOT Enough to Save Scare Actor… Another Halloween Themed Event Claims a Life

Corn maze safety planning

It goes without saying the popularity of Halloween. Halloween has been a growing source of revenue for numerous industries for several decades, an 8+ billion a year industry. This once happy-go-lucky kid-centric holiday has been hijacked by teenagers and adults seeking extreme experiences and encounters. Anyone with a T.V. can attest to the fact that pushing the envelope of fear seems to be the new norm… Halloween or not! Enthusiasts and savvy corporations alike have done an excellent job of capitalizing on the public’s desire for Halloween attractions and events that provide freighting and sometimes immersive experiences.

As with anything in the attraction and entertainment world, owners and operators are always thinking of new ways to attract larger and more bountiful audiences. Who can blame them, the attraction and entertainment options seem limitless, and as a result, it is difficult to appeal to patrons and ultimately get them to part with their hard earned dollars. This, in some instances, has caused owners and operators to push the limits and reach beyond their capabilities and knowledge base.

Case-in-point… on October 15, 2014 a young man by the name of Jeremy McSpadden Jr. was killed on the job while working as a scare actor at the Incredible Corn Maze near Hauser Lake, Idaho. Jeremy was one of many paid to portray horror-show creatures. While in character, Jeremey was walking next to the bus, lost his footing and slipped under a rear wheel. The hook for this particular event, patrons were provided paintball guns and encouraged to shoot at the scare actors from a converted school bus rolling through a cornfield—an interactive corn maze / zombie apocalypse shooting experience.

The popularity of corn mazes have been on the rise since the early to mid-1990’s. Today, there are hundreds of farms operating mazes as attractions. Originally, mazes were intended to be standalone attractions used for guests to meander through at their leisure. Some, mazes have become known for their artistic value as well. Regardless, this popular form of recreation is a way for farmers to earn additional income during the fall season.

Unfortunately, incidents of a similar nature have occurred over the last several years. In fact, the day prior to Jeremy’s death, a co-worker tripped and fell under the bus, running over him—suffering no injuries. Jeremy’s boss was scheduled to address the issue but had gotten off work late and did not have the opportunity to correct the situation. Jeremy’s boss stated in an interview that Jeremy simply did not have time to react before the bus ran over his head.

To focus, this blog is not anti-corn mazes, Halloween experiences, farmers or overzealous corporations… it is intended to shed light on the continuing problem of inexperienced event planners and producers subjecting patrons and staff to known and foreseeable hazards while experiencing events. There are numerous readily available examples regarding how to effectively develop and operate a Halloween experience—or simply developing an event. Consultants, standards, common practices, previous incidents, trade groups and more address and shed light on the proper way to protect your staff and patrons when developing and event. With proper design, education, and enforcement, a well-planned and innovative event can be equally exhilarating, immersive and safe.

Simply google: Corn Maze Safety, Halloween Safety, Scare Actor Safety, Event Safety and you will find limitless materials on planning a safe event. No more excuses! If you don’t know, ASK!

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Brian D. Avery has over twenty five years of experience in the events, tourism and attractions industry. His background is comprised of three areas of expertise: risk and safety management, event design and execution, and education. Brian routinely is asked to speak on the topic of event and attraction safety and provide expert testimony.
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