WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. -Area thrill-seekers flock to Kennywood every summer for the hair-raising rides, but hard-core park enthusiasts know there are even more thrills in store during the autumn post-season stretch through the end of October.
Over the past decade, Phantom Fright Nights have become a Halloween season tradition at Kennywood in the fall. During Phantom Fright Nights, the park is transformed into a spooky terror-ride mecca complete with scare zones and horrifying, costumed ghouls that interact with park patrons.
Kennywood has seen great success with Phantom Fright Nights since its debut in 2002, and with the unseasonably warm weather this month, October weekends have presented picture-perfect opportunities for visitors to come and have a pulse-raising good time.
"Our guests come back year after year because we offer something different compared to your average haunted house," Marie Ruby, director of ride operations and the mastermind behind Phantom Fright Nights, said. "We offer an experience that shrouds the entire park in Halloween fear and sustains that feeling from the moment you arrive until the moment you try to leave!"
A total of 18 of the park's signature attractions and thrill rides - including Aero 360, the Black Widow, Swingshot, a ghoulishly transformed Noah's Ark and all of the park's roller coasters - are open in the evenings on weekends leading up to Halloween weekend.
There are also 10 walk-through haunts and scare zones with names like Biofear, Villa of the Vampires, Kennyville Cemetery, Mortem Manor and Voodoo Bayou, among others. Food stands will also be open.
Park officials said there is a tremendous attention to detail when transforming Kennywood into its "sinister alter-ego." Throughout the park, more than 10,000 light bulbs are changed by hand to Halloween colors, and 1,000 gallons of fog fluid for 50 machines create a shroud for more than 300 ghouls, vampires, zombies and other creatures to greet visitors when they least expect it.
Phantom Fright Nights have been recognized as "One of the Best Halloween Events" in industry publication Amusement Today's annual Golden Ticket Awards readers' poll.
Phantom Fright Nights continue every Friday and Saturday night from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. through October 26. This year, a special bonus Sunday night is being offered tonight from 7-11 p.m. (most schools are off for Columbus Day on Monday).
Guests are not permitted to wear Halloween make-up, masks or costumes during Phantom Fright Nights, which is not recommended for children under the age of 13.
For additional information, visit www.phantomfrightnights.com.