Women Scaring Up Business in the Haunt Industry
Look behind the curtain at some of the most successful haunt attractions, you’ll find women playing key roles. America Haunts, the industry’s leading association applauds contributions women have made to the scare-making entertainment business.
Commercial haunted houses, where ghosts and ghouls are on the clock, proliferated in the 1970’s and 80’s. At that time, few women pulled the strings. Amber Arnett-Bequeaith cut her teeth at her family’s haunted house that started in 1975. Today she reigns over an entire district of haunted houses, including the Beast, and entertainment in Kansas City, as the Queen of Haunts. “I really learned the business at a young age and it fostered an entrepreneurial spirit to not only create an amazing show but to become a leader in my community and an extremely savvy businesswoman. Seasonal business is not for the faint of heart,” said Arnett-Bequeaith. “Scaring is in my blood – as well as my uncle’s [Monty Summers] and we are thrilled to have these haunts among the best in the country.”
Other legendary women in the haunt industry include:
- Anne Bates, Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride, Philadelphia/Glenn Mills. Bates and her husband, Randy, took their farm, and in 1991, transformed it into a haunted haven with hayrides and year-round options, escape rooms, axe throwing, laser tag, and Christmas activities. Anne runs the finances alongside this close-knit family, which includes six grown children and 18 grandchildren, and 350 employees.
- Nancy Jubie, Headless Horseman, New York City/Ulster Park. Jubie and her husband Michael opened this haunted attraction to save their Hudson Valley, 65-acre family farm in 1992. Their attraction employs 350 people to bring to life the legend of Sleepy Hollow, through the countryside with hayrides, corn mazes, and five haunted houses. Nancy and Mike have a shared passion for Halloween and horses, and Mike spent years with the NYPD mounted patrol.
- Donna Wohlgemuth, Spookywoods, Greensboro/Archdale. Wohlgemuth and her husband Tony Wohlgemuth made their forested acreage a haunt attraction 35 years ago and continue to enhance, with the addition of the Sudden Death Express train in 2019. Donna has been the force behind many of the year-round attractions, including hosting field trips, adding zip line, and creating a special apple cider donut, and gift shops.
- Laura Armstrong and Elizabeth Messina, NETHERWORLD, Atlanta/Stone Mountain. Wives of respective co-owners Ben Armstrong and Billy Messina have been critically instrumental to the attraction’s operations. Armstrong has managed the ticket booth virtually every night of operation for the last twenty-two. Messina has tackled the ever-expanding gift shop operation. The haunt also hails women for their leadership in their costuming, armory, and casting positions.
Industry leaders say the business of scaring wouldn’t have generated the national acclaim without the contributions of these and other women.