Flirting with winter while still claiming fall, Halloween is an excellent time for family adventures -- or giving into superstitions and phobias.
And that's what Descent is all about.
"It's a lot of fun to see your vision come to life after many months of planning and construction," said Joe Blackerby, an owner of the new haunt, which is located near Hollister. "With Descent, we try to set ourselves apart from other haunted houses by taking a cinematic approach. Two of the owners (including myself) are screenwriters and movie fans, so we created a storyline for the haunt with the idea that we are immersing our customers into a horror movie."
Descent, which is just minutes from the Branson Landing, follows the story of Professor Grimm, a forensic neuropsychiatrist who performs appalling experiments on anyone unlucky enough to enter his lair.
A typical night at Descent begins two hours before opening time when the actors eat dinner and then head from the costume room to the sets.
"Setting up before show time is always kinetic and extremely fast paced," Blackerby stated. "On an average night we run 23 to 28 actors through the makeup room."
Yet the fun, he says, really comes when the customers start showing up.
A lot of work comes with the fun, though. Toward the end of August, the owners of Descent hire two experts of the trade from Cleveland, Ohio, to hold an acting and makeup seminar. This seminar is open to the public in order to draw in more actors. The last two weeks before opening night, rehearsals and additional training is held in order to cast the actors in the roles and scenes best for them.
The haunt is classified as PG-13, but the team at Descent are well prepared for kids.
"We don't allow kids under 13 to come through without a parent, and when our person at the door notices particularly young children getting ready to come through, we usually send that group by themselves and radio ahead to the actors that there are young children in that group and to back off a bit," Blackerby explained. "Our actors are pretty sensitive to children as they come through, but it can still be pretty scary for them."
To learn more about Descent and to confirm times and ticket prices, visit the website at hauntedozarks.com.
"A haunted house is only as good as the actors behind it," stated Blackerby. "You can have great sets, mechanical effects, music, fog, lighting, but ultimately the actors are the ones that determine whether or not your haunt is truly scary; and from the screaming I hear inside every night, I know that they're being scary."
Another highly recommended haunted house, Raycliff Manor in Joplin, has been around long enough that most people have at least heard of it. Reportedly a terrifying experience, the Manor is open Fridays and Saturdays, as well as Sunday, Oct. 30. They will, however, be closed on Halloween. Special offers and discounts can be found online at raycliffmanor.com, as well as regular ticket prices and the official calendar.
Corn mazes are a large part of the local attractions. They're fun challenging, great for groups, relatively inexpensive, and the best part -- the search parties are free. If you plan on attending one, just call first to confirm times, prices and location.
Many corn mazes offer more than twists and turns.
"There's something for everyone," said Barbie, who owns Right Choices Corn Maze in Southwest City with her husband, Galen. "Our added feature this year is a jumping pillow."
The family-owned business also includes music featuring local artists every Saturday night, a mile-long hayride, crafts, tetherball, basketball, a corn box, a cow train and even field trips for schools. For more information, visiti rightchoicescornmaze.com
Other local corn mazes include The Homestead, a haunted corn maze in Seligman, and The MAiZE in Verona.
The Verona attraction offers a "Field of Screams" haunted maize every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday through Oct. 29. The cost is $8 for ages 12 and up and $4 for ages 5 to 12. The maze is free for veterans, miliary with an ID and anyone age 4 and under. For more information, call 417-498-6191 or 417-498-6071 or visit www.gripboyshome.com.
There's more going on this year than corn mazes and haunted houses, though. The C-Street Zombie Corps in Springfield is putting on an outdoor show, Epidemic II They Rise Again will be held Saturday, Oct. 29 from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Savoy Ballroom. A Night of the Living Dead costume contest will follow the show. Both events are free.
"Last year we had 120-140 actors in full costume in the street performing and upwards of 2,000 people watching," said Andy Walls.
This year is expected to be even bigger with zombies spanning the entire block and visible from most any vantage point. The production is a dark comedy based on the music video to Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Walls said several small skits will begin at 5 p.m. to build up to the main event. The production itself is considered PG-13 but should still be kid-friendly.
"The goal wasn't to see how gory we could be," Walls said. "We always have some people from all ages, even in the production."
Walls went on to say that people come from all over the area, including Oklahoma and Kansas, from 7 and 8 years old to 80.
Springfield is also having its annual Pets and Pumpkins Festival. Additional information on both events can be found at itsalldowntown.com or by calling Dance With Me at 417-869-6789 for the production and Tame Pet magazine at 417-830-8121 for the festival.
Halloween has also hit Branson in a big way. Haunted Branson, a new attraction, features a haunted house, 3D mirror maze, a quarter mile haunted herpetarium and aquarium with live animals, a graveyard, outdoor mazes and, new this year, The Trap.
Haunted Branson is open weekdays starting at dark and continues till 10:30 p.m. and weekends from dark to 11:30 p.m.. The price for weekday tickets is $13; for weekend tickets it's $15. More information on Haunted Branson can be found on their website at hauntedbranson.com or by calling 417-272-0411 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.