The sound of screams is music to Amanda Ondo’s ears.
Ondo and her husband, Paul, own and operate Scary Harry’s Haunted Trail, an attraction in the western Pennsylvania community of Homer City designed to give customers a hair-raising fright. Their shrieks echo in the darkness at Scary Harry’s, a destination not for the faint of heart.
“We used to be a little more family-oriented — now we’re more adult-oriented,” Ondo said. “Not that we planned it this way, but our demographic seems to be between the ages of, like, 22 and 45.
“We’ve gone, no pun intended, really dark. It’s a very intense environment. We have people who just fall to the ground and curl up in a fetal position.”
Situated on 10 woodsy acres in rural Indiana County, about a four-hour drive from the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area, Scary Harry’s consists of an outdoor trail and four walk-through buildings. Spooky settings, moving props, strange noises, and unnerving music create a creepy vibe. And, if that’s not enough to get pulses pounding, the Ondos employ nearly two dozen actors in costumes and/or makeup who pop out of the darkness when least expected.
Hence, the screams.
“They live their roles,” said Ondo with a wicked grin. “A lot of our staff enjoy doing this just because it’s a lot of stress release. It’s a different kind of adrenalin rush. We find there are people who like to be scared and people who like to do the scaring.”
Both are found at Scary Harry’s, which puts
on a theatrical show equal to that of any big-city production. Confirmation came recently when
TheScareFactor.com included it in a list of the 10 best haunted attractions in Pennsylvania.
“That’s a pretty big deal for us, to be up there in the top 10 in the state,” Ondo said. “When I found out about it, I actually started shaking.”
Not unlike the many Scary Harry’s customers whose legs turn to Jell-O long before they reach the exit.
Insider tip: As the name suggests, lighting is at the barest minimum. In addition, the actors are permitted to bump and nudge customers.
Other attractions and a beverage trail
While in Indiana County, visitors can sample a wide range of other attractions a short distance from Scary Harry’s, including Yellow Creek State Park, the Ghost Town and Hoodlebug hiking/biking trails, the Jimmy Stewart Museum in the actor’s hometown of Indiana, and the specialty shops and Amish ambience of Smicksburg.
Indiana County also features a vibrant spirits/brewery/winery scene with a distillery, three breweries, and four wineries to choose from. A visit to such an establishment — Disobedient Spirits in Homer City, Levity Brewing and Noble Stein, both in Indiana, or Ungrapeful Winery in Blairsville — could serve as the perfect prelude to a Scary Harry’s outing.
After all, a drink or two might help prime customers for the frightful experience that awaits. Otherwise, they could wind up screaming hysterically — or worse, curling up in a fetal position on the ground.
Need to know
The attraction opens for the season Oct. 7, with an entrance fee of $15. Hours are 7:30pm–midnight every Friday and Saturday in October. For those who crave an even more intense experience, Scary Harry’s will stage a special event, Pitch Black, the first weekend in November.