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Wanderers Series: Ghostly Manor offers a smorgasbord of family-friendly entertainment
Employee Aaron Gussie pops out from a wall inside the haunted house on July 18 at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center in Sandusky.

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Please, read the full article at toledoblade.com

SANDUSKY — Someone is chasing you in the dark.

Loud breathing follows your every move. An arm reaches out from the shadows. Everywhere you turn, they’re there. You never know which direction they might come from, or what they might do.

When you finally stumble back into the welcoming light of Ghostly Manor Thrill Center’s main floor, your heart is pounding with exhilaration from one of Ohio’s top-rated haunted houses.

And it’s all done with one actor.

Of course, Ghostly Manor Thrill Center isn’t entirely a one-man operation. But its haunted house, integral to the history and success of the family entertainment center, can be operated by one scarer who follows patrons through the maze of dark halls and hidden rooms, personalizing the experience to each group.

WHAT: Ghostly Manor Thrill Center

WHEN: Noon to 8 p.m. every day, with two additional haunted houses available Fridays and Saturdays in October.

WHERE: 3319 Milan Rd., Sandusky

ADMISSION: Ghostly Manor Haunted House is $11, escape room is $23, and all other attractions range between $3 to $7.

Multi-attraction passes start at $12 and go up to $30 per person. Birthday packages start at $149 and go up to $349.

INFORMATION: ghostlymanor.com

With its attention to detail and haunting prowess, it makes sense that Ghostly Manor started as the passion project of two professional home haunters.

And 20 years later, Ghostly Manor is still expanding its collection of family-friendly entertainment.

Billy Criscione, general manager of the combination haunted house, roller rink, mini golf, arcade venue (and more!) can attest to that. After all, his parents opened the place.

“It’s a true family-run business,” said Mr. Criscione, who has been running the business since the end of 2010. “My dad’s here every day at lunch. My mom used to be here every day.”

When Mr. Criscione was growing up, his parents Bill and Jayme Criscione started small with a home haunt during Halloween.

Soon, it grew to almost the entire first floor of their house. Kids would come in for trick-or-treating, and the family would scare them from the door all the way through the house.

But that wasn’t enough of a thrill for Bill Criscione: He wanted to turn his home haunt into a business. So, around 1999, he and his wife purchased a roller rink, and by the early 2000s, had expanded what had been a “little skater” rink to what is now Ghostly Manor, first removing a dilapidated Laser Maze and replacing it with a brand-new haunted house.

The haunted house is Ghostly Manor’s foundation, and the Crisciones have put a lot of work into it.

When Bill Criscione first opened the professional haunted house, he “reached out to a company in Columbus called Scare Factory,” his son said. “Scare Factory is in the business of designing and manufacturing haunt houses and haunted house crops.

And so, we enlisted their help.”With Scare Factory’s aid, the Criscione family took the 6,000 square feet from the former Laser Maze and added props and a central corridor so one actor can run, scaring each group as they go through.

“Some of the original props from 22 years ago are still in there,” Billy Criscione. “They’re called the animatronics. They are powered by compressed air with pistons that will be triggered by a sensor or by a push button from the actor. … The scare is always misdirection. You think it’s coming from one area, so you entice them to look in that area, then you scare from the back or the side.”

And it works. As Mr. Criscione said, Ghostly Manor is “a high startle house that’ll keep you screaming all the way through.”

Ghostly Manor Thrill Center isn’t just about haunted houses, either.

When I drove into the parking lot, the first thing I saw is a huge, black-and-red dragon jutting out from the side of the castle-themed exterior, towering menacingly as it tries to break out of its chains.

This sets the stage: Anything can happen once you walk inside those doors.

Because Ghostly Manor Thrill Center was built by a family who knows how to make their own fun, its variety of attractions is more diverse and exciting than your average family center.

In addition to the haunted house, Ghostly Manor offers a roller-skating rink, an arcade, a new Laser Maze opened in 2017, an XD 4D Motion Theater, VR gaming, the “Missing Deed” escape room, Wizard’s Journey 3D blacklight mini golf, a snack bar, and a bounce house and play area for children under 12.

My personal highlight was the Wizard’s Journey mini golf, which greets you at the entrance with a fantastically campy representation of a wizard. Stepping aside is like entering a portal full of dazzling fantasy locales, ones where you advance in a quest by making a good shot. After going adventuring through caves, forests, and a waterfall I dared to challenge the dragon at the final hole.

The dragon won, of course.

Ghostly Manor has a lot going on.

And it’s plenty to keep kids entertained when, for example, it’s pouring rain outside and other popular Sandusky attractions like Cedar Point are no fun.

It’s also great for birthday parties: While Toledo has similar offerings on paper, regular roller rinks don’t have as many attractions for when you need a break from skating.

If a child has a birthday party at Ghostly Manor, Ghostly Manor takes care of nearly everything but the cake and ice cream as part of the package, which also includes a chance to win prizes in the party machine and a ride in the special giant red birthday skate.

Ghostly Manor’s main audience from Memorial Day to Labor Day is families, with parents accompanying children ranging anywhere from 2 to 20. And because of the pricing model, it’s free to just come in to watch.

“You only pay for what you do,” Mr. Criscione said. “A lot of the roller-skating rinks still do timed sessions. We don’t do timed sessions. If you come in when we open, you can skate all the way until we close.”

But if you’re an adult who would like to ride in the giant red skate, Ghostly Manor has thought of you, too.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve started hosting some 30-, 40-, and 50-year-old parties,” Mr. Criscione said. “We’ll stay open later for private events. We’ll let them bring in their own food supply or even do a BYOD.”

If you have room for fun in your heart, Ghostly Manor Thrill Center will delight you no matter your age.

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