Just Scaring Up Some Business

HALLOWEEN HAS TURNED theme parks' traditionally blah month of October into a bloody success. Ghouls, monsters, and ghosts are providing thrills that water slides and rollercoasters can't.

Universal Studios Florida, which started with three Halloween nights in 1991, has boosted that to 12 this October. On its opening nights, Oct. 13-14, attendance surged 70% over the year before. To create a creepy ambience, the movie-based park has three haunted houses, where you encounter such chilling sights as a mummy, a crazed hunchback, and a woman entombed alive with rats.

Universal has plenty of company on the graveyard shift. The number of parks with Halloween attractions has tripled during the past five years, according to Tim O'Brien, Southeast editor of Amusement Business magazine. Six Flags has expanded its "Fright Fest," begun in its Houston park in 1986, to all seven locations. At Opryland in Nashville, there's "Howl-O-Ween." And Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., projects a fourth quarter as big as its summer because of a 13-night transformation to Knott's Scary Farm. Not such grim reaping, after all.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.