In 1994, the owners of Scarborough Faire were looking for another seasonal event to go with their Renaissance festival. One of the owners, Richard Holyfield, was visiting at Kroger headquarters (the fair’s grocery sponsor at the time) and noticed an executive’s office was filled with food and items related to Halloween.

“Halloween has become one of our biggest seasons,” the executive told Mr. Holeyfield, planting an idea.

“The owners visited Spooky World in Berlin, Mass., the largest Halloween theme park in the world at the time,” said Orvis Melvin, director of sales and marketing for Screams Halloween Theme Park. “After witnessing the success of the park, as well as the number of families enjoying an evening of fun and fright, it was decided to bring the same type of event to Waxahachie and the Metroplex.”

Screams opened in 1995 with two haunted houses, two hayrides, themed food, games and rides.

“From the beginning, the goal was to offer a whole night of entertainment along with food and beverage at an affordable price,” Melvin said. “At the time, the majority of haunted houses in the Dallas/Fort Worth area only offered a single experience: Wait in line. Go through the house. Get in your car and go home. Screams was much more.”

Over the years, there have been several changes and improvements to the attractions, including the construction of a castle, maze and graveyard and other amenities.

“We want to continue to offer the best Halloween attraction value in North Texas,” Melvin said. “Of course, we will continue to change and improve our houses.”

Many of the changes aren’t visible to the audience but make a noticeable difference.

“This year we have added solid state digital sound effects generators instead of the CD players that we have used in the past,” Melvin said. “This will result in more consistent sound and almost completely eliminate breakdowns so that every guest will receive the same experience.

“We will also continue to add the best special effects that we can find and will continue to provide a mix of live and animated frights. Every year, the management of the park attends a Halloween convention in Chicago to find the newest and best special effects that are on the market,” he said, noting management also plans a revamp of the souvenir selections offered.

Screams attracts visitors far and wide to Waxahachie.

“Each year, about 2 percent of our guests come from out of state,” Melvin said. “Last year the guest who traveled the farthest came from Connecticut. We also had people from California.”

Many celebrities, including those known for their roles as monsters, have visited Screams.

“Al Lewis, who played Grandpa Munster visited Screams,” Melvin said. “Others who have made personal appearances are R.A. Mihailof (Leatherface in ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3’), Kane Hodder (who played Jason in three ‘Halloween’ movies), Bowling for Soup, Radney Foster, Old 97’s and Cooder Graw.”

Screams brings in as many as 60,000 people each year.

“It’s hard to put an exact figure on the economic impact since they are out in the county,” said Laurie McPike Mosley, director of the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau. “But you can’t bring 50-60 thousand people into town and not have a significant impact on the local economy.

“Those people spend a lot of money while they are in town. They fill their car up with gas, shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels,” she said.

“A good rule of thumb is to say that each out of town visitor has an economic impact of $100 on the community,” Mosley said. “Based on the formula of a professor at Sam Houston University, hotel and motel taxes indicate that Waxahachie will see a $31 million impact from tourism in 2007.”

The venue employs area residents and management is committed to shopping locally.

“Unlike Scarborough Fair, everyone who works here during Screams comes from this area,” Melvin said. “We have a year-round staff of six in the office and a grounds crew of around eight.

“We spend around $60,000 each year in locally purchased supplies,” Melvin said. “And, of course, we pay taxes to the community.”

Many of the people involved in the two events also are involved in the community.

“Coy Sevier is our general manager and he is very active in the community,” Melvis said. “He has been the artistic director for Bethlehem Revisited for four years, is the producer of Victorian Christmas, is a board member of Habitat for Humanity and the Waxahachie Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, our construction staff has helped with Bethlehem Revisited by providing and installing power and sound equipment as well as helping with a variety of construction needs.”

Screams Theme Park opens Friday, Sept. 28, for five weekends: 7:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 28 through Oct. 27, and from 7:30-11 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28.

Tickets are available at the gate, with discount coupons available at Metroplex Long John Silver’s restaurants.

For more information, call (972) 938-3247 or visit www.ScreamsPark.com.

E-mail Amy at amy.burk@waxahachiedailylight.com