Scary Women Making a Good Life

Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, aka Queen of Haunts.

Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, aka Queen of Haunts. Photo: Full Moon Productions.

Call a woman a witch, scary or someone’s worst nightmare and you might find yourself knocked on the floor.

But for a special group of women in the haunted house business, those names or descriptions are music to their ears. These are women who are part of the “haunted house industry.” And, yes, there is an association for haunted house industry professionals, America Haunts,  that notes scaring people is just the point for these haunted house proprietors.

Commercial haunted houses boomed in the 1970s and ‘80s. At that time, few women pulled the strings. Today there are over 1200 haunted attractions charging admission fees to their events. Some of these attractions have lasted for decades, an achievement that isn’t for the faint of heart according to Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, better known as the Queen of Haunts and spokesperson for America Haunts.

Pulling the haunt show curtain back, there are a number of leading women, ranging in ages from 40 to 60, in the business. All of them love what they do and maintain a zest for life. Despite their share of stresses navigating a seasonal business, they are believers that a healthy lifestyle should include large doses of fun and laughter which they get witnessing the joy brought to the tens of thousands of visitors every Halloween season.

Scaring is In Their Blood

Arnett-Bequeaith cut her teeth at her family’s haunted house that started in 1975. Today she reigns over an entire district of haunted houses, including the Beast, and other entertainment in Kansas City.

“I really learned the business at a young age and it fostered an entrepreneurial spirit to not only create an amazing show but to become a leader in my community and an extremely savvy businesswoman,” said Arnett-Bequeaith. “Scaring is in my blood – as well as my uncle’s [Monty Summers] and we are thrilled to have these haunts among the best in the country.”

There isn’t much that scares Arnett-Bequeaith but she does fear gluten after being diagnosed with an almost deadly intolerance to it after having twins. It was transformative for her to eat right and share her experiences.

Donna Wohlgemuth (Spookywoods), Amber Arnett-Bequeaith (Beast), Anne Bates (Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride), and Nancy Jubie (Headless Horseman) together at a NETHERWORLD hosted event

More Women in the Spooky Business

Other fearless female leaders have made a mark on the haunt industry and offer a dose of tips that make their lives better:

Anne Bates with Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride in Philadelphia/Glenn Mills transformed the farm with her husband Randy Bates in 1991 into a haunted haven. It has hayrides and year-round options, escape rooms, axe throwing, laser tag, and Christmas activities. Anne runs the finances alongside her close-knit family, which includes six grown children, 18 grandchildren, and 350 employees. Anne’s secret to success has been a daily shot of vodka and exercise with the grandchildren.

Nancy Jubie with Headless Horseman north of New York City in the Hudson Valley opened the haunt in 1992 with her husband Michael Jubie. The 65-acre property includes a house from 1792 when it was a horse exchange from New York to Albany. More than 350 people bring the legend of Sleepy Hollow to life with hayrides, corn mazes, and five haunted houses. Nancy and Mike have a shared passion for Halloween and horses, and Mike spent years with the NYPD mounted patrol. Nancy said when you do what you love it doesn’t feel like work.

Donna Wohlgemuth with Spookywoods near Greensboro, North Carolina runs it with her husband Tony Wohlgemuth. They made their forested acreage a haunt attraction 35 years ago and continue to enhance, with the addition of the Sudden Death Express train in 2019. Donna’s the force behind many of the year-round attractions, including hosting field trips, adding zip line, and creating a special apple cider donut, and gift shops.

Donna hires lots of teens and people in their twenties who she attributes to her youthfulness.

Laura Armstrong and Elizabeth Messina with NETHERWORLD in the Atlanta metro are the wives of respective co-owners Ben Armstrong and Billy Messina. They have been critically instrumental to the attraction’s operations. Laura has managed the ticket booth virtually every night of operation for the last twenty-two years. Elizabeth has tackled the ever-expanding gift shop operation.

For Laura, volunteering to work with underprivileged kids three days a week gives her joy. Elizabeth, who is also a mother to twins, suggests investing in a good eye cream. She also hosts an annual girlfriend night where they go through the haunt and reconnect through screams and laughter.

Industry leaders say the business of scaring wouldn’t have generated the national acclaim without the contributions of these and other women.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Subscribe to Healthy Aging® Magazine

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine for All Ages

Receive four digital issues delivered to your inbox. Just $24.95