CALVERTON, New York -- Halloween is more than just a holiday that comes once a year for Mike Meola. Halloween is a year-round celebration that Meola has incorporated into his life since he was a kid.
"My family always made Halloween special," said Meola. "My mom really helped me learn how to create and make costumes back when I was a kid. She supported any crazy thing I wanted to be, you know we would start a year before."
His love for the spooky holiday turned into a career by creating Long Island's Darkside Haunted House.
The haunted house has been terrifying people since 1998, but this year he was not sure whether he was going to open up when the coronavirus pandemic - not only hit his business - but also had a direct effect on his family. Meola lost his mother to the coronavirus in May.
"At that time I couldn't even think about Halloween," said Meola. "Darkside is here because of my love for Halloween and passing that on to us and this is my way of honoring her. I don't want anyone to go through what our family went through."
Meola has reduced capacity, implemented timed ticketing, installed hand sanitizing station, and has a crew disinfect the whole house with sanitizing spray to keep his customers safe this Halloween.
Utilizing contactless payment and maintain social distancing for the 2020 season, they are selling tickets online only. The tickets are timed tickets for each half-hour the house is open.
To limit group size tickets can be bought only in groups of 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 people. This system will decrease wait times and ensure social distancing.
"It's the most important thing to be able to do this and to keep everybody safe to do it responsibly to do it right," said Meola. "If we can save Halloween and keep everybody safe, if we don't do this right then nothing else is going to open up.
All patrons, actors, and staff will receive a temperature check before entering the site and each actor will be wearing a costume that incorporates masks and social distancing measures.
"Everybody else has one-night mine lasts five weeks," said Shane Mcgowin, Scarer. "I get to dress up every night, I wouldn't get to be here if I didn't get to dress up in costume and scare the crap out of people."
Contact Community Journalist Alex Ciccarone