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........ The Haunted Cave at Cherokee Caverns is Knoxville's longest running Haunted Attraction. Since 1989, the event has raised proceeds to benefit maintenance and preservation of Cherokee Caverns and local charitable organizations. We were able to get this great interview with Jennifer Johnsey, Assistant Haunted Cave Director, about the upcoming season.

GOBLINHAUS: Tell us about the cave. How did the Haunted Cave come about and what are the pros and cons of a haunted attraction inside a Cave?

JENNIFER JOHNSEY: In October 1980, Cherokee Caverns Restaurant was destroyed by fire. During the next eight years, the caverns were heavily vandalized. In the spring of 1989, a young couple attempted to reopen the caverns as a tourist attraction. Jim Whidby, a member and Fellow of the National Speleological Society, volunteered to help with the restoration work. Jim's concern was with the low visitation and income during the winter months. He developed the idea of holding a Halloween event to raise money to help support the couple. Jim felt as long as someone was living on the property, the caverns would be protected. So, the first Cherokee Caverns Haunted Cave was developed, and was very successful. Within two years the young family moved from the caverns. With concerns for future preservation, Jim organized local cavers and other conservation-minded persons to help with the caverns preservation. Gates and security systems were installed, since no one was residing on the property. Historic Cherokee Caverns are the most historical and the most beautiful of 171 caves known in Knox County. It is the only cavern in the county to have been a popular tourist attraction for 51 years, prior to being closed following the fire.

The pros of running a Haunted Attraction inside a cave, is the natural dark and creepy environment. There is a nice chill in the air and Cherokee Caverns is a living cave so we've got a nice creepy dripping sound as well. It's easy to disguise our spooks in the cave as well, which is helpful. Many phobias people naturally have contribute to our success; fear of the dark, claustrophobia, that sort of thing. The cons of running a Haunted Attraction inside a cave, is the wet, humid environment. Pretty much anything down there that doesn't belong will be destroyed in a matter of weeks. That's why we can only run the Haunted Cave for a brief amount of time. Wood? Forget about it. It will weigh three times as much when you take it out. It deteriorates quickly. We've learned to use a lot of foam board, PVC, etc. Also, we have a challenge of no real walls. You can’t just hammer a nail into rock. It's difficult to put up props and hang things, but we make do.

GH: Do you have a target age group? Do you try to tone it down for kids or do you try to scare everyone who comes through?

JJ: We definitely try to attract more of a 12 and up crowd. Our Haunted Cave does not specifically cater to children. We provide some kids activities from time to time and we usually give kids 6 and under something they can hold on to that makes them feel safe. In years past we have given the kids cotton balls that they can show to the spooks. We tell the little ones that our spooks are afraid of cotton balls. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I can't tell you how many kids I've had to take out of the cave that are completely freaked out and crying. It amazes me how many parents bring little kids to something like a Haunted Cave. On the flip side, many of the kids have begged their parents to go and once they get there and almost get to the entrance of the cave, they change their minds. If anyone asks, we are best for 8 and up, better for 12 and up.

GH: Tell us about your actors. How many creeps are we going to run in to in the cave on a given night and do they come up with their own characters and costumes, do you follow a theme, or how does that work?

JJ: We have always said that in order to run the Haunted Cave flawlessly we need 100 volunteers each night. From "up above ground" to "underground" there are so many things to think about from checking-in and assisting the volunteers with costuming and make-up to ticketing, concessions, props, electric, sound. It's never-ending the things it takes to run the Haunted Cave. Somehow we manage to pull it off every year though. We are proud of how much we are able to do in a short time. We come up with the theme and characters each year and we provide the costumes for our actors. We give them some leeway with their performances, but we try to give them guidelines to follow.

GH: Why are you only open 5 nights a season?

JJ: There are two main reasons we are only open 5 nights this year. It's either 5 or 6 nights depending on where Halloween falls each year. The first reason is the cave environment and how long we can keep it "decorated" for Halloween. It truly won't last much longer than 2 weeks, especially the audio and electric props. The second reason is the expenses. It's expensive to run a haunt and this is a fundraising event for us. We realize you have to spend money to make money, but you don't want to spend more than you make. The Haunted Cave is operated by all-volunteers. With the large number of volunteers needed, it is very difficult to operate the event for a longer period of time.

GH: I know you have bands play. Do you have any other special activities going on outside of the haunt itself?

JJ: We often have local filmmakers promoting their upcoming Horror films on-site. We are excited this year to be offering Bell Witch The Movie on DVD by local filmmaker Shane Marr of Cinemarr Entertainment and Big River Pictures. The movie will be available for sale at the Haunted Cave this year or it can be purchased at The East Tennessee Paranormal Society plans to set up a booth at the cave this year as well. We also have local radio stations that like to make van stops. We also have something you never see. They are called Vortex boxes a.k.a Smoke Cannons.

GH: Should visitors expect anything new this year?

JJ: YES! We are excited to provide our guests with a whole new Haunted Cave experience. Our theme this year is BioHazard and that is all I will reveal in this interview. Don't get any on ya'! The Infection begins October 19th.



Ready Yet???

Information: "Enter the Depths of the Earth...if you dare! Come visit Knoxville's only underground Haunted Attraction! Historic Cherokee Caverns 19th Annual Haunted Cave on Oak Ridge Highway will be open for five nights only! 10/19, 10/20, 10/26, 10/27 & 10/31 from 7-10pm. Admission is $10 per person. $1 discount with canned food donation for Hawks Helping Others. Skip the lines! Purchase your VIP Frightpass online at The Haunted Cave is located at 8524 Oak Ridge Highway near Karns".




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