Educator by day; haunter by night
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The price of college can make anyone feel scared; UA lecturer Ryan Pluta decided to capitalize on this fear by creating a haunted house to pay his way through college.
Pluta is the successful business owner of The Carnival of Horrors, located at the Blossom Music Center.
After Pluta graduated high school in 1990, he opened The Haunted Crypt located in the Chippewa Valley Campground as a way to pay for college.
He attended night school for small business management to learn how to run his own business.
A year later he wanted to expand his business. He moved the haunted house to the Wildwood Waterpark in Columbia station and added The Haunted Mausoleum along with The Haunted Crypt. That was in operation for about six years before Pluta decided to move to the Medina County Fairgrounds in 1998.
He then rebranded by changing the name to The Carnival of Horrors. There, attendees could visit four unique experiences: The Fun House, The Mine Shaft, The Freakshow in 3D Terrorvision and The Hayride of the Living Dead.
After a couple years at the fairground, Pluta wanted to move into a building that would not need to be disassembled and reconstructed each year. He moved The Carnival of Horrors back to Wildwood Waterpark in 2001.
Unfortunately, arsonists burned the building to the ground in 2002.
Pluta did not let the fire extinguish his love for haunted houses.
“After the arson fire, the business was destroyed. Twelve years of hard work gone in an instant. But I feel that I had a drive in me to be successful and continue the business that I loved so much,” Pluta said.
He approached the Blossom Music Center to reboot The Carnival of Horrors. Having to start from scratch, he purchased all the previous material from a haunted house called Stage Fright.
Pluta then added two new events to The Carnival of Horrors: The Wicked Woods and The Insane Asylum.
“I think the fact that our number one priority when designing the attractions is to scare you. People come to haunted houses to get scared. That’s how it was when I was a kid and people still want that same experience today,” Pluta said. “Many haunts now focus more on the elaborate set design and forget that scare factor. For us it’s scare, scare, scare.”
Pluta is no stranger to the haunted house scene.
When he was 14 he worked at The Haunted Valley and Terrifying Asylum as a chain saw character. Later, he also helped in the creation and setup of the haunted house. There he realized he loved scaring people.
Turning that love into a business, and with the help of family, friends, and volunteers, his ambition became a reality.
“My brother Greg has been with me since the beginning and everyone really works hard and takes pride in the event,” Pluta said.
His small business has grown exponentially over the past 25 years.
“In 1990 I had about ten actors. Now, in 2015 we have over 100 actors,” Pluta said.
When Pluta isn’t busy running his business or being the account supervisor for the John Deere account at the advertising agency Geometry Global, he is teaching.
“I love giving the students a window into the marketing world that I experience every day,” he said.
Pluta is currently a part-time integrated marketing solutions teacher. He received his two undergraduate degrees in marketing and advertising from UA. He also has a MBA in management from Baldwin-Wallace University.
He likes to use real-life examples for the class. Pluta uses The Carnival of Horrors business to help illustrate why certain advertising has affected his business in a beneficial way.
“For me, I have 13 days to be successful. Integrated marketing strategies are critical to my success. I use examples of tactics that were successful, as well as those that weren’t,” Pluta said.
After all his experiences, Pluta accredits his success to everyone who has helped him along the way.
“Seeing how much it has grown over the past 25 years makes me feel really proud. Not just of myself, but of everyone that helped me get here. This whole operation is a team effort. From my core management group to the actors. Without them, there would be no success,” he said.
The Carnival of Horrors is open until Oct. 31. To learn more visit carnivalofhorrors.com.