Are Haunted House Waivers Legally Enforceable?

FOTOKITA/iStock via Getty Images
FOTOKITA/iStock via Getty Images

Before you step into a haunted house attraction this Halloween season, you might be prompted to sign or at least offer an electronic acknowledgment of a waiver. These documents make it clear that patrons entering a spooky gauntlet of chainsaw-wielding goons and bloody terrors are assuming a certain level of risk. Running away from an axe-toting maniac, for example, might result in a slip and a nasty bruise or bone break.

Are these disclaimers just marketing gimmicks? Or can a waiver really insulate haunted houses from being sued?

For the most part, an attendee entering a place designed to scare and startle is doing so at their own peril, according to David Hoffman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “It’s a little like going to a baseball game,” Hoffman tells Mental Floss. “You’re assuming the risk of getting hit by the ball.”

That hasn’t stopped people from trying to pursue legal remedies for suffering injuries on haunted premises. In 1996, the family of a 10-year-old girl sued a haunted attraction in Louisiana because the youngster ran into a wall covered in black plastic sheeting after being spooked by an employee. The appeals court, however, found that such circumstances were understood to be part of a place decorated for the purpose of frightening guests. In 2011, a man in San Diego filed a lawsuit after walking out of a haunted house and being surprised by an employee revving a chainsaw. Terrified, he ran, fell, and injured both of his wrists. Once again, the court found in favor of the business. He was there to be scared: Mission accomplished.

Hoffman cautions that while these episodes are common, the nature of a haunted outlet doesn’t give operators the right to ignore a needlessly reckless hazard. A guest should reasonably expect creatures and dark surroundings, but not, for example, a giant hole in the floor, or an employee who acts so aggressively that you’re injured. “You run the risk of running into a wall, but not necessarily the risk of being tackled or assaulted,” he says.

To that end, a woman in Pontiac, Michigan sued Erebus Haunt Attraction in 2014 after a moving wall knocked her down, leading to leg fractures and other injuries. The two parties settled in 2015 for $125,000.

Erebus printed a disclaimer on admission tickets, but that may not offer much protection. For one thing, Hoffman says, haunted locales would have to prove the disclaimer was read by guests and that they had the option to get a refund if they refused to agree to terms.

The bottom line? No one is forced to visit a Halloween scare maze. If you do, you’re not all that likely to find a sympathetic court if you should happen to be injured while running away from one of its creepy denizens in the process. The real waiver is in willingly giving over money to be scared. Barring a grossly negligent hazard, you’re assuming all the risk.

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Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture


This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Reason Your Dog Follows You Everywhere

Crew, Unsplash
Crew, Unsplash

Depending on your mood, a dog that follows you everywhere can be annoying or adorable. The behavior is also confusing if you're not an expert on pet behavior. So what is it about the canine companions in our lives that makes them stick by our sides at all times?

Most experts agree on a few different reasons why some dogs are clingy around their owners. One is their pack mentality. Dogs may have been domesticated thousands of years ago, but they still consider themselves to be part of a group like their wild ancestors. When there are no other dogs around, their human family becomes their pack. According to Reader's Digest, this genetic instinct is also what motivates dogs to watch you closely and seek out your physical touch.

The second reason for the behavior has to do with the bond between you and your pet. As veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack told the American Kennel Club, puppies as old as 6 months can imprint on their human owners like they would their own mothers. Even older dogs will bond with the humans in their lives who show them care and affection. In these cases, a dog will shadow its owner because it sees them as an object of trust and security.

The last possible explanation for why your dog follows you has more to do with your treatment of them than their natural instincts. A popular training tactic is positive reinforcement—i.e. rewarding a dog with treats, pets, and praise when they perform positive behaviors. The point is to help your dog associate good behaviors with rewards, but after a while, they may start to associate your presence with rewards as well. That means if your dog is following you, they may be looking for treats or attention.

A clingy dog may be annoying, but it usually isn't a sign of a larger problem. If anything, it means your dog sees you in a positive light. So enjoy the extra companionship, and don't be afraid to close the door behind when you need some alone time.