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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What Happens During a Jeopardy! Commercial Break?

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek chats with the show's contestants.
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek chats with the show's contestants.
Getty Images Entertainment

Jennifer Quail:

Typical Break One: First, if there are "pickups" (re-recordings where Alex misspoke or coughed or stuttered, or Johnny mispronounced someone’s name or hometown) to record, they do those. A stagehand brings water bottles for the contestants. The production team who wrangles contestants comes over and gives their pep talk, makes any corrections, like if someone is consistently buzzing early; and keeps you quiet if there are pickups. Alex gets the cards with the "fun facts" (there are about three, one highlighted, but which one he goes for is ultimately up to Alex alone) and when the crew is ready, they come back from commercial to Alex’s chat with the contestants.

Typical Break Two: If there are any pickups from the second half of the Jeopardy! round they do those, the water gets distributed, the production team reminds the contestants how Double Jeopardy! works and that there’s still lots of money out there to win, and Alex comes over to take a picture with the two challengers (the champion will have had their picture taken during their first match.) Then we come back to Double Jeopardy!.

Typical Third Break: This is the big one. There are pickups, water, etc. and they activate the section of the screen where you write your wager. One of the team members brings you a half-sheet of paper ... and you work out what you want to bet. One of your "wranglers" checks it, as does another production team member, to make sure it’s legible and when you’re sure that’s what you want, you lock it in. At that point you can’t change it. They take away the scratch paper and the part of the board where you write your answer is unlocked. Someone will tell you to write either WHO or WHAT in the upper left corner, so you do know at least whether it’s a person or thing. They make sure the "backup card" (a piece of card stock sitting on your podium) is turned to the correct who or what side, just in case your touchscreen fails. If everything’s ready, then as soon as the crew says, they come back and Final Jeopardy! starts.

There are breaks you don’t [even know about, too]. If there is a question about someone’s final answer, they will actually stop tape while the research team checks. Sometimes if something goes really off, like Alex completely misreads a category during the start of a round, they’ll stop and pick it up immediately. Those [are breaks] you’ll never notice because they’ll be completely edited out.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Why Is There a Leap Day?

Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock via Getty Images
Bychykhin_Olexandr/iStock via Getty Images

At some point in elementary school, your science teacher probably explained to you that there are 365 days in a year because that’s how long it takes for Earth to complete one full rotation around the sun. What they might not have specified, however, is that it’s not exactly 365 days—it’s actually closer to 365.2421 days.

So, if we want our calendar year to begin right when Earth begins a new rotation around the sun, we have to account for (roughly) an extra quarter of a day each year, or one day every four years. History.com reports that the Egyptians had already been doing this for a while before Europe finally caught on in 46 B.C.E., when Roman dictator Julius Caesar and astronomer Sosigenes put their heads together to come up with what we now call the Julian calendar, which includes 12 months, 365 days, and an additional “leap day” every four years on February 29.

But rounding 0.2421 up to 0.25 each year created an issue, because it didn’t quite add up to a full day every four years—and that tiny discrepancy meant that after 128 years, the calendar year ended up starting a day before Earth had completed its rotation around the sun. By the 14th century, the calendar year was starting a whopping 10 days before Earth finished its orbit.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII sought to correct the error by suggesting that we simply skip a leap day every so often. His Gregorian calendar, which we still use today, mandates that we omit the leap day during years evenly divisible by 100 but not by 400. For instance, the year 2000 included a leap day because it’s divisible by 100 and 400; the year 2100, on the other hand, will not include a leap day, since it’s evenly divisible by 100, but not by 400.

Gregory XIII’s correction to Caesar’s overcorrection is itself a bit of an under-correction, so we’ll probably need to reevaluate our leap day protocol again in about 10,000 years.

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