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Fear Factory still manufacturing thrills, chills

Mike Olson has a way of spreading fear when the month of October comes around.

Along with other members of the Wadena County Fair Board and a large group of volunteers, Olson has built yet another version of the Fear Factory on the fairgrounds in Wadena.

Stretched out between two livestock buildings the Fear Factory is designed to put the creeps into as many paying customers as it can. The Fear Factory has been rated one of Minnesota’s top haunted venues.

Olson’s idea is to make money for the fair which comes up again next June.

While the Fear Factory has been around some eight years it has been gaining in popularity among the state’s haunted houses.

“We’re supposed to be in the Top 20,” Olson said.

Some 1,800 people ranging in age from five to 80 have turned up at the fairgrounds in the last two years to test their nerve.

“A lot of people come back but here are some people who won’t come back because we scare them too much,” Olson said.

When it comes to the question of how much is too much you have Olson a bit puzzled.

“There are some people who walk in and walk right back out,” Olson said.

The Fear Factory experience begins in August when Olson joins other fair board members and volunteers in building it. One of the welcome additions to this year’s Fear Factory has been the return of Joe Randall, who has returned as a volunteer after missing a few seasons.

“He’s got some good details in there,” Olson said. “He did most of our decorating.”

While many people put down their $10 each year just to be scared, Olson said there are some who come back out of curiosity.

“One of the reasons people like to come back is to see what we’ve done,” Olson said.

There are 20 to 25 actors in the haunted house during the eight nights of October that the Fear Factory is open. While the actors are not supposed to touch the customers they are still pretty good at eliciting screams when they suddenly stand up or emerge from the blackness.

“There are some people who will scream when they go in and still be screaming when they come out,” Olson laughed.

Olson has always gotten a kick out of how disoriented some people can get in the dark corridors and the dimly lighted chambers. The Fear Factory’s two buildings are connected by a tunnel and yet some people will swear they are still in the first building as they emerge from the second.

When you go into the Fear Factory you can pretty much count on spending the 30 minutes inside. 

The Fear Factory will be open Friday and Saturday this week from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Oct. 20, 21, 27, 28, 30 and 31 shows will also run from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are sold on site. For more information call 218-639-0750 or go to

Olson has been president of the Wadena County Fair Board for about four years and he likes the progress the summer event is taking. The F4 tornado that struck the grounds in 2010 created a new set of buildings which have done a lot to enliven interest. Even before that Olson felt the fair was getting better.

“It’s definitely going in a better direction,” Olson said.