How attractions like The 13th Gate are preparing for the Halloween season with COVID-19 still on the brain

While haunted house attractions in other parts of the country might not open this month, Louisiana seems to be itching to get back to the normal holiday routine.

The LSU Rural Life Museum and BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo are going forward with fall and Halloween-themed events (see opposite page), area corn mazes are being prepped for visitors, and downtown’s The 13th Gate is ready to scare in new and frightening ways.

On any other October evening, the famous attraction would have a line of revelers a block long waiting to get inside its stark-black entrance.

“The first thing that we thought about right off the bat was: How do we eliminate that line? Because we don’t want too many people gathering together,” says Dwayne Sanburn, 13th Gate’s owner and creative director.

The solution is one Sanburn’s team had already been considering to eliminate long lines: a virtual queue. When guests arrive, they scan a QR code that gives them a time estimate of when to return to the entrance. They’ll then receive automated text messages 10 minutes before their scheduled return time and another when it’s time to get in line.

The concept is similar to what The Mortuary and the Nightmare haunted houses are doing in New Orleans this year, and Sanburn says all the attractions have been brainstorming ideas together on how to deal with COVID-19 restrictions and still provide a fun experience.

“Now you have the freedom to go to Pastime or somewhere else to eat downtown, or stay in your car if you want to until you get that text message,” Sanburn says.

There’s also the option of hopping across the street to 13th Gate’s sister attraction, Carnevil, the outdoor space with performances and live music that will return with limited events this year.

Once inside, much of the interior space reserved for indoor queuing has been eliminated—so the haunted thrills will begin almost immediately. Sanburn says these protocols will stay in place even as the state moves into Phase Three.

And on that note, visitors will be required to wear masks or a face covering throughout the attraction—just like the ghoulish characters encountered inside.

“We’ve got such an incredible makeup team,” Sanburn says. “They’ve come up with some very unique ways to have face coverings but still be scary.”

As far the new scares this year? Prepare to creep your way through an abandoned asylum during the tour.

“All of my actors are excited to return,” Sanburn says. “We’ve got a lot of great talent. And even with the current restrictions, we thought: If we can do it and do it safely, why not? People need some entertainment right now.”

The 13th Gate opens for the season Oct. 2, and it continues every weekend until Friday, Nov. 13. 13thgate.com

While this photo shows the Halloween Parade in a previous year, the 2020 iteration will have attendees drive by costumed characters and Halloween-themed scenes. Photo by Raegan Labat.

Saving Halloween

While 10/31 Consortium’s Halloween parade is a big part of Baton Rouge’s spooky traditions, organizers decided to cancel the downtown event this year because of COVID-19.

With it, the organization’s Fifolet Halloween Festival and other annual philanthropic events have been sidelined.

“But that doesn’t mean we still can’t have some fun,” Founder and President Corey Tullier said in a press release.

The organization is working on what it calls the “Fifolet Flip Flop,” where families can drive through a route lined with decorations and costumed characters. The festivities will take place Oct. 31, 2-4 p.m., next to Gerry Lane Buick-GMC at 6615 Florida Blvd.

While the event is free, each car is asked to provide a non-perishable food donation for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.

Besides the flip-flopped parade, 10/31 Consortium is hosting a costumed 5K where registered participants can run their own route anytime this month, as well as the Fifolet Cabaret to replace its annual costume ball. Ticket holders will get a link to an online show and dinner delivered to their door by a costumed character.

Find out more at 1031consortium.com.


The LSU Rural Life Museum and AgCenter’s Botanic Gardens are gearing up for fall events with extra COVID-19 precautions for visitors.

Rural Life Alive!

Check out artisans demonstrating crafts like blacksmithing, candle making, corn shelling and more during outdoor events on Wednesdays and Fridays, Oct. 2 to Nov. 20.

Harvest Days

Witness living history demonstrations that would have taken place on Louisiana farms and plantations during harvest time in the early 19th century. Oct. 3, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Corn Maze at Burden

The Botanic Gardens are converted into a Halloween playground with a maze, hayride, satsuma-picking, animal feeding, a pumpkin patch and more. Tickets are required for two-hour scheduled experiences. Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31

Haints Haunts and Halloween

The Rural Life Museum offers up a day of events for families, including trick-or-treating, storytelling, games and more. Oct. 25, 3-6 p.m.


lsu.edu/rurallife    lsu.edu/botanic-gardens

Merry, not scary

Another family-favorite Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo, returns this year with COVID-19 safeguards. BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo will welcome costumed (and masked) kids with plenty of programs, animal encounters and pre-packaged treat bags. The event is Oct. 17, 18, 24 and 25 with regular zoo admission. brzoo.org

This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of 225 magazine.