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Fright night on Swanson Street

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Every year, the attraction gets bigger, better and scarier.

The Fright Factory at 2200 S. Swanson St. turned the ripe old age of 21 this year but owner Frank Procopio still smiles like a wide-eyed child when he has the chance to unleash a frightening new display inside the 125-year-old warehouse basement. Procopio uses all 25,000 square feet as a labyrinth of horror with the intent of scaring the stuffing out of his guests.

“It’s so much fun,” Procopio said. “And this is coming from a big baby when I was a kid. When I was 8, I was afraid of everything. Now things are different. Scaring people is so much fun. You can let your inner person come out.”

Procopio now has sleeves of tattoos with skeletons down each arm, proving he’s gotten over his fear of haunted houses somewhere along the line. It’s become his passion to entertain thrill seekers in South Philly while raising money for the South Philly Vikings nonprofit organization that is a staple of the annual Mummers Parade.

“(The Fright Factory) started as a fundraiser,” Procopio said. “It was just to offset the cost of everything involved with the Mummers. The shows that get put on today are so elaborate so we try to raise the money this way.”

Despite trying to raise money, the haunted attraction spares no expense. There’s intense audio, pitch-black dark rooms, strobe lights, fog, moving floors, special effects and costumed actors who love to catch you off guard at your most vulnerable moments.

Even the well-lit areas are downright creepy.

“It’s just about putting a good show on,” Procopio said. “We’re trying to give people what they want and keep the price down as minimal as you can. We try to make it family friendly. But it is scary.”

The Fright Factory has been previously featured on the Travel Channel as one of the scariest haunted attractions in the country. Tickets are still available for the final week Oct. 27-31 and run about $25 on weekdays and $30 on Friday and Saturday nights. 

On Halloween night, cast members from the movie Terrifyer will be on site to share in the thrills. Scenes from the movie’s sequel Terrifyer 2, which will be released next year, were shot in the Fright Factory in February 2020.

“It was pretty cool to see how they made the movie,” Procopio said. “It was awesome to have them here.”

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Joe Christy has been working in haunted attractions for 30 years. He latched on to the Fright Factory five years ago and has been working as the general manager. He said the Fright Factory has a rare mix of good people and a unique aura that makes it a special place to work.

“I’ve been around and it’s like a family here,” Christy said. “There’s a grittiness to this place that’s unlike anywhere else. There’s an eeriness about it.”

Preparation for the following year’s version usually begins in November. The crew will travel to other attractions and conventions to fuse some ideas into their own.

“We try to add some stuff and keep up with the times,” Christy said. “There’s always something new coming out.”

This year, the attention will immediately shift to Christmas as the site will hold a Christmas Nightmare scary attraction, bringing Halloween thrills to the Christmas holiday season.

“It’s our first time doing Christmas,” Procopio said. “We’re excited about it and we’re trying to make everything bigger and better for the people who come here.”

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