Sinister Sidney will open for its seventh season on Friday, October 1. Area residents can enjoy “Frights on Filmore” every Friday and Saturday night in October, weather permitting. Visitors are asked to check Sinister Sidney on Facebook for open status if the weather is questionable.
The outdoor haunted adventure starts at dark (approximately 7:30 p.m.), and runs until10 p.m. Tickets are $13, with up to a $3 discount for non-perishable donations, and can be bought onsite. Large groups can make arrangements ahead of time and get a large group discount, but that must be pre-arranged. Sinister Sidney is located at 1308 Filmore Street in Sidney and owned and run by residents Mike and Laurie Ross.
Sinister Sidney has a strict rule that visitors to the haunt must be 12 or older. This rule was put in place to protect the young from having Halloween ruined for them. Older visitors are fair game, though, and the cast and crew of Sinister Sidney will do everything in their power to ensure they spend their visit running, screaming or even crying in fear.
Sinister Sidney is a little over a half mile of trail through forest and pasture, passing next to the Mulberry Grove Cemetery at one point. New graves continue to be added to this cemetery to this day. The Rosses added about 80 feet of trail this year, and the 30-plus scenes have been updated and added to, including a new House of Pain. The spinning vortex didn't make it through the winter, but the Rosses have invested in several other new props and surprises to go along with their own creations and a large cast of spooks and specters. Whip’s Steakhouse and Saloon made a large donation this year that helped revamp one of the scenes.
Ross has always described Sinister Sidney as a creepy phobia and fear fest, and said they don’t count on in your face screams or jump scares. Instead, visitors are scanning every tree and curve for things that go bump in the night, prey to their own expectations and fears, and plagued by continuing unease and fear even after they leave.
Props and scenes are tweaked yearly, as visitors should never know exactly what to expect. Some possible scenes include a maze, a hillbilly shack, a witches hut and Euthanasia’s CarnEvil Big Top. Natural props such as treefalls help build the scenes, and “bio props” naturally occur along the trail and are artfully added to. (“Bio props” are items such as animal carcasses, and they add not only to the look of the scene, but also to the smell. Visitors are encouraged to avoid touching “bio props.”)
New photo opportunities have been added at certain spots along the trail. “Whip It Up” (Angela Whipple) is making a limited number of Sinister Sidney t-shirts that will be for sale on site for $20 plus tax. An example of these shirts may be seen on display at Whip’s Steakhouse and Saloon.
This year the fire pit returns, so visitors can rest briefly by the fire and buy a cup of hot chocolate to enjoy for 25 cents.
In regards to lingering COVID-19 concerns, the haunt is following state rules. Visitors can choose to wear a mask if they like, but it will not be required. Groups going through will be no larger than six people, but this has been a standard rule all along for safety and for the experience.
Every year visitors are reminded that this is a trail adventure, where people will spend 25-30 minutes outside, walking, sometimes running, over sometimes rough and/or uneven ground. Visitors are advised to dress warmly and wear proper shoes for a hike, not high heels or sandals.
Ross stated that the haunt is still (always) looking for actors and volunteers. Anyone interested in helping out or acting in the haunt can reach the Rosses on the Sinister Sidney Facebook page.
“Our cast and crew is our family,” Ross explained, “we watch them grow up; they come back to volunteer every year, and we love them.”
“Eventually, they graduate and go on to college or whatever their next step may be, though,” he added, “so we have to keep recruiting new members.”
The Rosses have enhanced the parking lot, and added a new entrance and security lighting. New this year is a “no loitering in the parking lot” policy, with notice that law enforcement will be called. Last year there were some issues with visitors that hung around to pick on one of the haunt actors, and Ross said this year they would just be dealt with immediately by law enforcement.
“The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department has been very helpful and responsive;” Ross noted, “we know we can count on them to keep our cast and crew and visitors safe should an issue arise.”
The Rosses work to be good neighbors in multiple ways. Sinister Sidney is a sponsor of the “Don’t Be a Monster” anti-bullying campaign. They offer community service hours for area high school seniors. The haunt is an all-encompassing safe space, with no alcohol, no drugs, and no judgement.
Sinister Sidney continues its annual practice of donating to the West Central Food Pantry of Sidney this year. A donation of at least three non-perishable items for the food bank can net visitors up to $3 off their admission, and helps the local food bank.
Ross noted Sinister Sidney will be giving away some tickets to the haunt on the radio station, The River, 89.7 FM, all month long. He added that they were recently investigated overnight by a paranormal investigation group, and said they were told the results were very interesting, but the final findings haven’t been released yet.
Sinister Sidney continues building its name and reputation in the haunt industry. Out of 53-plus haunts in Iowa, Scare Factor named Sinister Sidney No. 2, on its “Must See” list in 2018, and No. 1 in 2019, and didn't have a list in 2020. Scurry Face named Sinister Sidney a “red tie haunt” for 2020.
The host of Sinister Sidney, The Grave Digger (Mike Ross), was named the No. 1 International Scare Actor in 2019. Several of the haunt’s actors have competed in the Scare Actor contest.
The Grave Digger and Mistress Laurie (Laurie Ross) have a monthly talk show on Facebook and YouTube called Haunt Chat Live, and they are listed on IMDB.
For more information about Sinister Sidney, visit www.sinistersidney.com, where a link to the haunt’s Facebook page can also be found, as well as links to Sinister Sidney’s YouTube clips.