SINGAPORE - Every October, blogger Nicholas Yau psyches himself up to be scared silly by ghosts, demons, clowns and whatever else that goes bump in the night.
The 25-year-old is a fan of Universal Studios Singapore's annual Halloween Horror Nights and forks out around $80 every year to attend the fright fest with his friends. The event started in 2011.
"Some people think it's a waste of money. I always get the 'You're paying to scare yourself!' remark. To me, it's a form of experiential entertainment that you can't get elsewhere, short of having a true paranormal encounter," he says.
Halloween, which falls on Oct 31, has its origins in Celtic and Christian traditions, and is mostly celebrated in Western cultures.
Mr Yau is one of a growing number of Halloween buffs here whom businesses try to woo every year, pulling out all the stops to create an unearthly experience with fresh scare antics, extravagant decorations and attractive giveaways for the best dressed customers.
From theme parks to nightclubs to restaurants, many establishments are jumping on the Halloween bandwagon. For instance, Halloween Horror Nights is going bigger this year.
"Compared with when we launched the event, this year's event has more than doubled in scale, considering the number of event nights, scare zones and haunted houses," says Ms Andrea Teo, vice-president of entertainment at Resorts World Sentosa.
The integrated resort would say only that the event has seen double-digit growth in visitor numbers each year.
Opening today, the fourth instalment of Halloween Horror Nights will have its first 3-D haunted house as well as a new stage show featuring a famous character from Universal Studios Florida.
More scares can be found on Sentosa Island with the other major Halloween fest, Sentosa Spooktacular.
Organised by Sentosa Leisure Management, the event has renewed a three-year partnership with renowned Thai movie production studio GMM Tai Hub.
Last year, Sentosa Spooktacular raised its horror quotient by recreating key scenes from five well-known Thai films, including Shutter (2004), and drew a record high of 15,000 visitors.
The event attracted 3,000 visitors in its first year in 2009.
This Halloween, the entire Fort Siloso will be transformed into a haunted village inspired by Thai horror film Laddaland (2011), complete with longer walkthroughs within three houses. Over at Downtown East, NTUC Club has collaborated with escape-room operator Lockdown Singapore to create a new crime scene investigation game.
"This year, our Halloween events are going to be held over five days and they will be new and bigger. We expect to attract more participants of all age groups to take part," says Mr Ronnie Tan, NTUC Club's director of group integrated sales and marketing.
For those who prefer to play dress up, several nightspots have plans up their sleeves for Halloween. Old-timer Zouk has been celebrating Halloween since it opened its doors in 1991.
Work on the major annual event on the nightspot's party calendar begins close to two months before and up to $100,000 is spent on production and marketing, Zouk's head of marketing and events, Ms Sofie Chandra, says.
The club's investment in the event has grown by between 20 and 25 per cent in the past five years. "This year, we have also extended our Halloween celebrations to a Halloween Weekender with three event nights," Ms Chandra adds.
At The White Rabbit restaurant and its bar, The Rabbit Hole, in Dempsey, Halloween parties have "been somewhat of a tradition" in the past five years, says Mr Andrew Ing, chief operating officer of The Lo & Behold Group, which owns the two establishments.
Both spaces are decorated to reflect the yearly theme and the best dressed patrons can win prizes, including a stay at a villa in Bali. Mr Ing notes that attendance has grown by 50 per cent each year and more partygoers have been dressing up in costumes.
Naturally, more Halloween events spell fiercer competition among businesses.
Sentosa Leisure Management's events director, Mr Jimmy Wong, says: "Keeping it fresh each year is one of our biggest challenges. To meet the market's expectations, we have to continuously challenge ourselves to look at the demand and what patrons want."
He adds that 50 per cent more funds have been pumped into producing the event this year.
Mr Ing agrees that the Halloween scene is getting more competitive. He says that investments into the parties have increased by between 15 and 20 per cent annually.
Despite the competition, the seven-month-old And So Forth, which does pop-up, immersive- themed dinners, is giving the Halloween theme a whirl this year.
It will hold a ghost wedding themed dinner called Marriage Of The Spirits at a secret location on Halloween. Diners are invited to dress as the characters assigned to them when they sign up and partake of an eight-course Chinese feast.
Says And So Forth's co-founder, Ms Emily Png: "I think some of us love an excuse to not be ourselves and just have fun. Halloween provides that perfect opportunity."