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Behind The Screams

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Pittsburgh’s Pinball Wizard

There’s a new attraction this year at ScareHouse, and it’s something you can experience without ever entering the haunt: Play a couple of rounds of pinball and other classic arcade games before or after your ScareHouse experience, courtesy of PGH Pinball.

“If you enter the mall from the movie theater, ScareHouse is to the right,” says PGH Pinball owner Doug Polka, “and we’re directly to the left. There are pinball machines and classic arcades; we have about 16 games there right now.”

Are the games. . .scary?

pittsburgh pinball games at ScareHouse “We tried to include some games with a horror connection. There’s a Halloween game, which is based on the original Halloween movie, so that’s probably the spookiest one we have there. There’s an older game called Nitro Ground Shaker, where on the back glass there’s a skeleton driving a drag racing car.”

There’s even a game called Attack from Mars, which is perfect to play before or after you go through ScareHouse’s newest alien-apocalypse-themed escape room, Stop the Invasion.

“Pinball is experiencing a rebirth all over the world right now. Pinballs are booming. There are more manufacturers now for pinball machines than there were in the ‘90s, in Pittsburgh specifically, I think.”

Polka’s business, PGH Pinball, routes machines, classic vids, arcade games, and any kind of coin- or token-operated amusement device all over the Pittsburgh region. You may have played his games at popular establishments like Coop De Ville, Shorty’s on the North Shore, and Kickback in Lawrenceville.

As a fan of arcade and pinball machines while growing up in the ‘90s, Polka got his start in the pinball business when he bought a broken Jurassic Park game, fixed it up, and sold it to purchase nicer games. Eventually, he helped start a pinball league in Pittsburgh (“the Pittsburgh Pinball League, curiously enough”) and decided to put some of his games out on location to let people play them. He also helped run both the Professional Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA) and the Replay FX Arcade & Video Game Festival.

“At Replay, we branded what was the biggest pinball tournament in the world. It was a thousand people the last time we ran it, and when tickets would go on sale, they’d sell out in a minute. People from all over the world would come to play, from Australia and Europe.”

Unfortunately, COVID forced the organization to sell off a lot of the machines, but Polka is hopeful to bring something similar back in the future.

“We’re trying to get something like that together, but it’s finding a space large enough to do it as well as getting all the games required, which is quite a big task.”

In the meantime, Polka is excited for a new group of guests to discover pinball and arcade machines, whether they’re hanging out before or after their ScareHouse haunt experience or are too scared to go in (ScareHouse offers something for everyone!).

“I hope the ScareHouse guests enjoy the pinball and classic arcade games outside the haunt because that’s what they’re there for—to be enjoyed!”