Halloween is celebrated a lot of different ways by those who take part. While trick-or-treating, Halloween movies, and costumed parties may be some of the more common activities, there’s nothing quite like attending a few Halloween attractions such as a corn maze or a haunted house. In the past, these events were often organized by local civic groups, such as the JayCees and Kiwanis, in order to raise operating funds. (As a kid, it is quite an experience to be chased down by a chainsaw-wielding maniac in a cheap hockey mask… It certainly will give you… issues…) My experiences from Halloween haunts as a child are treasured, and led to a life-long appreciation for the more macabre. Horror can be classified as a geek love, right?
Today, there are quite a number of for-profit entertainment attractions that have increased the realism and fright level. While there is money to made from the interest in real haunted places, Americans have proven that we want a terrifying experience much like “The Walking Dead” or “Saw,” sans the blood and guts, of course. This industry has seen tremendous growth much like a zombie virus, as the money spent on the Halloween holiday has approached the ten billion dollar mark. (Compare this to a one billion dollar industry before 2000.)
The best Haunted Halloween attractions incorporate a totally sensory experience, or at an opposite extreme, they may deprive the sense of sight in order to create that flight-or-fight response that so many thrill seekers crave. Some may also offer a more immersive experience that makes the participants more than those just idly passing by. Here are some examples of such blood-curdling delights to be found across the country, in case you are looking for some mischief before All Hallows Eve.
The Purge Live (Los Angeles, CA)
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, there are hundreds of choices for your nights of terror, but this focused, intense and immersive limited attraction looks to be one that you don’t want to miss out on. It’s totally produced by Blumhouse Productions, the compnay that helmed such skin-crawling thrillers as “Paranormal Activity,” “Insidious,” and “Sinsiter.” Taking Fear the Night to a whole new level, what will you do to Survive the Night?
Land of Illusion (Middelton, OH)
Expanded from the acclaimed Middleton Haunted Trail, this attraction is actually a five-in-one deal, plus there is an added Zombie Sniper Patrol extra if you feel the need to take out a few zombie scum with paintballs. In addition to the classic haunted trail, the four haunted houses include Killer Klowns (*shiver* “we all float down here?”), Voodoo Bayou Shanty, Temple of Terror, and Doctor Psycho’s Haunted Estate.
Thrillvania (Dallas, TX)
If everything is bigger in Texas, then their Halloween attractions sure do fit the bill. While there are tons of amazing things to see and do for the holiday, this theme park should be at the top of the list. It’s another haunted theme park, located on 50 acres. All of its themed houses incorporate varying elements of terror. Let me tell you, the Thorn Hall house, which removes light, sounds like a veritable heart attack to me…
USS Nightmare (Newport, KY and Cincinnati, OH)
This is a floating terror attraction that is built inside a real steamboat named after its captain, William S. Mitchell—but nicknamed the “Death Dredge” by its crew. You’ll be taken on a 30 minute immersing story about how this ship got its name, as you interact with ghastly Captain Mitchell, his odd daughter Anna, and the eternally suffering crew.
House Of Horrors and Haunted Catacombs (Buffalo, NY)
This one’s so top-notch that it has its own movie filmed on the grounds.
Woods of Terror (Greensboro, NC)
A local story says that a benevolent priest bound the spirits of the restless dead, who didn’t even receive a pauper’s burial during the Great Depression, to his land. When he died, his descendants found that the place is still haunted. This place, which has the appearance of an illegal dump found in the woods, looks truly wicked. Those who have had the… pleasure to walk the grounds are sure to agree.
Terror Behind the Walls (Philadelphia, PA)
Set inside the actual Eastern State Penitentiary. The video is chilling.
Shocktober Fest (Sinking Spring, PA)
While there’s plenty of scares to be had here, this attraction has upped the level of… creepy… a notch. How about running through a dark house-of-horrors while naked? This certainly got them in the news and amped up the publicity, but it turns out the local big-wigs weren’t so amused. So, instead of nude, you can go prude (in yer undies) as a compromise. If this sounds like a jolly good time, more power to you. I’ll take the possibility of wetting my pants instead.
Of course, not everything has to be scary. “The Pumpkin House” in Kenova, West Virginia is a favorite for young and old. There are plenty of pumpkins that are carved to suit just about any taste, including the geek in all of us. Star Wars, Star Trek, and even a TARDIS have been spotted. And what can beat a pumpkin instrument symphony?
This weekend, I’m heading to the Pumpkin House, The Fallsburg, Kentucky haunted house, and Carter Caves State Park’s haunted trail for a good mix of Halloween fun. Next year, plans may include some of the larger attractions.
What are your plans leading up to Halloween? Do you like being totally scared, or is a ghost walk more your style?
Check out some Halloween attractions and their rankings here.