For some, Halloween means pumpkin-carving, candy collecting and costume contests. But for others, the real holiday spirit is best embodied by a truly terrifying, scare-your-pants-off experience — even if it’s totally fabricated.
If you’re a member of the latter group, then there’s no question as to whether or not your Halloween season will include an adrenaline-pumping visit to one of the many haunted house attractions across the U.S. In 2013 the Haunted Attraction Association estimated there were about 2,500 haunted attractions worldwide, most of which exist in the U.S., so there’s certainly no shortage of eerie otherworldly adventures to choose from when it comes to satisfying your desire for a spine-chilling scare.
In celebration of the Halloween season, and to help you narrow down some of your choices, here we’re highlighting a few of the premiere haunted house attractions that are absolutely worth a visit — if your heart can handle it, that is.
For the Halloween season, Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary is transformed into America’s largest haunted house attraction. The gothic structure was once one of the most famous prisons in the world, but today, its decaying cellblocks and vacant guard towers make the perfect setting for a spine-chilling experience. Visitors can opt to explore the attraction participating as onlookers or choose the “interactive” experience, which means they’ll be vulnerable to any monsters that cross their paths and might even become incorporated as part of the show.
From 2005 to 2009, this four-story haunted house —founded by “haunt industry” veterans Ed and Jim Terebus — held the Guinness World Record for the longest walk-through haunted attraction and earned the final spot on the HauntedHouses.com 2015 list of the 13 scariest haunted houses. Visitors can expect to spend about 45 terrifying minutes inside the house and should be prepared to be grabbed, bitten and even buried alive.
One of the largest and oldest Halloween attractions in the U.S., Headless Horseman features six haunted houses, “Dr. Dark’s Sideshow,” the Evil Reaping corn maze and of course, the Horseman’s War Hayride. Number nine on the HauntedHouses.com 2015 list of the 13 scariest haunted houses, this well-loved seasonal attraction never fails to disappoint Halloween-lovers of all types. “I've been to haunted attractions around the country, and nothing compares to the overall experience of Headless Horseman,” one recent visitor wrote on Yelp. “Great atmosphere, great scares, great people, great food and just an overall great time.”
Each year at Halloween time, the Cranmore Mountain Resort is transformed into a seriously scary haunted house attraction called The Ghoullog. The 15,000-square foot space features a series of dark rooms and spooky mazes with haunted horrors waiting around each and every corner. Plus, the 60-minute attraction ends with visitors making their way through “the dark woods,” where even more screams and scares await.
Consistently rated as Utah’s top haunted house attraction, Nightmare on 13th has been delivering serious scares for 25 years. Each year the house takes on a new theme, and to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, it will feature the best, most terrifying thrills from the past, plus “never before seen horrors to terrify your soul.”
Not exactly a “haunted house,” but certainly a spooky experience in its own right, from October 27 to 31, San Antonio’s Sheraton Gunter invites visitors to take an hour-long ghost-hunting tour through some of the building's “top secret haunted areas.” The tour will feature high-tech paranormal detecting equipment and lead visitors through the hotel’s basement and the famously haunted sixth floor where one of the city’s most infamous unsolved murder cases took place in room 636.
Featuring three terrifyingly twisted haunted attractions, the Freakling Bros have been scaring the pants off their patrons for 23 years. Visitors can choose to tour the classic Castle Vampyre, the R-rated Gates of Hell (described as a “sadistic experiment in absolute sensory overload") or the new "Coven of 13," which aims to push the boundaries of complete and total immersion of the haunted house experience and will feature one of Halloween’s most classic themes — witches, warlocks and black magic.
For Halloween-lovers of all kinds, Hobb’s Grove features a handful of bone-chilling attractions including dark shadow-filled tours of the “The Hollows” haunted forest, adrenaline-pumping visits to the ghost-inhabited Hobb Family Home and extra eerie hayrides through the dark California countryside.
Just outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fear Grounds boasts more than 55,000 square feet of truly terrifying haunts. Dubbed the “trilogy of terror,” this enormous attraction features three haunted houses — the “Carnevil of Torment,” “Unstable” and the cornerstone of the trio, “Morgan Manor” — plus, the newly introduced “Morgana’s Escape” where visitors are left to find three keys in order to escape a dark, terror-filled room.
The old Custer House at Fort Abraham Lincoln is thought by many to be haunted, which is why it’s transformed into the Haunted Fort Halloween attraction each year in October. The creators promise to bring visitor’s nightmares to life with a combination of eerie effects and in-your-face scares guaranteed to give even the bravest of participants a good scare. Plus, there’s the building's history of authentic paranormal activity, too. It’s said interpreters and tourists alike have reported disembodied footsteps heard in the sergeant’s quarters, sightings of a woman wearing a black dress looking out the second floor window and a shadowy figure that stalks the Commissary late at night.