'Tis the season when caring is scaring, and attractions around the nation are up to the task. From extreme single-guest experiences that will test your psychological mettle to old-fashioned mazes with more traditional elements of spook. Even film festivals will find you on the edge of your seat.
This list of 10 must-visit horror attractions runs the gamut, but can you run the gauntlet of fear traps that each of them set? Read on and decide for yourself.
Gates of Hell | Las Vegas
Abandon all hope, ye who enter the Gates of Hell — Photo courtesy of Freakling Bros.Horror Shows
It was the first R-rated attraction in Nevada, an "experiment in serious, uncompromising interactive horror." Gates of Hell is part of the Freakling Bros. Trilogy of Terror in Las Vegas, an experience of the highest horror order.
It's a Halloween life event perhaps surpassed only by the operation’s 2013 ante-upper: the 18+ Victim Experience, a solo-participant, after-hours offering so intense that only a portion of those who volunteer for the challenge "survive" without saying the safe word.
Scream Hollow | Smithville, Texas
Scream Hollow is nothing less than a horror complex set on 20 acres in Smithville, Texas — Photo courtesy of Karen & Steve Jackson
Located on 20 spooky acres roughly 50 miles outside Austin, Scream Hollow’s four large attractions take between 25 and 45 minutes to go through. That’s a lot of Halloween bang for your buck, and it's spread over a complex of buildings in rural Texas (a bona fide proven location for classic and truly terrifying horror cinema).
One of its offerings, Virgil’s Last Laff, not only features evil clowns, but something in this maze is scaring them! We don’t even want to know...
Horrorworld | Rowland Heights, Calif.
Guests walk alone through Horrorworld's Into The Dark experience — Photo courtesy of Horrorworld
Fans of the 1978 George Romero classic, Dawn of the Dead (or perhaps the 2004 remake) – where horror met social commentary amid the confines of a shopping mall – will delight in this Southern California horror attraction that largely does the same.
Taking over a portion of the Puente Hills Mall in Rowland Heights, this year’s Horrorworld mazes include the gore-spattered Flesh Yard, the mistreated miscreants of the Psycho Sanitarium, and the demonic possession-inspired Into the Black, a single-person, walk-it-alone experience. Think you’re brave enough?
ScareHouse: The Basement | Etna, Pa.
The Basement is ScareHouse's 18+ haunt. Think you'll survive? — Photo courtesy of The ScareHouse
ScareHouse features some pretty high-adrenaline haunts, but fear junkies looking for more extreme experiences will want to opt for a ticket into the 18+ Basement. The horrors are foisted upon guests who go in groups no larger than two (if you’ve got something to prove, you can go it alone).
It's an atmospheric, immersive experience that includes profanity, water, tight and dark spaces and violent scenarios, among other things. It requires the signing of a waiver.
Fear Factory | Salt Lake City
Guests are spaced out at Fear Factory, which makes each walk-through a singular and scary experience — Photo courtesy of Fear Factory
Located in an industrial section of SLC, the former Portland Cement Works was a working operation, and a high-risk career choice. Several employees of the company suffered gruesome accidents over the years, so much so that it seemed the very edifice was thirsting for blood. And souls.
These days, folks line up at Fear Factory to experience close encounters firsthand, wending their way along the rickety metal walkways, never knowing what might lurk around the corners. Oh, and there’s a pitch-black slide you’ll ride to make your escape. Staffers break up the groups, allowing actors to delight in scream after fresh, crisp scream.
Scream-A-Geddon | Dade City, Fla.
If the mazes don't get you, the inhabitants of Scream-A-Geddon's Monster Midway might — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
In Dade City, no one can hear you scream. That’s because Dade City (just outside Tampa) is pretty much in the middle of nowhere – and just where you want your hellish homespun horror carnival set.
Indeed, with mazes including the fluorescent firestorm of Rage 3D (because clowns are enduringly terrifying) and Dead Woods – a dark as pitch walk-through fraught with murderous hillbillies that seem just right for the locale. (The glow stick you're equipped with isn’t as much to help you walk as it is to allow the Tate family to descend upon you from the darkness.)
Scream-A-Geddon has got old-school carny appeal with games, food and, of course, freaks walking around to add some unexpected spice to your selfies.
This is Real | Cold Spring, N.Y.
In previous years, This is Real's "stars" were homicidal and horrific. This year, they're cooking up something new — Photo courtesy of This is Real
Here’s where everything you learned watching horror movies might pay off. For the past two years, This is Real was logging all kinds of buzz – in a Brooklyn location – for being an altogether different attraction. One where guests signed up to be willing victims, kidnapped and stashed in a warehouse where they’d watch the torture-killings of other victims, then have the chance to escape from their cages, find their friends and hopefully make it out before becoming the next in line.
For 2018, they’ve moved their operation to Cold Spring for a test-run on something new they hope to bring to Brooklyn next year. Become a blindfolded guinea pig for these dark-attraction masterminds.
Spooky Empire | Orlando
It may be a horror con, but that doesn't mean there's any less cosplay — Photo courtesy of Spooky Empire/Paul Schuh
Spooky Empire is not a haunted attraction, but as the largest horror (Halloween, rock and roll and tattoo) convention in the nation, it certainly has all the elements to help you get into the spirit of the season.
This includes huge celebrities from the horror realm (this year’s biggies include Mistress of the Dark Elvira and both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson from The X-Files), exhibitors selling all kinds of horror goodies and even a film festival. As with most cons, you can expect parties, panels and lots of cosplay, too.
Held October 26-28 in Orlando.
Brooklyn Horror Film Festival
All-new features, classic films and more make up the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival schedule — Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Horror Film Festival
This year’s installment features a first date gone wrong, a stylish, 70's era slasher tribute set in the world of gay porn, a documentary about the beloved 80's flick, The Monster Squad and a screening of the 1981 classic, My Bloody Valentine.
Theaters around Brooklyn will host the films and events, October 11-18.
Dungeon of Doom | Zion, Ill.
An hour-long romp through terror awaits at the Dungeon of Doom — Photo courtesy of Dungeon of Doom
How long do most haunted house walk-throughs take? Ten minutes? 15? At Dungeon of Doom, you’re looking at an hour’s worth of jump scares, chainsaws and even (if you’re game) being buried alive in this Chicago-area attraction.
Waits can get long as you get deep into October, but scare actors are plentiful and keep you entertained – even in line. How brave are you? Sign on for November’s blackout event and see the dungeon in a whole new way. Hint: you won’t see it at all!