"Fright Nights" at the Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, Calif. (Photo: Dark Light Dynamix)
With the witching hour almost upon us, horror fans are shrieking with
delight at the haunted-house attractions that have sprung up to
celebrate the Halloween season.
The industry has become a $6 billion seasonal business, with an
estimated 2,500 haunted attractions worldwide. And every year,
America’s top attractions strive to do a better job of scaring the
socks off us.
Here’s a look at some of the best of this year’s crop.
Winchester Mystery House
San Jose, Calif.
Winchester Mystery House, an odd, rambling estate designed and built
by rifle heiress Sarah Winchester, is a state historical monument that
has long been said to be haunted. Now Fright Nights make it seem even
spookier during the Halloween season.
During her lifetime, Winchester built and rebuilt the house to avoid a
treacherous curse and escape the legacy of death passed down to her by
those who perished by the Winchester rifle. According to legend, the
victims now seek revenge.
Fright Nights visitors wander though various mazes, including the corn
fields of Winchester house, the haunted ruins of the family graveyard
and ultimately arrive at a showdown with Sarah herself as she presides
over one of her infamous séances.
There’s a whole lot of screaming going on these days in Las Vegas, and
it’s not just coming from the mouths of gamblers who have lost their
shirts at the tables.
Eli Roth’s Goretorium, a new fright attraction across from the
Cosmopolitan and City Center, is being called the city’s first
year-round horror show. Roth is the producer/director of the bloody
“Hostel” series and Goretorium follows in those footsteps, with
gruesome scenes and buckets of gore dominating the attraction. The
faint-hearted, fortunately, will find “chicken hallways” that will let
The story revolves around a fictional hotel called “The Delmont,”
which adds torture chambers and an electric chair to the usual slots
machines and roulette wheels found in normal Vegas casino hotels.
There’s also a lounge with zombie dancers and a wedding chapel for
brides and grooms addicted to horror.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary, which opened its doors to prisoners in
1829, is now an abandoned, rotting shell with castle-like walls and a
gruesome history. The gothic structure is intimidating enough during
the day, but at night it’s downright horrific.
The prison, long said to be haunted, is the setting for Terror Behind
the Walls, a 29-night event with a big following. Nearly half of its
guests have traveled to Philadelphia to see the attraction, some
coming from as far away as Europe and Australia.
Visitors wander the grounds and through cell blocks as a theatrical
production unfold around them. This year a new portion of the prison
will be included and visitors will enter an original 1800s cell block
and venture into an outdoor labyrinth of overgrown plants and twisting
Hangman’s House of Horrors
Fort Worth, Texas
A coiled noose awaits hardy individuals who enter the Hangman’s House
of Horrors in Fort Worth, Texas. There are also mazes, rooms that
spin, a 3-D funhouse and lots of other scary attractions.
The theme here is based on the legend of the “Hangman,” a 19th century
murderer with a penchant for hanging his victims on the banks of the
“Hangman’s House of Horrors” raises funds for charity and has donated
nearly $2 million during its 24-year history.
Long Beach, Calif.
All hands on deck, ghost hunters. The Queen Mary Dark Harbor tour has
set sail with a full complement of spirits manning the ship.
The Queen, a floating museum and hotel docked at the Port of Long
Beach, began life in the 1930s as a transatlantic ocean liner. During
her heyday, celebrity passengers crowded into her art deco salons and
staterooms. Rumors about ghosts began to circulate.
The ship is open to visitors year-round, but during the Halloween
season the emphasis changes, with six mazes and other entertainment
added to the schedule. Visitors tour long-abandoned areas of the ship
that seem frightening during the daylight. When viewed at night,
there's a scream around every corner.
St. Louis, Mo.
If you’re afraid of the dark, you might want to stay clear of The
Darkness, part of a Screamfest.com trilogy of terror in the St. Louis
area that includes The Haunting of the Lemp Brewery and Scream Park in
Fenton at Creepyworld.
The Darkness is the largest attraction, and combines hi-tech animation
and special effects.
New this year is Zombie Room, with huge scorpions, spiders and snakes
powered by animatronics. Watch out for the Terror Visions in 3-D
portion of the attraction, where crazed clowns and a clownzilla
jack-in-the-box will leave you screaming for the exit.
Ulster Park, N.Y.
It's been nearly two centuries since writer Washington Irving scared
the living daylights out Americans with his tale about the Headless
Horseman in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Despite the passage of
years, the headless man continues to roam-- now visiting the dark
roads of the Hudson Valley near Ulster Park. The haunting takes place
when the Headless Horseman Hayride and Haunted Houses attraction opens
its doors for the Halloween season.
The attraction, now 20 years old, covers 45 acres and includes a
one-mile hay ride, corn maze, and five haunted houses. Visitors can
check out the Lunar Motel, Glutton's Slaughter House, the Root Cellar,
Dark Harvest Corn Maze, Nightshade Greenhouse, Dahlia Blood's Manor
and, new for 2012, Dr Dark's Black Spider sideshow.
High Point, N.C.
Scare up some fun at Spookywoods, where crazed clowns, a ghostly
fiddler, a spinning vortex and a haunted cornfield are all part of the
The North Carolina attraction began in 1985 when some teens challenged
each other to explore a farm house rumored to be haunted. Their only
surprise that night was an attack by a family of bats. But the
experience gave them impetus to open their own haunted house. It's
been growing ever since.
Visitors explore a haunted farm house, then jump on a tram deep in the
woods to visit Clown Town and a haunted cornfield. On foot, Guests
traverse the corn maze on foot then move on to the Spookywoods
graveyard where they can explore a sewer, jump on a subway, brave a
ride on a cargo plane as it crashes and exit through a vortex tunnel.
Glen Falls, Pennsylvania
Check in, but be careful or you might not check out of the Bates
Motel. And don't get too close to the shower, or you could find
yourself in the same hot water Janet Leigh did in Alfred Hitchcock's
classic thriller "Psycho."
Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride, now in its 22nd season, includes a
ghostly walk through a Victorian mansion-themed attraction complete
with haunted kitchen, basement and wine cellar. Then visitors can
tackle the haunted hayride. a 25-minute ride rhough a dark forest.
The final element, new this year, is the Haunted Trail, which includes
a bridge over a pond swimming with alligators, a crazy clowns sequence
and at the finale, a visit to a chainsaw massacre site.
House of Torment
If you believe the Mayan prophecy that the world will end in December,
2012, you’ll love Austin’s House of Torment, which bases its story on
the apocalyptic tale and offers its visitors a variety of ways to die
before doomsday arrives.
The 25,000-square-foot attraction is a three-headed monster, offering
a trio of horrific venues in which to perish: The Howling, The
Awakening and The Slaughterhouse.
In The Howling, visitors enter the Lost Temple and descend into
darkness, where blood rituals take place and wolves reign supreme,
their howls setting nerves on edge and foretelling doom.
The Awakening takes place in the wake of the apocalypse, in the future
world where the Soul Reaper army battles undead hordes.
In The Slaughterhouse, mayhem reigns and the roar of chainsaws fills
the air. Humans are treated like livestock in this gruesome