What’s Halloween without a visit to a haunted house? Haunted houses are not only a seasonal tradition, they’re also excellent examples of engaging an audience at an emotional level. Think about it: when you go into a haunted house, you know what’s going to happen. Someone is going to scare you. And yet even though we can predict what will happen, we willingly submit to their choreographed terror and fun because we don’t know quite how the haunted house will serve up the experience. Haunted houses have become so popular that there are 4,500 haunted houses and Halloween-themed attractions that welcome thrill-seeking guests looking for a good scare. They range from the three-to-four week operations to one-to-two night events, and from children-appropriate fun to an all-out, adults-only scare fest. If you’ve built up the nerve to hit a few awesome haunted houses this year, here are a few you might want to check out.
Statesville Haunted Prison: Crest Hill, Illinois
Statesville is a prison that people pay to enter. Located near Chicago, Statesville Haunted Prison is an homage to the nearby Stateville Correctional Center, which has housed some of the most notorious criminals in U.S. history. The make-believe prison is known for being flat-out horrifying. Statesville recreates a world in which “the Prisoners have rioted, the guards have fled, a darkness has seized control of this Maximum Security Prison and our Warden has opened the gates for visitors,” according to its website. After you enter the prison, you walk past 23 maximum-security cells, where you encounter more than “100 criminals that were too evil to die.”
And that’s just for starters. Visitors also encounter a burial pit called the City of the Dead, which consists of caves and mine shafts full of zombies and ghosts of past inmates. Your mission: survive the descent and make it back to the surface.
What makes Statesville memorable is its use of storytelling around the motif of a prison. Each ghoul and zombie exists to challenge you to survive a night in a haunted prison. The monsters themselves feature some of the best make-up and costumes you’ll find at any haunted house. It’s no surprise that Statesville is consistently ranked one of the best haunted houses in the United States. Just make sure you leave your little ones at home.
Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights: Southern California and Orlando
This event, heading into its 26th year, is notable for combining scary experiences trending in pop culture alongside classic horror concepts. The attraction features a series of scary mazes, which are housed in separate structures. Each maze features a special theme. For instance, the 2016 Horror Night includes mazes that draw upon the popularity of American Horror Story and The Walking Dead television shows. By entering a maze, you practically re-create the same creepy and frightening experiences that the characters on the show encounter — if you dare.
Halloween Horror Nights Universal also continues the terror experience outside the mazes. Scare zones along the walkways of the park are populated by “Scareactors,” meaning you could be chased by chainsaw-wielding ghouls, hunted by bloodthirsty zombies, or preyed upon by werewolves. You’re not safe even once you leave the maze, making for a memorable experience.
Gravesend Inn Haunted Hotel: New York
Horror meets high-tech at this haunted hotel attraction, which is significantly more family-friendly than a haunted house such as Statesville. The tour takes guests through the sinister Gravesend Inn, where a few former boarders of the undead variety have yet to check out. This Halloween attraction is fun for kids of all ages, but what makes it special is the genius behind the horror. The Gravesend Inn has been produced since 1999 by students at the New York City College of Technology’s Theatreworks troupe. You can find it at on campus at the Voorhees Theatre.
Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
This chilling experience is based upon a horrific presence that transcends cultures and civilizations: The boogeyman. As children, many of us were afraid to look under the bed or peek into the closet at night, for fear that this mythical demon would come out the moment we closed our eyes to sleep. The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride takes the legendary boogeyman and runs with it, featuring the various personas he, she – or it – takes across the world.
This experience is special because it takes our vision of the boogeyman and turns it on its head. The presence may not always be a dark creature crouching in the shadows or a fiend with glowing eyes and claws. It may be lurking in plain sight, ready to pounce. It may be right behind you, even as you gain a false sense of security from the lantern you thought would help you see – only it actually serves to let the Boogeyman see you. There’s no doubt even adults will be checking under the bed the night after this haunted hayride.
These awesome haunted houses aren’t for the timid. So make sure to bring someone you can grab onto when experiencing the thrills and chills. When was the last time you visited a really scary Halloween haunted house? What are some of your favorite haunted hayrides in your neck of the woods? Let us know how you spend your Halloween in the comments.
Image source: statesvillehauntedprison.com
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