As Halloween approaches, don’t be satisfied with your usual trick-or-treating or just some neighborhood fright-house. Go big at some of these top 10 creepiest, scariest, and most scream-inducing mega-haunted houses across the United States. Staged inside everything from an old prison to a meatpacking plant and an insane asylum, some of these haunted houses would be scary even without the high-tech horrors added to them. Enter if you dare.
1. Pennhurst Asylum — Spring City, Pa.
Ghost Finders concluded that Pennhurst is actually haunted. (Photo: Pennhurstasylum.com)
Housed on the grounds of an infamous former asylum, Pennhurst now terrifies paying customers, who rush through the old cells filled with bloody, screaming apparitions of mad doctors and unwilling patients along a 900-foot “tunnel of terror” and among “human experiments that have gone horribly wrong.” The brave are then handed flashlights and allowed to wander around on their own through the old dormitories of the large Mayflower Building, certified by Ghost Finders to be thoroughly haunted. For a real horror show, watch the 1968 documentary about the actual living conditions at Pennhurst, and you’ll truly believe these buildings could be filled with spirits of tortured souls.
2. Netherworld — Norcross, Ga.
Enter Netherworld…if you dare. (Photo: Netherworld)
Netherworld is a warehouse-sized structure in the suburbs of Atlanta featuring elaborate sets and special effects worthy of a Disney attraction. Guests will encounter unattractive witches, a special assortment of blood-maddened clones, disconcerting flesh vats, and an angry army of corpses, while staggering through fog, crawling through spinning tunnels, and holding their noses against unsavory scents. The intense experience creates what the Travel Channel described as “more scares per square foot than any other haunt in America.” Even better, the building has been declared to be “paranormally active” by local experts, the Roswell Georgia Paranormal Investigators.
3. Headless Horseman — Ulster Park, N.Y.
Nothing says autumn like a festive hayride, and nothing says Halloween in the country like a good haunted corn maze. Combine the two at the Headless Horseman haunted park, north of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Hop aboard a hayride, and prepare to be harassed by witches as you reach some of the four haunted houses spread across a 45-acre fright-farm. The place is like a buffet of fear, with visitors getting hearty helpings of screams at a haunted motel, at a mutant-animal-infested pet shop, from carnivorous plants in a haunted greenhouse, and with old man wasp creatures lurking in the corn maze. If one doesn’t get you, another will. And oh yes, they have evil clowns, too.
4. House of Shock — Jefferson, La.
There is nothing scarier than a scary clown. (Photo: The House of Shock)
Combining the gore of a horror movie with the theatrics of a KISS concert, the House of Shock is a full Halloween festival located in an industrial park just across the river from New Orleans. It features ghouls, goblins, and animated corpses in a maze of rooms, live music and stage shows, pyrotechnics, and explosions. And because it’s right by New Orleans, of course it has a full bar to facilitate the fun. Sadly, like a doomed victim, the House is scheduled to end after this year, so see it before it becomes a darkened corpse.
5. Ghostly Manor — Sandusky, Ohio
Although some may say being located by Lake Erie is scary in itself, Ghostly Manor’s collection of bloody skeletons, sinister clowns, and “demonic children” (visiting and/or part of exhibit?) fill multiple venues as part of the area’s six-acre Fear Fest. Reasonably priced at $11 for adults, Ghostly Manor gives access to the castle-like haunted mansion of Eerie Chateau, as well as the prison-themed Caged and disease-ridden Quarantine exhibits. Wander the maze-like halls and be confronted by a variety of Halloween-themed horrors.
6. Cutting Edge Haunted House — Fort Worth, Texas
Beware: Someone is watching you. (Photo: Cutting Edge Haunted House)
Everything’s bigger in Texas. Cutting Edge owns the Guinness World Record as the “World’s Largest Walk-Through Haunted House.” Built inside a 235,000 sq. ft. abandoned meatpacking plant in a part of Fort Worth historically known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” Cutting Edge presents visitors with a long, scary promenade over multiple stories. There’s a hearty helping of chainsaw-wielding freaks, psychotic clowns, leaping lunatics, corpses butchered with old meatpacking plant equipment, and curiously, a soapy bubble-soaked segment, perhaps inducing the terrors of an Ibiza dance-club foam party.
7. The 13th Gate — Baton Rouge, La.
Celebrate Halloween by crawling around 13 different scream-inducing areas in this 40,000 square foot haunted house in downtown Baton Rouge, La. From a crematorium oven to a rickety bridge dangling over live snakes and a hearse ride through darkened tunnels and hallways filled with automaton creatures and lively actors, The 13th Gate showcases a host of new and exciting ways to scare visitors. Its new Necropolis 13 attraction across the street fills a city block with a New Orleans-style cemetery with crypts bursting forth with the living dead.
8. Terror Behind the Wall — Philadelphia, Pa
You’ll never know what you’ll find at Terror Behind the Walls (Photo: Terror Behind the Walls)
Built into the citadel-like fortress of the old Eastern State Penitentiary, Terror Behind the Walls is a full 11 acres of fear, with six separate attractions, including walks through old cell blocks and a modified machine shop of horror. Going the extra mile, the prison has an opt-in clause that allows the inmates to grab people from your group and send them into isolated passageways. Terrified children are also instructed to use the “monster be nice” opt-out clause. Certified haunted by multiple ghost-hunting groups, Terror Behind the Wall gets points for being a historically scary locale.
9. ScreamZone — Del Mar, Calif.
You’ll experience a close encounter with the walking dead at ScreamZone (Photo: ScreamZone)
One annoying thing about haunted houses is you can’t fight back. Not so at the San Diego-area Scream Zone, where in its Zombie Paintball Safari, you can blast away at the undead, which is not only fun, but also good training for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Those zombies who aren’t killed (again) chase visitors across multiple attractions, including the haunted hayride, the House of Horror, and The Chamber, which is a huge, spinning kaleidoscope tunnel. Best not to try that after visiting the Dusk to Dawn Bar, or Pennywise the evil clown will be laughing even harder at your efforts.
10. Thrillvania Haunted House — Terrell, Texas
Horror awaits you at the Thrillvania Haunted House (Photo: Thrillvania Haunted House)
Start with Verdun Manor, where a psychopathic werewolf awaits with his mutant minions. Walk the Trail of Torment, where unknown horrors await in the darkness, or go for an unholy visit to the abandoned church of Thorn Hall. The Dallas-area Thrillvania has four major attractions spread over its 50 acres of ominous bayou swampland filled with haunted creatures and a few man-eating plants. Based on a 1901 manor house constructed near a large cemetery, the Verdun area has a haunted history that gives its frights an extra validity, though the obligatory evil clowns seem a bit more contemporary.