Haunted attractions are a time-honored Halloween tradition for many. Many of my fondest Spooky Season memories involve heading to a variety of haunted houses in the Northeast with some of my closest friends to get daylights scared out of us. The haunt actors always appreciated our group of enthusiastic gays and high-pitched screamers. Like any performance, the actors feed off our energy, and these performers thrived on fear.
There are a variety of spook houses around the USA, all providing varying degrees of fright. You have your standard track-driven house filled with animatronics, usually found at amusement parks and carnivals, all the way up to extreme torture haunts that require you to sign a waiver to participate. We will take the middle ground here and round up some of our favorite terrifying haunts, that won’t bore or kill you.
Terror Vault (San Francisco)
Brought to you by Into the Dark Productions, The Terror Vault is an absolute must for true blue horror and haunt fans. Produced by drag and horror legend Peaches Christ and David Flower, this haunt is a fully immersive, theatrical show that places you into the storyline, complete with horrifying 4D effects and mazes to see your way through.
This year’s show is called “The Summoning” and you are being sent into the afterlife to track down and kill a rogue vampire named Lucretia whose dubious actions have placed the lives of all vampires and humans in jeopardy. Check out the trailer below.
Headless Horseman Haunted Attractions (Ulster Park, NY)
Featuring ten attractions, Headless Horseman is the best there is for a Halloween fright night in Upstate New York. Built around the legend of The Headless Horseman, each year the organizers craft a story centering around the mythological figure who always pops up at some point during your tour of the grounds. The famous hayride here has been replaced with a dark forest walkthrough haunt since covid, but in my opinion, it only ups the spook factor. The hay wagon gave you a place to duck and cover, no such protection exists now.
This year it seems the Headless Horseman is looking to reclaim his ancestral lands of Crow Hollow, the forest you happen to be walking through. He’s enlisting the help of the dead at Crow Hollow Cemetery to help him retake the land and conquer anyone who dares set foot on it. Good luck!
Bates Motel & Haunted Attractions (Glen Mills, PA)
The Bates Motel features a haunted house of the same name, naturally, that’s filled with gore and macabre, but the crown jewel of this attraction is their haunted hayride. Filled with enthusiastic actors and Hollywood-level special effects and sets, the hayride has been featured numerous times on The Travel Channel and voted as the #1 haunted attraction in the U.S. by CNN Traveler and USA Today.
Rumor has it that they are planning some extra special editions for the 2022 version of the hayride in honor of its post-Covid return. The site will also feature the Revenge of the Scarecrows Haunted Trail through a darkened cornfield! Not for the faint of heart!
The 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)
The 13th Gate is a haunted attraction that is known for its extreme ultra-realism and is one of the most intricate haunted houses in existence. The attraction’s level of detail, set design, and effects, combined with their impressive actors and incredible makeup effects can only be compared to a horror movie. The attraction features a life-like pirate ship, a stroll through the dangerous streets of Whitechapel, hidden subterranean passages filled with live snakes, and even an outdoor, zombie-infested graveyard, all seamlessly woven together and nothing short of masterful. The haunted house is constantly changing and growing from year to year, so guests never know what to expect around the next terrifying corner.
From exploring an old, abandoned asylum, to being lost in dark underground tunnels or even finding yourself standing on a rickety bridge overlooking hundreds of live snakes, this 40,000-square-foot haunted house is recommended for confirmed thrill seekers.
The Factory of Terror (Canton, OH)
The Factory of Terror is one of the largest indoor haunted houses in the world as recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records three times. This enormous haunt is more than a mile long and consists of five unique spine-chilling attractions; 1300 Lost Souls, Industrial Nightmare, Lafayette 13, Massacre on Mahoning, and (NEW for 2022) The Abyss. To take advantage of every minute, talented actors and performers are scattered throughout the queue lines to entertain patrons as they anxiously await to enter each attraction.
Another fun thing that this attraction does is position bars between attractions so you can both soothe your nerves and keep the party going throughout your journey, a guaranteed good time!