300 Years Later, Sleepy Hollow Still Spooks

There's no mistaking the "Horseman's Hollow" in New York's Sleepy Hollow for an amateur production. It's staged with professional actors using movie make up and special effects, reports CBS News correspondent Jay Dow.

It's set on the grounds of a spooky 300-year-old manor where Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" has been taken to its darkest extremes.

"I've witnessed people of all ages screaming their heads off, laughing, having a blast," said Thom Thacker, site director.

"This is not for little kids," said Susan Rubin, a visitor from Chappaqua, New York. "But it had a nice blend of horror and history. It's intense. It was awesome."

More than 3,000 haunted theme attractions open their doors nationwide every Halloween, earning an estimated $500 million.

It turns out there's a science to creating a good scare. And the most effective attractions -- including a room which creates a real sense of claustrophobia - are designed to slowly build a feeling of controllable fear and anxiety. It works.

"It's the old Hitchcock theory," said creative director Lance Hallowell. "It's just like you can never not show the monster and have a perfectly great movie."

Experts say it's in our DNA to crave a good scare.

"There are safe thrills," said Frank Farley, psychologist at Temple University. "It's not like climbing Mt. Everest. You know you are going to come out ok."

Even if the headless horseman does his best to make you think otherwise.