Looking for a good fright this Halloween? Hauntworld magazine has just come out with its annual listing of the nation's top haunted houses.
Just for a sense of perspective: The magazine maintains that there are roughly 1,200 for-profit frights, ranging from haunted houses, haunted hayrides to spooky corn mazes. Some 300 theme parks -- like Knott's 'Scary Farm' and Universal Studios -- also produce a themed event at this time of year. In addition, more than 3,000 charity attractions open for a few days prior to Halloween, charging admission to support a school or club, like the Boy Scouts.
Halloween is now the national second-largest commercial holiday, with roughly 90% of households with children participating in some sort of festivity.
The typical haunted attraction brings in about 8,000 paid guests, according to Hauntworld. But some of the biggest will attract literally hundreds of thousands. The price? Many haunted houses still charge $13 -- it's a themed price. But as haunted attractions have become increasingly sophisticated, many have also hiked their prices. Now most charge $15 "per event" -- in other words, a site that offers a haunted house; a hayride and a corn maze may charge separately for each. It can run $30 or more to get access to the entire site. The amusement park haunts are even more costly, setting visitors back as much as $65.
What are the top commercial haunts, according to Hauntworld? In the following pages, you'll find their top 14 (they call it the top 13 -- again for the theme -- but the #1 pick was a tie). Here's the top haunts; where they're located; what makes them special and what they cost.
#13: Nightmare on the Bayou
#13: Nightmare on the Bayou, Houston
This Houston, Texas-based attraction owes its ranking to Hollywood quality props, professional animatronics and dozens of actors, whose only job is to freak you out. Added attraction: It's situated next-door to a real graveyard. They boast that they also have a gift store just in case you want to bring something spooky home with you.
The dates: The site opens on the last Thursday in September and is generally open Thursday through Sunday until Halloween week, when it's open every night.
The price: $30 for a regular ticket; $40 for a VIP ticket that gets you into the front of the line.
The web site: Nightmare on the Bayou
#12: 13th Floor
#12: 13th Floor, San Antonio, Tx.
This site, which spans 40,000 square feet in a 105-year-old building in San Antonio, takes visitors through three floors, starting with a custom-crafted elevator, which is the first step in the frightening ride. The sets and performers are impeccable, according to Hauntworld.
The dates: Open weekends, starting Sept. 23.
The price: $19.99
The web site: http://www.13thfloorsanantonio.com/
#11: Dent School House
#11 Dent School House, Cincinnati, Ohio
This attraction is located in a real former schoolhouse from the late 1800s that has a murderous past. The bloodthirsty janitor becomes part of the frightening theme. But the attraction is also noted for animatronics, actors and costuming. The site warns that this may be too frightening for children under the age of 12.
The dates: Open Thursday through Sunday, from Sept. 16th through Halloween
The price: Regular admission: $20; Fast pass: $30; Lights-on tour: $7
The web site: http://www.frightsite.com/index.html
#10: Asylum Haunted House
#10: Asylum Haunted House, Denver, Co.
This is actually two haunted houses in one -- Zombie Land and The Asylum, a hospital for the criminally insane -- damp, musty and nightmare infested. The site gets high marks for the attention that's been paid to every detail.
The dates: Opens Sept. 30 and is open most days
The price: Tickets range from $20 to $30, depending on the day and whether you want to stand in line.
The web site: http://www.asylumdenver.com/flash/index.htm
#9 Erebus, Pontiac, Michigan
Surrounded by other haunted houses, this one is a hands-on experience. The owners, who have been in the haunted house business for 30 years, are masters at designing scares that grab you, bite you or fall on your head. In the new War of the Worlds section, you'll watch as a alien explodes before your eyes.
The dates: Open weekends, starting Sept. 23; open Wed-Sun in October and every night during Halloween week.
The price: $23 at the door; less if you buy online
The web site: http://www.hauntedpontiac.com/index.htm
#8: House of Torment
#8: House of Torment, Austin, Tx.
This takes you though an apocalyptic journey, where the world has suffered through virulent disease; alien invasions and attacks by monsters. Just when you think you've seen it all, you face the "Soul Reaper Army." ...And then there's the bloodthirsty crew of the shipwreck.
The dates: Opens weekends, starting Sept. 23, then open nightly from Oct. 13th through Halloween.
The price: $19.99 for general admission; $29.99 for a fast-pass.
The web site: http://thehouseoftorment.com/
#7: 13th Floor (another one...)
#7: 13th Floor, Phoenix, Az.
This 60,000 square foot attraction spans thematic horror to "zombie apocalyptic carnage," making it a "must-see," according to Hauntworld. Detailed Gothic graveyards turn to an infected city of the undead. The site employs 100 performers and is noted for the detailed costumes.
The dates: Opens weekends, starting Sept. 23 and gradually expanded dates through October.
The price: $25 general admission; $30 fast-pass
The web site: http://www.13thflooraz.com/index.html
#6 Cutting Edge
#6: Cutting Edge, Ft. Worth, Tx.
Located in an old meat-packing plant, the site was recognized by Guinness as the longest haunted house in the world. It features live sets, animation and hundreds of actors, who scare you inside and outside of the plant, which maintains the meat-packing theme.
The dates: Open weekends from Sept. 10th and gradually longer hours through October. This site also is open the first weekend in November.
The price: $29.50 general admission; $49.50 fast-pass; $5 off for children.
The web site: http://www.cuttingedgehauntedhouse.com
#5: Netherworld, Atlanta, Ga.
Known for its unique monsters and original scares, Netherworld has been featured on everything from the Travel Channel to the Today Show and was used as a set for the film Zombieland. For Hauntworld's full review, click here.
The dates: Open weekends, starting Sept. 23 through Nov. 5.
The price: $22 for "the nightmares"; $28 if you also want to see "raw meat."
The web site: http://www.fearworld.com/
#4: Headless Horseman
#4: Headless Horseman, Ulster Park, NY
Located in New York's Hudson Valley, this attraction offers a massive corn maze, a haunted hayride, six haunted houses, side shows, gift shops and several restaurants in a 40-acre site. Come, scream, stay and eat.
The dates: Open Saturday the 24th, and weekends starting in Oct. Hours expand closer to Halloween
The price: $37.95 to $62.95 for an upgraded "scream pass."
The web site: http://www.headlesshorseman.com/
#3: 13th Gate
#3: 13th Gate, Baton Rouge, La.
The level of detail, actors, make-up and set design can only be compared to an expensive Hollywood set, according to Hauntworld. The attraction has more than 13 different indoor & outdoor "fright zones," from asylums, cellars, a real snake-infested Louisiana swamp, nightly voodoo shows, hidden subterranean passages and even a prehistoric ice cave. Hauntworld calls it "nothing short of masterful." This year, they've added Necropolis 13, a New Orleans style cemetery with crypts, mausoleums and, of course, zombies.
The dates: Open Thursday - Saturday, starting on Sept. 22. Longer hours, closer to Halloween
The price: $20 for 13th Gate; $35 to get into both 13th Gate and Necropolis. If you want a fast-pass, the prices jump to $40 and $55.
The web site: http://midnightproduction.com/
#2: The Darkness
#2: The Darkness, St. Louis, Mo.
Each year, the makers of this haunted house outdo themselves finding new ways to scare visitors. This attraction now brags two floors of high-tech animation, special effects and a 3-D haunted house that will make you feel like you've walked into a real nightmare. Best likened to a Hollywood set, the site increases the scare factor with each step. This offers 3 attractions for one price.
The dates: Open weekends through the end of September, and most days through October.
The price: $20; $30 for a fast-pass.
The web site: http://www.scarefest.com/haunted_house.cfm
#1: Tie--Pennhurst Asylum & The Bates Motel
# 1: Tie between Pennhurst Asylum & The Bates Motel
#1(a) Pennhurst Asylum, Philadelphia, Pa
Located in a 100-year-old abandoned mental institute called the Pennhurst Asylum, the scene is already set for a scare. The building itself has been investigated by professional ghost hunters and featured on television ghost hunting shows. You can check out Hauntworld's full review here.
The dates: Open weekends starting Sept. 23; Thurs-Sunday as of Oct. 13, also some weekends in Nov.
The price: Ranges from $15 to $75, depending on how many attractions you want to see and if you want faster-line privileges.
The web site: http://www.pennhurstasylum.com/
#1(b): The Bates Motel, Philadelphia, Pa
This haunted house and hayride are located in a forest full of overgrown trees, setting the scene. But the attraction gets top billing for unrelenting action; truly frightening costuming and actors. Hauntworld's full review is here.
The dates: Opens weekends starting Sept. 30; every day after Oct. 13.
The price: $12 to $15 per attraction (the motel, hayride and corn maze can be purchased separately) or $30 for all three; $75 if you want a VIP pass.
The web site: http://www.thebatesmotel.com/
So....those are Hauntworld's favorites. What are yours? If you've got a favorite Haunted House, feel free to list it in the comments section, along with where we can find it on the web. If you're interested in the runners-up, here's Hauntworld's top 31.
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