This blog post was updated on October 28, 2021.
You may have noticed that it’s Halloween once again. And with arguments over costume styles (whether it’s better to be hilariously clever or horrifyingly scary), the acceptance of bite-sized candy bars, and horror movie marathons, you’re also probably obsessed (like we are) with the most recent Halloween tradition: the interactive attraction.
Whether it’s haunted houses, haunted hayrides, or theme park events, bone-chilling audience-immersing experiences have become a Halloween staple in recent years. And with ever-increasing production values, terrifying effects, and elaborate concepts, it’s no secret that they’re a lot of fun (in a terrifying sort of way). So if you’re looking for a good fright, here’s a look at some of the scariest Halloween attractions you can visit in the United States.
Eastern State Penitentiary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
A Philadelphia Halloween tradition, Terror Behind the Walls takes advantage of the historic city’s most notorious landmark: the Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP). A forerunner to the modern penitentiary, ESP opened in 1829 and pioneered the development of solitary confinement. It even once housed Al Capone before it closed in 1971.
Now designated as a national landmark, ESP spends most of the year operating as a museum. But if you have Halloween travel deals, you’ll be able to see it when it mutates into an enormous Halloween theme park with many different attractions, featuring actors that will terrorize you by doing jump scares, kidnapping guests, and splitting up groups. There are even VIP packages at ESP where horror fans can book to have a drink, dinner, or an after-dark tour.
Erebus (Pontiac, Michigan)
Located just about 30 miles from Detroit, Erebus is kind of infamous in the world of haunted houses. It’s not only routinely considered to be the top Halloween attraction in Michigan (a state that boasts more haunted houses than any other), but it was also the first-ever holder of the world record for the largest haunted house. The four-floor complex centers on the tale of Dr. Colbert, a scientist who built a time machine with a problem — those who travel in it are viewed by whatever time period they go back to as a virus and are attacked. So after running out of money, Colbert continues his experiments by pretending that the machine is a “haunted house” and uses paying guests as human guinea pigs.
The Dent Schoolhouse (Cincinnati, Ohio)
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Set in what local residents actually claim is a for-real haunted schoolhouse, The Dent Schoolhouse focuses on its theme and story around the legend of Charlie the Janitor, who supposedly murdered students there in the 1950s. Guests should prepare for a mid-20th-century vibe to the horror aesthetic and actors in grotesque makeup who have no reservations about grabbing them.
You may also like: Explore 12 of America’s Most Haunted Hotels (That You Can Stay In)!
Headless Horseman Hayride and Haunted Houses (Ulster Park, NY)
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For nearly a quarter of a decade, Headless Horseman Hayride and Haunted Houses (or just H5 for short) has been bringing thrills and chills to New York’s Hudson Valley. A leader in the haunted attraction industry, H5 is spread across 45 acres and routinely employs over 300 people each Halloween season. Why so much space and personnel? Because H5 is home to a haunted walking trail and several different haunted houses…all of which feature elaborate and detailed costumes, makeup, special effects, and illusions that are changed every year.
Netherworld (Atlanta, Georgia)
Designed to give visitors the sense of being transported to another world, Netherworld was founded by veterans of the television and film industry — which explains its reputation for detailed makeup, unique monsters, and impressive stunt work. A self-guided experience, the Atlanta attraction is routinely cited as one of the most haunted houses in the United States and draws visitors from all over the country.
House of Torment (Austin, Texas)
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Don’t let the use of the singular in its name fool you; House of Torment actually features three different haunted houses. The renowned Austin-based attraction has a footprint of 40,000 square feet — all the more space for the nationally infamous haunted house’s dementedly creative frights and high-end productions. And if you’re willing to pay a little extra, you can buy specialty tickets that move you up in the line or even let you skip the wait altogether.
Have a favorite terrifying interactive Halloween attraction that you think should be on the list? Let us know in the comments sections below!