Zombies! Evil janitors! Mad scientists! The top 10 haunted houses in the United States are especially spooky this year.
Need Halloween weekend plans? Make a trip one of these top 10 haunted houses in the U.S., as selected by the Haunted Attraction Association. (Yes, that’s a real organization! Their awards banquet is called the "Oscares.") To reach the top 10, houses are judged on multiple criteria, from meeting safety standards to introducing new features. Expect everything from state-of-the-art special effects to truly disturbing scares—some operators even consult psychologists on how to craft the best experience. Gulp.
If these creepy dwellings aren’t in your area, use the HAA’s Haunt Finder to locate a haunted house near you. Budget tip: Go with friends for discounted group ticket rates or on a weekday for a lower entrance fee.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cost: From $19, easternstate.org
Why it’ll freak you out: The haunted house is in an actual abandoned prison, which is scary enough. Beyond that, the brand-new Machine Shop attraction, where "evil pervades," is the penitentiary’s most interactive attraction yet. Willing guests are grabbed, separated from their group, dragged into secret passageways, and sometimes end up as part of the show.
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Cost: From $25, scarehouse.com
Why it’ll freak you out: This is truly diabolical: The ScareHouse has a sociologist on staff who has studied the science of fear. Bear that in mind as you enter The Summoning attraction, new this year. You think you’re being inducted into a secret society in October 1932 (with period costumes and props), but then things take a nasty turn.
Location: Litchfield, New Hampshire
Cost: From $30, nightmarenewengland.com
Why it’ll freak you out: If campfire ghost stories leave you shivering, the legend of Litchfield’s reclusive Bishop family, a mysterious clan suspected of foul play when locals went missing decades ago, will get your attention. Nightmare New England’s Bishop Legacy attraction is devoted to the myth…or is it reality?
Location: Pontiac, Michigan
Cost: From $23, hauntedpontiac.com
Why it’ll freak you out: Four stories of unique time-travel dimensions make up this huge attraction, based on the legend of a mad scientist who invented a time machine gone horribly wrong…and disguised it as a haunted house. Now you’re Dr. Colbert’s guinea pig. The recently introduced Slice of Time feature trains 45 cameras on you and snaps a 180-degree image of you screaming. Talk about a souvenir.
Location: Waukesha, Wisconsin
Cost: From $13, wisconsinfeargrounds.com
Why it’ll freak you out: Combine utter darkness and silence with being hooded "for your protection," and you get Black Out, the newest addition to this trio of haunted houses. Beware of the "souls of the dead" looking for fresh meat.
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Cost: From $15, frightsite.com
Why it’ll freak you out: Is there anything creepier than child ghosts? Legend has it that crazed Dent Schoolhouse janitor Charlie McFee went on a long, drawn-out killing spree, stuffing bodies of students into the walls and hanging them in the basement, before angry families infiltrated the school and found the carnage—which you’ll tour. Vintage ’50s decor makes the building extra-chilling—as does the fact that Dent Schoolhouse was once a real school.
Location: Tampa, Florida
Cost: From $50, seaworldparks.com
Why it’ll freak you out: If animatronics don’t faze you, physical terror might. Busch Gardens morphs into a Halloween fright fest for 18 days this year. The new Falcon’s Fury ride is the continent’s tallest freestanding drop tower: Reach the top, and the ride pivots 90 degrees so that riders make the 60-mph drop facedown. Or rattle some corpses by shooting zombies in the Zombie Containment Unit, a new feature this year.
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Cost: From $25, houseofshock.com
Why it’ll freak you out: Satanic imagery and large-scale pyrotechnics define this 22-year-old NOLA institution, which will close its doors forever after this Halloween. Up until this year, the warehouse dodged death a few times: Owners and volunteers rebuilt it after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it in 2005.
Location: Houston, Texas
Cost: From $20, houstonterrordome.com
Why it’ll freak you out: Two words: evil clowns. More interested in the party than the freak show? Groove with full-body-airbrushed zombie dancers and a live (or would it be "undead"?) DJ on Saturdays.
Location: Sanger, California
Cost: From $14, hobbsgrove.com
Why it’ll freak you out: The dead rise from the grave in The Hollows haunted forest, and bloody limbs dangle from ceilings in the Bad Manor haunted house at Hobb’s Grove, which has had record attendance this year. For milder scares, the haunted hayride is open to families with kids under 8.
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