Halloween is only about a month away and what better way to celebrate the scariest, horror-filled holiday than to visit some of the nation's absolute best-haunted attractions?
Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, the people leading these haunted houses, hayrides, and tours sure want you to so hop on board and give in to that feeling of dread, of suspense, and scream your way into Halloween fun this year.
Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia
ESP, as the prison is known for short, opened in 1829 revolutionizing the prison system and reformatory practices, effectively coining the term "penitentiary" as they strove to make their inmates "penitent" for their crimes. As you can imagine, the walls of this Gothic prison are reputedly full of spirits from inmates who haven't fully departed if you catch my drift. ESP hosts historical and haunted tours but when Halloween rolls around, you don't want to miss out on their haunted house themed attraction, Terror Behind the Walls. 13 rooms inside the prison walls are transformed every year into the cell blocks and corridors lined with bars and caged spirits, longing to break free. Professional actors and a different theme per prison wing make this haunted house inside a haunted prison one of the best to see and scream in the country.
Bates Motel - Philadelphia
From the inherent horror of the iconic name to the frightening backwoods of Pennsylvania, you know that the Bates Motel won't just let you check-in and leave. For over 25 years, the Bates Motel has been luring Halloween goers to climb aboard the Haunted Hayride through the terrifying woods of Arasapha Farm where huge monsters and even bigger pyrotechnics are rigged to scare the terror out of you. Ride through until you see the Bates mansion, a Victorian beauty standing on the hillside, and then enter the Motel where you'll swear you'd just stepped into a Hollywood movie set. You can even traverse the haunted corn maze, full of creatures, monsters, and bogeymen to ensure you have nightmares after it all.
Winchester Mystery House - San Jose, CA
I've written about the Winchester Mystery House before and for good reason. In summary, the history of the house is linked to the frightened widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. She was told by a psychic that if she wanted the spirits of the people killed by her husband's guns to leave her alone she'd have to build, and keep building, a massive mansion with rooms to confuse and house the restless spirits. This may sound like Hollywood but in actuality, Sarah Winchester died with the house unfinished at a stunning 160 rooms with 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms, 47 fireplaces but only 17 chimneys, two basements, and three elevators. Whether or not you're a believer in ghosts, this is a pretty cool and creepy house and they offer a variety of tours including a haunted flashlight tour.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum - Fall River, MA
Just north of Boston lies the famed house of Lizzie Borden, the woman who was tried and acquitted for the ax murdering of her father and stepmother in 1893. Lizzie, after the trial, elected to return to the home in Fall River and live out her days in solitude. No one else was tried or sought after for the murders and it was generally considered throughout the country that Lizzie had committed the crime. That very same house is now a bed and breakfast open for visitors to stay in the rooms, even Lizzie's, and experience the hauntings overnight in the same furniture and bed they used. If you're not quite that brave, and I don't blame you, they offer house tours through even the "crime scene" and museum exhibits with personal possessions from Lizzie and her family.
Fear Fair - Seymour, IN
One of the top ten haunted attractions in the nation according to Forbes.com, Fear Fair is a unique and highly themed fear festival that plays on the profitable horror film industry. Several themed attractions lead you through areas filled with believable movie monsters with movie-quality makeup like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, as well as a haunted tour for those 18 and older to be scared silly in an undisclosed, secret attraction. Every year they reinvent themselves and this year they're opening October 2 with all-new attractions, better makeup, brand new special effects, and a craving to scare.
In 1692, a group of young girls caused a big stir in rural Massachusetts, claiming that several of those in the community were witches, communing with the devil and bringing unholy black magic into their Puritan town. As a result, 20 people were executed and the town lives on in infamy. Lucky for you though, there is no better place to be on Halloween than Salem as the entire town turns out and embraces its haunted past with haunted tours led by witches, haunted homes of Salem trial magistrates, hayrides, cemetery tours and more. They have a year-round haunted house, Haunted Happenings Carnival, the Gallows Hill Museum and a bunch of Halloween season events planned for you this year!
13th Gate - Baton Rouge
On the haunted bayou of Baton Rouge, Louisiana is the indoor/outdoor multi-area horror-filled 13th Gate. For over a decade, 13th Gate has been in the top lists of haunted attractions for their nearly over-the-top set decorations that seem straight from a movie, professional-grade actors, and Necropolis 13, their very own man-made yet authentic-looking bayou cemetery next door. Travel through the 40,000 square foot haunted house and then head outside to walk through the cemetery and find it literally crawling with zombies. This haunted house isn't for the faint of heart or the young.
Haunted City Tours
Haunted houses and horror movies have to get their inspiration from somewhere and mostly it comes from real-life horrible events and reportedly haunted buildings, sites, and cities all around the world. The U.S. has plenty to choose from, all of which have their own haunted tour companies. New Orleans, Savannah, and Boston are all among the top haunted cities in the country but pretty much anywhere with more than a few centuries under their belts will have a plethora of paranormal attractions. Check out the haunted tours of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the oldest haunted tour in the nation, running for over 40 years or check out the legendary Sleepy Hollow, New York, the home of the headless horseman!