It's about that time again, when children on the streets dressed as cheerleaders, superheroes, wizards, or even serial killers go door-to-door to 'trick or treat' for candy, houses are decorated with acceptably creepy decorations and community haunted houses provide a temporary adrenaline rush more likely to make you laugh than scream. This latter phenomenon is the epitome of the traditional Halloween experience, but it's evolving into something much darker...
All over the world, strange haunted house attractions are emerging, taking the Halloween tradition to a whole new and much more terrifying level. Traditional rules followed by haunted houses – no physical contact was allowed between actors and visitors, and the explicit gruesomeness of props was kept to a minimum - seem to have been disregarded with the advent of the seriously extreme haunted house.
These haunted houses fall into the category of extreme entertainment – they focus on physical and psychological torture, assaults, and sensory deprivation and are incredibly technologically advanced. They boast state of the art special effects, high-end equipment and 3D technology. Some of these haunted houses are staffed with crews that have built Hollywood-worthy movie sets, and have even hired professional makeup artists, horror movie producers and professional actors to deliver bone-chilling performances.
5 Cutting Edge - Texas
This haunted house holds the Guinness World Record for the world's largest haunted house. It is designed in a two-story abandoned building that used to be a meat packing plant in Forth Worth, Texas – in an area that was historically known as “Hell’s Half Acre.” The theme of this haunted house stuck to the building’s roots – the original meat packing equipment is still in place. Realistic mannequins take visitors through the meat packing process, which includes the conveyor belt, but then their “corpses” are butchered and scattered throughout the building.
The realistic elements to Cutting Edge are what make it so scary. The props and mannequins that are used are lifelike, and the fact that the actual original meat packing equipment is still being used adds an element of creepy surrealism. Of course, the fact that butchering bodies – as fake as they may be – is the central theme is gruesome enough to intrigue thrill seekers into trying out this hour-long tour.
4 Blackout - New York & Los Angeles
The Blackout haunted house has proven so popular in both New York and L.A that they're now set to open a location in Chicago. The events in the haunted house change every year, making sure it stays completely unpredictable and uniquely frightening. You must be over 18 to enter and right before you do they provide you with a “safe word” – if it gets too much for you to handle you, you can yell out that word and they will let you leave. The fact that they give you a safe word is foreboding enough in itself...
Previous years' exhibits have consisted of people being left in darkness and silence for unfathomable amounts of time, being waterboarded and having unknown things thrown at them or into their mouth. You are not allowed to speak unless it is to yell, you must do everything you are told and you must wear a mask. Last year, you had to walk through the entire haunted house alone – but this year you'll be allowed to enter as a group. That’s the least they can do.
3 Pennhurst Asylum - Pennsylvania
This haunted house gets most of its creepiness from its history – the building was opened in 1908 as an asylum for the mentally and physically disabled and was known for its dehumanizing mistreatment of its patients. Since 1968, when it was ordered to close down by the state, the building had been left to deteriorate with much of its former patients’ belongings left there to decay. People started to trespass and vandalize the building, but there were many reports of ghost sightings and weird movements inside the building after the institute was closed. So, a few people thought it would be perfect to open a haunted house within a house that seemed already haunted.
Pennhurst Asylum is a popular attraction in Pennsylvania, where visitors can take part in many tours. Full of special effects, noises and actors, the tours include “The Dungeon of the Lost Souls” - old cells where human experiments have gone wrong - and “The Tunnel Terror” that takes you through a maze of underground tunnels. Worst of all is the “Ghost Hunt” where you are left alone with a flashlight to wander the dormitories to hopefully, eventually, find a way out...
2 McKamey Manor - San Diego
Visitors here must be 21 years old, must sign a waiver before entering and a maximum of two people are allowed to enter at a time. The staff recommends that you don’t wear any expensive items of clothing because the haunted house is extremely interactive and pretty much anything goes. The experience, dubbed as 'living your own horror movie', can last anywhere from 4-7 hours and the actors will grab you, put bags over your head, gag you – basically all the extreme physical contact and fake blood splattering they can legally get away with. Admission is free – two perishable food items that can be donated to charity are encouraged. Sometimes, the only way you can be let out of this extreme haunted house is if you beg for mercy, literally. Their 5-minute promo video shows blindfolded people with duct tape on their mouth getting terrorized into doing things and yelling for their life – and not the kind of “this is fun” yell.
1 The Cult - New Hampshire
At this haunted house in New Hampshire, you must be at least 18 years old to enter, must sign a waiver and must complete the tour completely alone. Their website warns of encounters with live animals, extreme physical contact, sexual undertones and witnessing extreme violence. The creator, Lance Davis, has said that the Cult Haunted House experience is not for everyone and only for those who wish to experience “real-life terror” and to test their limits and fears.
The experience starts off outside, where you must take a chairlift to the top of a hill where you are given a flashlight and must find your way to the cabin at the end of the dirt road. Once you arrive at the cabin you are shoved through many different rooms. One room appears to be a medical examination room where actors creep up behind you, whisper sexual innuendos in your ear and caress your hair. Another room includes a housewife setting up a tea party and then who serves you a plate of cockroaches – some of which are thrown on you and some of which are thrown into your mouth. When you sign the waiver at the beginning, you are given a long list of possible scenarios to leave you guessing as to which you might encounter. This haunted house takes creepy to another level; it's dramatic rather than blood-splattering, creepy rather than the traditional jump-scare haunted house experience, and its realistic and eerie scenarios will really give you the chills.