Visit the Top 10 Haunted Houses in the U.S… If You Dare

By Jamie Beckman
October 27, 2014
eastern state penitentiary in philadelphia
Courtesy Tom Bernard/Eastern State Penitentiary
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. Budget tip: Go with friends for discounted group ticket rates or on a weekday for a lower entrance fee. 

Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cost: From $19,

Why it'll freak you out: One haunted house in an actual abandoned prison is scary enough, but Eastern State Penitentiary offers six. The 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.

The ScareHouse 

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Cost: From $19.99 Thursdays and Sundays, from $24.99 Fridays and Saturdays,

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.

Nightmare New England

Location: Litchfield, New Hampshire
Cost: From $39.99,

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? Don't miss the Haunted Hayride, a new attraction for 2015.


Location: Pontiac, Michigan
Cost: From $23,

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 Slice of Time feature trains 45 cameras on you and snaps a 180-degree image of you screaming. Talk about a souvenir.

Wisconsin Feargrounds

Location: Waukesha, Wisconsin
Cost: From $13,

Why it'll freak you out: New this year is Morgana's Escape, a terrifying haunted house experience that you alone have the power to escape. The doors are locked, leaving you trapped in the dark—the only way out is to find the three keys that unlock the tomb.

The Dent Schoolhouse

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Cost: From $20,

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.

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

Location: Tampa, Florida
Cost: From $60 to $70 depending on which night you go,

Why it'll freak you out: If animatronics don't faze you, physical terror might. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay morphs into a Halloween fright fest now through Oct. 31st. Falcon's Fury, a new ride that opened last year, 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.

The House of Shock 

Location: Jefferson, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.
Cost: From $25,

Why it'll freak you out: Satanic imagery and large-scale pyrotechnics define this 23-year-old NOLA institution, located under the Huey P. Long bridge in Metairie. This year's main attraction is called "The Resurrection," a fitting name considering the New Orleans community came together to save the site after the 25,000-square-foot haunted house was slated to be shuttered after last year's season.

Houston Terror Dome

Location: Houston, Texas
Cost: From $20,

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.

Hobb's Grove

Location: Sanger, California
Cost: From $15,

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 Hobb's Grove Haunted House. For milder scares, the haunted hayride is open to families with kids under 8.

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Instead of, "Does anyone know any family activities to do in Chicago?" say, "Does anyone know of a zoo in Chicago that I can take my five-year-old to in September?" Facebook reps say the more specific and engaging you are in your post, the more recommendations you'll get. Pinterest's Place Pins feature—pins that have a location attached to them—was built specifically for travel planning, says site community manager Enid Hwang. Create a new board and enable the "Add a map" option, then start adding Place Pins to create nice-looking itineraries for weekend trips, road trips, and dream trips. Share the board with your travel companions who can pin ideas too or send the whole board to others who are thinking of taking a similar vacation. 2. Hungry? No more wandering aimlessly for mediocre food Ugh—what's more of a travel bummer than wandering into a restaurant that looks authentic, then later realizing it's a tourist trap slinging slop? Tap on "breakfast," "brunch," "lunch," "dinner," or "dessert" on the Foursquare app to see highly rated restaurants that match your tastes nearby, including those recommended by people you know. Food truck hounds, rejoice: Roaming Hunger's app tracks street food via tweets and a finely honed calendar, so you can check out the most popular carts in major cities, add your favorite cart to the list, and see which vendor are nearby. The new GPS-enabled mobile site from Eat Your World, a guide to traditional, native foods and drinks around the globe, points you in the direction of inexpensive local foods and encourages member participation: If you see it and eat it, snap a pic and add it to the site. If an authentic food "experience" is what you're after, request a home-cooked dinner via Meal Sharing—in return, you can help prepare the meal, bring a gift or entertain with a story, or pay a "chip-in" price for ingredients. 3. 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Obsessed with Instagram? You'll love Instameet, photo-snapping events organized by Meetup that are offered everywhere from Melbourne, Australia, to Shreveport, Louisiana—often during "magic hour," the time of day when the sunlight is just right to grab that perfect photo. Backpackers unite on Backpackr, a social network for nomads that shows you who's nearby and doles out virtual passport "stamps" in for every country you visit. If hotels are more your speed, the brand-new HelloTel app's network enables you to meet new friends and/or business contacts who are staying at the same hotel you are—choose "business" or "socializing" and connect on either a public forum or via private message. (Yes, you can block people from seeing any of your information.) We've also heard of "Tinder tourism," in which singles use the popular Tinder dating app to find very, ahem, personal tour guides abroad. What happens in Bulgaria stays in Bulgaria, we suppose. 6. The postcard and scrapbook aren't obsolete—they're just different Why bother sending a physical letter when you can just take a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your phone and post it on your mom's Facebook wall? Well, because Mom, Grandpa, and pretty much everyone else still likes postcards. The Postagram app melds the social and the physical worlds by sending custom paper postcards using photos from your Instagram, Facebook, and Dropbox accounts for a dollar or two a pop. You can even schedule the delivery. And although most of us wish we had enough time to keep a physical scrapbook of all of our travels, let's face it: Posting them online is easier. Facebook says it's constantly tweaking its photo album feature's organization so your most-liked photos float to the top. After a family vacation ends, Dropbox is particularly handy for compiling everyone's photos in one place for the rest of the group to see and upload to social media. 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