Trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving are fun, but most people would probably agree that the best part of Halloween is getting scared. And here in the Hudson Valley, there are enough haunted houses to keep 'em screaming in terror all month long.
From trying to stay calm as a coffin closes in on you in Tuxedo Park to touring a museum of "unnatural" history in Poughkeepsie, there's a spine-tingling attraction to satisfy every taste for ghouls and gore. While many of these seasonal attractions have age restrictions, most locations offer children's days so that even the little ones can partake in the fun.
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And while Halloween attractions may only be around for a month, a lot of hard work and preparation takes place before the haunted houses open to make sure they're as elaborate, realistic and scary as possible.
"We work on our attractions 364 days a year," said Nancy Jubie, the co-owner of Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, which opens this Saturday. "Every attraction is highly detailed and researched."
Below are eight local haunted houses -- presented in order of the date they open -- to visit this season if you dare.
Now in its 20th season, this Ulster Park attraction, voted the number one scream park in America by Hauntworld magazine, consists of a corn maze, a "Cult of the Horseman" haunted hayride and six haunted houses, including Dahlia Blood's Manor and Glutton's Slaughterhouse. Employing more than 200 people in the Halloween season, Headless Horseman expects to draw more than 50,000 spectators. A unique feature of this attraction is that one of the haunted houses includes authentic props from old hospitals and mortuaries. Visitors should expect to spend 2 1/2 to three hours to experience the entire attraction, which is spread out over more than 45 acres. Headless Horseman is not recommended for children under 10 (children under 5 will not be allowed into any attractions; children 14 and under must be accompanied by an adult at all times). A special children's cay called "A Tiny Taste of Terror" will take place from noon to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13 ($11 per person).
When: Saturday, Sept. 22-Saturday, Nov. 3; hours and days vary; check website for details
Info: 778 Broadway, Ulster Park; 845-339-2666; headlesshorseman.com; $38.95 per person (includes all eight attractions), $29.95 on opening day, free to enter the midway; tickets must be reserved in advance
Kevin McMurdy's Haunted Mansion
Open for 36 years, the Haunted Mansion in Poughkeepsie is the oldest haunted house on this list. It's a far cry from the Disney World attraction that shares its name. Featuring the Fright Trail, Evil Within haunted house and a Museum of Un-Natural History, the Haunted Mansion has guests participate in an interactive story line that runs through all three attractions. While the park is not recommended for children, there's a special kids day from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8 ($12 for adults, $10 for kids).
When: Friday, Sept. 28-Wednesday, Oct. 31; hours and days vary; check website for details
Info: 85 Sheafe Rd., Poughkeepsie; 845-297-2288; thehauntedmansion.com; $25 per person, $22 on Sundays from 6-9 p.m. ($12 for children 11 and under); admissions are first come first served
Pure Terror Screampark
Located next to the Castle Fun Center, the Pure Terror Screampark features three different haunted houses on more than 15 acres in Chester. New attractions for this season include a 3-D haunted house, Terror Under the Big Top, and The Butcher's Revenge; the House of Terror returns for the third season. According to the website, all of the monsters and characters are custom-created for the park using "state of the art Hollywood effects." The attraction is only recommended for adults and teens.
When: Friday, Sept. 28-Sunday, Oct. 28; hours and days vary, check website for details
Info: 107 Brookside Ave., Chester; 845-391-0071; pureterror.com; $25 for all three attractions
Haunting on the Hill
"Nestled deep in the forest where no one can hear you scream," Haunting on the Hill's haunted hayride and village, located in Patterson, are not intended for the faint of heart. Voted by Reader's Digest as one of the 11 scariest haunted houses in the country in 2011, this attraction also features daytime events like pumpkin picking and nonscary hayrides perfect for kids 7 years old and younger.
When: Friday, Oct. 5-Sunday, Oct. 28; 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 7-10 p.m. Sundays; the daytime show (for kids) runs from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 6-8, Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21
Info: 137 Birch Hill Rd., Patterson; 845-878-4100; bynightproductions.com; $20 per person, $12 on opening weekend; $5 per person for daytime shows
Scared by the Sound
The Dragon Coaster isn't the only scary thing at Rye Playland. This year marks the 13th season of Scared by the Sound, and to celebrate this "unlucky" anniversary, two new attractions will be featured in addition to the original haunted house. The Demented Pumpkin Patch and the Terror Trail are haunted walking paths, which will require a separate ticket. Playland rides will not be operational during this Halloween attraction. While the nighttime attractions are not recommended for kids under 8, a special children's "Hardly Haunted Matinee" will take place from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 27 and 28 ($5 per person).
When: Friday, Oct. 5-Sunday, Oct. 28; 8-11 p.m. Fridays, 7-11 p.m. Saturdays and 7-10 p.m. Sundays; 7-10 p.m. Monday-Wednsesday, Oct. 29-31
Info: Rye Playland, 100 Playland Parkway, Rye; 914-813-7000; scaredbythesound.com; $12-$25 per person depending on the ticket package, check website for details; free parking
The Forest of Fear
Celebrating their 20th season, this acclaimed Tuxedo Park attraction, dubbed "one of the scariest places in America" by the Discovery Channel, presents ghouls, goblins, fire eaters and more to tantalize and terrify. Located where the Renaissance Faire wraps up this weekend, the Forest of Fear features attractions including the Slaughterhouse Sideshow, Cavalcade of the Odd and the Coffin Ride, which challenges visitors to try and remain calm as a coffin closes in on them. The Forest of Fear is not recommended for kids under 8. On opening weekend only (Oct. 5-7), visitors will meet characters from Hound Comics animated series in the forest. Tickets are available online and at an on-site box office.
When: Friday, Oct. 5-Sunday, Oct. 28; nightfall-midnight Fridays; nightfall-1 a.m. Saturdays; nightfall-11 p.m. Sundays
Info: Sterling Forest, 600 Route 17A, Tuxedo Park; 845-351-5174; renfair.com/forestoffear; $20, $18 on Sundays
Taking the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow to its darkest extremes," this haunted house, at Philipsburg Manor, brings visitors into the era of the headless horseman. Visiting the haunted house is "an immersive, interactive, pleasantly terrifying experience," said Rob Schweitzer, the director of public relations for Historic Hudson Valley, the organization that runs the event. The haunted house, now in its third season, will run for 11 nights starting Saturday, Oct. 6. The attraction is recommended for children age 10 and up. Historic Hudson Valley runs the Jack O'Lantern Blaze and the Legend Celebration for kids of all ages. Tickets are available online or by phone and must be reserved in advance.
When: Saturday, Oct. 6-Sunday, Oct. 28; the haunted house opens at 7 p.m. and closes between 9 and 9:30 p.m. on various days; check website for details
Info: Philipsburg Manor, 381 N. Broadway, Sleepy Hollow; 914-631-8200, 914-631-3992 or 914-366-6900 (ticket sales); www.hudsonvalley.org/events/horsemans-hollow; $20 per person, $25 on Saturdays; members receive a $5 discount
The Haunt at Rocky Ledge
Celebrating its 3rd scare-iversary, the Haunt features five separate haunted attractions. The spooky fun beings in The Forest of Lost Souls, a walking trail that becomes narrower and more terrifying with each passing step. Visitors will then be transported back in time to the 1800s in a spinning vortex that challenges guests to stay standing through the attraction. The Field of Screams, the next attraction at the Haunt, is a haunted corn maze. If you can find your way out of the maze, visitors then enter two haunted houses -- The Barn of Horrors and Last Rites. One can only hope to make it through each experience alive at Rocky Ledge says employee Rich LaMance. The Haunt at Rocky Ledge is recommended for children 11 and up, but a childrens day is offered on Sundays with crafts, face painting and more. Tickets for all attractions can be purchased online or at the box office.
When: Friday, Oct. 12-Sunday, Oct. 28; 8-11 p.m. Fridays, 7-11 p.m. Saturdays, 7-10 p.m. Sundays; noon-3 p.m. Sundays for childrens activities.
Info: 1402 Old Orchard St., North White Plains; hauntatrockyledge.com; $16 for nighttime activities; $10 for children and $2 for adults on Sunday afternoons