It wasn’t all that long ago that Halloween was a one-night neighborhood affair primarily for the benefit of easily frightened children. Nowadays, it’s a six-week holiday of horror for chill-seeking teens and adults willing to both pay good money and drive many miles to be scared out of their wits by high-tech animatronics, elaborate special effects and trained “scare actors.”
Fortunately for them, there are plenty of commercial haunted hayrides, houses and mazes out there, each chock full of bloodthirsty demented psychopaths, deranged homicidal maniacs, demonic clowns and those irrepressible zombies.
Fair warning: Nothing undermines a great night of frights more than having to wait in excruciatingly long lines beforehand — as is often the case on Saturday nights and on Halloween weekend. Save yourself from that truly horrendous fate by purchasing an express pass. For complete information on opening dates and hours, which generally expand as Halloween draws nigh, check the venue’s website.
Operating on the site of a 1940s asylum that ministered to "the mentally unstable and psychologically damaged," Brighton Asylum has clawed its way to the top of the horror heap in the metropolitan area in just six years, thanks primarily to a succession of intricately detailed sets and vividly costumed actors. There's never a dull moment as visitors walk -- maybe run -- though two indoor attractions, The Tunnel and then Brighton Asylum itself.
WHERE 2 Brighton Ave., Passaic, New Jersey
OPEN Weekends through Oct. 29, also Oct. 12, 19, 26, 31. Blackout night (no lights) is Nov. 4, Zombie attack Nov. 11. Contact nights: Oct. 12, 19, 26 and 31
COST Two-attraction combo ticket $31 online, $33 on-site; fast pass combo ticket $50 online, $55 on-site. Escape rooms also available.
AGES At parents' discretion
INFO 201-716-2827, brightonasylum.com/
The Barn of Terror
Lesser known and generally less crowded, The Barn of Terror has been appealingly appalling to "dead" serious Hudson Valley chill seekers for 15 years now, with this year's theme being The Circle of Hell. The eight disturbing-enough rooms of the barn itself are followed by an especially sinister silo. From there, visitors are transported out to an extra large corn maze (you actually can get lost) featuring a Skull Mine and Grim Reaper Cemetery.
WHERE 28 ThruView Farm Rd., Lake Katrine, New York (near Kingston)
OPEN Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 29
COST $33; free parking
AGES Not recommended for young children
INFO 845-336-5242, thebarnofterror.com
Size definitely matters, and with 65 acres "populated" by over 150 "scare actors," Reaper's Revenge is able to deliver a solid 90 minutes of continuous high-intensity anxiety. Your journey begins with a haunted hayride and proceeds afoot through the Lost Carnival and Pitch Black (an indoor maze) before depositing you in Sector 13, a sci-fi zombie apocalypse. And rest uneasy: you will be touched unless you specifically opt out. Now in its ninth year, Reaper's Revenge has become a regional -- not just local -- favorite.
WHERE 460 Green Grove Rd., Scranton, Pennsylvania
OPEN Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 4
COST General admission (all four attractions) $47.75, VIP pass $72.75, Parking $3
AGES Not recommended for children under 12
INFO 570-254-8038, reapersrevenge.net
Among the routinely highest rated (i.e., scariest) in New Jersey, Bloodshed Farms' haunted hayride and three walk-throughs feature all the usual perverted perpetrators, but in a less in-your-face and more in-your-head manner. It has one thing others don't -- a one-person-at-a-time Blood Shed to ascertain your personal limits (others watch on closed-circuit television). Also on-site: a midway carnival with games, food and entertainment, plus a 15-minute Camper Escape Room ($10 per person.)
WHERE 2919 Rte. 206, Columbus, New Jersey
OPEN Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October except Oct. 15. No-scare family night: Oct. 22.
COST General admission combo ticket $30; VIP pass an additional $15. The Blood Shed an additional $13.
AGES Parent/guardian discretion
INFO 609-251-6707, bloodshedfarmsfearfest.com
Dark Manor Haunted House
Rated Connecticut's scariest haunted house for the past eight years, Dark Manor consists of three fairly short, walk-through attractions: The Manor itself, a compact and painstakingly decorated house; The Graveyard (outdoors); and an equally cluttered basement Catacombs. Given the space constraints, actors are less numerous than props, but animatronics are used to great effect.
WHERE 25 Main St., Baltic, Connecticut
OPEN Daily through Oct. 31 except for Oct. 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23 and 24. Less frightening daytime admissions Oct. 9, 21, 28 and 29.
COST General admission $21 + $2 service fee, ($25 Oct. 13, 14, 20, 21). Free on-site parking
AGES Not recommended for children under 13
INFO 860-822-TOMB (860-822-8662), thedarkmanor.com
Forest of Fear
A production of the New York Renaissance Faire, Forest of Fear has been around for years and has now grown to seven sequentially linked indoor/outdoor attractions, including Blind Panic (lit only by glowsticks), the Slaughterhouse, Mourningwood Cemetary and CarniEvil of the Damned. All experiences rely exclusively on live actors. Not recommended for children under 12.
WHERE 600 Rte. 17A, Tuxedo Park, N.Y.
COST $30 Fridays and Saturdays, $25 Sundays. No express tickets.
INFO 845-351-5171, renfair.com/forestoffear
Located on the spacious and well-maintained grounds of 17th century Philipsburg Manor, Horseman's Hollow claims to take "the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (whose dramatic climax transpired nearby) to its darkest extremes." Patrons make their way first along a haunted trail and through Ichabod's Schoolhouse before encountering the Headless Horseman himself. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
WHERE 381 N. Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, New York
COST $20 Fridays and Sundays, $25 Saturdays, tickets available only online. Fast Track upgrade $15 per ticket. Free on-site parking.
INFO 914-631-8200, hudsonvalley.org
Based on the mysterious Hayden family of local lore, this relatively new warehouse attraction relies more heavily than most on technology and theatrical effects. Guests work their way through two monster and demon-laden floors of gore -- the House of Nightmares and The Attic. Escape rooms also offered. No age restrictions.
WHERE 105 W. Dewey Ave., Wharton, N.J.
COST $25/$28 depending on date. Fast Pass $40/$43
INFO 862-244-4454, hauntedscarehouse.com
The Haunt at Rocky Ledge
For years a neighborhood labor of love, the Haunt at Rocky Ledge went commercial in 2010 with the acquisition of five acres of outdoor property. "Guests" proceed in groups of six along a haunted wooded trail, through two haunted houses and a haunted corn maze where they are "greeted" by ill-wishing residents. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
WHERE 1402 Old Orchard St., North White Plains, N.Y.
COST $25 for all tickets. No express tickets. Free on-site parking.
Blood Manor's self-description as "cutting edge" is no doubt offered tongue-in-cheek as this second-story warehouse haunted attraction in lower Manhattan does indeed focus in on things that cut, tear, shred and perforate. It takes patrons 20 minutes to make their way through the labyrinth of NYC-quality sets populated by NYC-quality actors. Not recommended for children under 14, who, if they come, must be accompanied by a parent.
WHERE 163 Varick St., Manhattan
COST $38.50 advance purchase, $40 at the door. RIP Express Entry $45 advance, $50 at the door
INFO 212-290-2825, bloodmanor.com
Because it's not broken into parts, Bane (another warehouse attraction loosely based on a macabre local legend) can legitimately claim to be New Jersey's largest haunted house. Patrons, who will occasionally have to negotiate around obstacles and can be touched by the actors, enter in groups of two or three, but will be all alone for brief periods. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
WHERE 630 W. Mount Pleasant Ave., Livingston, New Jersey
COST $28 general admission, $48 VIP speed pass. Free on-site parking.
INFO 973-369-7677, banehauntedhouse.com
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia)
For 142 years, this massive, foreboding Victorian-era prison housed hundreds of truly dangerous criminals, including Al Capone, in what can hardly be termed luxurious accommodations. Just being inside is unsettling enough for most "Terror Behind the Walls" patrons who then proceed on foot through the six prison-themed attractions including Lock Down: The Uprising, Break Out and Infirmary, spread across the 9-acre "yard." Temporary inmates should expect to be scared straight for a solid 45 minutes.
OPEN Eastern State Penitentiary is open September 22, 23, 29, 30, daily in October except Oct. 2-5, 9-10, 16 and 23; Nov. 3-5 and 10-11 (family nights Sundays until 7:30 p.m.). Open rain or shine.
COST $19-$45 online (plus $4.75 service fee); $25-$50 at the door for half-hour entry windows. Park at the Philadelphia Zoo garage (3500 W. Girard Ave.; $13-$20) and ride the Ghost Bus shuttle.
AGES Not recommended for children under 12; under 7 not permitted; under 18 must have a parent fill out a waiver.
INFO 215-236-3300, easternstate.org
Pennhurst Asylum (100 Commonwealth Dr., Spring City, Pennsylvania)
What could be scarier than a former prison? How about a former asylum -- specifically the compound originally known as the Pennhurst Home for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, where torture, abuse and neglect were commonplace? Making the most of that sordid history and the abundance of fixtures and equipment left behind are the attractions of Pennhurst Asylum: the Dungeon of Lost Souls, the Tunnel Terror and Ghost Hunt. Each takes about 20 minutes, and collectively they earned HauntWorld's #1 rating in 2015. No one under 10 admitted.
OPEN Pennhurst Asylum is open Sept. 22, 23, 29, and 30; Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October, plus Thursday the 12th, 19th, and 26th; Nov. 3 and 4.
COST $18 for single visits to only the Asylum, Dungeon or Tunnel, $21 for only the Ghost Hunt; $47 to all four attractions ($42 for a Dungeon/ Asylum/ Tunnel combo) plus service fees and taxes; VIP pass $78. Free on-site parking; Valet parking and shuttle service also available.
AGES Not recommended for children under 8. Note: This is one of the few haunted houses where the actors will touch you.
INFO 855-428-6800, pennhurstasylum.com
The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride
The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride (Arasapha Farm, 1835 Middletown Rd. (Route 352), Glen Mills, Pennsylvania)
Capitalizing on the lingering popularity of Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 thriller, "Psycho," the Bates Motel has been checking fully suspecting guests in -- and mostly out -- now for 26 years. The up-close-and-personal multi-horror motel is the most intense of the three attractions, but the most impressive is the haunted hayride with its 25 separate, detailed and choreographed scenes, sophisticated animatronics and copious pyrotechnics. Completing the lurid lineup, which takes about 55 minutes, is a haunted corn maze.
OPEN The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride are open weekends from Sept. 22-24, 29-30, and daily in October accept 2, 3, 4 and 5.(weather permitting).
COST Combination tickets (all three attractions) $40 adults, $35 children under 12, $3 service charge; $75 VIP pass (no waiting), $4.50 service charge; $100 Super VIP pass (no waiting, VIP parking, food and complimentary T-shirt); $4.50 service charge. Free on-site parking.
AGES Not recommended for children under 8.
INFO 610-459-0647, thebatesmotel.com
Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses
Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses (778 Broadway (Route 9W), Ulster Park, N.Y.)
Malevolent headless horsemen have been frequent apparitions in the Hudson Valley since Revolutionary times, and this 10-attraction property, set on a 65-acre farm in Ulster County (and not to be confused with the Historic Hudson properties in Sleepy Hollow), capitalizes on decapitation. You begin your two-plus-hour adrenaline adventure on the mile-long Horseman's War Hayride (the best in the country last year, according to HauntWorld Magazine) before proceeding on foot through nine more sinister sites such as The Lunar Motel, Dr. Dark's Black Spider Circus Sideshow, the Dark Harvest Corn Maze and Glutton's Diner & Slaughter House, where you'll be welcomed by more than 250 resident monsters before returning to the midway for a live illusion show .
OPEN The Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses are open Sept. 23, 28, 30, Oct. 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29. Nov. 4. (weather permitting). Children's days: Oct. 14 and 28.
COST $41.95 online, plus tax and $3.95 service fee; $49.95 on-site, plus tax; Scream Pass an additional $25. Free on-site parking.
AGES Not recommended for children under 13; children under 8 not allowed; children under 15 must be accompanied by a parent.
INFO 845-339-2666, headlesshorseman.com
Pure Terror Scream Park
Pure Terror Scream Park (299 Museum Village Rd., Monroe, N.Y.)
If you just can't get enough of a ghoulish thing, then Pure Terror Scream Park, which claims to be the largest haunted house scream park in the country, might be the place for you. Eleven blood-curdling attractions -- all new for 2016 -- await visitors in this reconstructed historic village and experiencing them all will take at least two hours. Among the venues you'll visit on the two-mile wooded Trail of Terror are Legends of Horror, Terror In The Dark, The Coven, Terror Under The Big Top, Plague and The Crypt.
New attractions for 2017 include Necropolis, Terror Under the Big Top, The Coven, and Terror in the Dark.
OPEN The Pure Terror Scream Park is open Sept. 29, 30, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October, plus Oct. 19 and 26 (Thursdays) and Nov. 3 and 4. (weather permitting).
COST $45, plus tax and $4.47 service fee; VIP pass an additional $30. Free on-site parking.
AGES Not recommended for children under 12.
INFO 845-391-0071, pureterror.com