Some people like to celebrate Halloween in scanty costumes; others like to indulge in sweets; and then there are the ones who want to scream, be utterly grossed out, and have nightmares for weeks afterward. For the last group, this author thinks you're a little nuts, but here’s a roundup of the most fright-tastic attractions on the continent, and here's hoping your li'l heart can handle it.
By Lena Katz
Photo Credit: Bruce Handy
1886 Crescent Hotel | Eureka Springs, Arkansas
1886 Crescent—a hotel so proud of its paranormal activity that there’s an entire photo gallery of ghost sightings on its website—is going for full contact with “the Other Side” on Halloween, holding a midnight séance in the ballroom. The medium in charge is also an illusionist, so you can assume that one way or another, ghostly visions are guaranteed.
Photo Credit: Eureka Springs Media Center
Grimes Castle | Carson City, Nevada
Western Nevada gets its own castle full of gruesome gargoyles, killer bats, fanged skulls, psycho clowns and other terrifying creations. It’s presented annually by a group of volunteers who do it for the pure enjoyment of scaring people. (Heartwarming, or twisted? You decide.)
Photo Credit: Grimes Castle
Ghost Ship, Queen Mary | Long Beach, California
There are some people who believe the historic Queen Mary to be haunted year-round, and who advise staying far away from this grand but spooky old ship on Halloween. Those people are in the minority, though. When the Queen Mary’s resting place turns into “the harbor of the damned,” seemingly half of Southern California lines up alongside the curious tourists to buy a ticket.
Photo Credit: Queen Mary
Headless Horseman Hayride | Ulster Park, New York
Tim Burton’s chiller Sleepy Hollow has nothing on this Hudson Valley haunt-topia. In addition to the hayride, there are six haunted houses and a corn maze, plus a creepy illusionist show in an abandoned warehouse. Countless scares, spread over 45 acres.
Photo Credit: I Love New York
Albu-Creepy: Trolley of Terror | Albuquerque, NM
Generally, Albuquerque’s ghosts are considered to be rather benevolent, but for Halloween, the downtown trolley takes guests on a far more sinister experience… with skeletons as greeters and cobwebs shrouding the trolley as it trundles into all the creepy corners of the past.
Photo Credit: ABQ Trolley Co.
Bloody English, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino | Las Vegas
Hard Rock’s exclusive nightspot Body English is re-inventing itself into a cavernous dungeon where the VIP booths look like blood-spattered cells and the gorgeous crowds have been replaced by ghouls and Texas Chainsaw tableaux. If you’ve got teenagers who show signs of being club-hoppers when they get older, this is an excellent way to scare that interest right out of them.
Photo Credit: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
Ouija: Baltimore’s Mystifying Oracle Baltimore, MD
No illusions or actors here, folks. Instead, it’s the world's most extensive Ouija exhibit—a long-term installation at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, but with a special event on October 25th. The board game responsible for most people’s most disturbing—and least explainable—childhood moments originated in Maryland and was manufactured in Baltimore from 1890-1966. More than a cheap scare, this is a jolt to the sixth sense…if you believe in that stuff, of course.
Photo Credit: Visit Baltimore/ Baltimore Museum of Industry
Nights of Horror | Luna Park, New York
There are few things creepier than an old, nearly abandoned amusement park…and though Coney Island’s Luna Park has seen a multi-million-dollar reinvention and a return to better days, it dives into everyone’s worst killer-clown and possessed roller coaster fears for Halloween. Step right up for thrills and chills, ghoul infestations, and rides that’ll turn your stomach inside-out.
Photo Credit: Luna Park
Shreveport Zombie Walk | Shreveport, LA
Years before America declared zombies hip and culturally relevant, Shreveport denizens were doing zombie walks on Halloween and at other times throughout the year. What else would you expect from the town made famous by True Blood? Vampires, voodoo, ghosts a-plenty…yup, this town has those too. Start with the Zombie Walk on Saturday October 27, and stick around for a weekend full of supernatural Cajun creatures.
Photo Credit: Shreveport-Bossier: Louisiana’s Other Side
Mohonk Mountain – Haunted Mansion Weekend
Normally it’s a stately spa retreat, but for Halloween week, Mohonk Mountain turns into the be-all end-all of haunted mansions—complete with ghost hunts and live timber wolves. Overnight packages are the best way to be completely and thoroughly spooked, but the annual Gala Halloween Ball (held on Saturday this year) sees plenty of guests out to celebrate the fun, dress-up side of the holiday. For families with small children, there’s a Lego fun house and Saturday afternoon trick-or-treating.
Photo Credit: Mohonk Mountain
Black Dinner, Hotel Matilda | San Miguel de Allende
A unique Dia de los Muertos experience, this dinner event is a sharp turn away from the sugar skulls and kitschy altars everyone’s seen before. The décor features various Mexican artists’ Day of the Dead colorful visions, but all the food that comes to the table will be black. Held in a boutique hotel in the artists’ colony of San Miguel de Allende, it’s high-concept and possibly delicious—but also a bit unnerving, by design.
Photo Credit: Victor Rodriguez