Haunted Houses around the U.S.

Ah, October. Second only to summer in general, October is my favorite month of the year. I am indifferent to pumpkin spice everything, but what I like about October is the fall colors, the end of stink bug season, and the abundance of horror movies and haunted houses. I have posted before about the former but never about the latter.

I suppose this post could have come earlier in the month, as we are just three days away from Halloween-proper as I write this. Still…better late than never.

Below is a selection of three haunted attractions from around the country that I have had the opportunity to visit. Keep reading to learn more…if you dare.

Dark Harbor: The Haunted Queen Mary

The Queen Mary, the sister ship of the RMS Titanic, has long been rumored to be haunted. Year-round guided tours include a sound-and-light show that is, in all honesty, more cheesy than scary, but the luxury ocean liner’s Art Deco staterooms now function as hotel suites, so you can spend an overnight or two and see for yourself if things on board really do go “bump” in the night.

The supposed haunting of the ship makes it the perfect venue for a Halloween season cash cow. Dark Harbor, which features three haunted mazes, transforms roughly half of the ship’s innards into a labyrinth of staged terror. Actors dressed as Leatherface, Michael Myers, and others wield fake chainsaws and jump out of darkened corners as maze runners (that would be you, Loyal Reader) make their way through the ship. Two of the three mazes take place in outbuildings outside the ship, but it is the on-board maze that is the best. Particleboard walls are put up to protect the ship itself, and these walls are sprayed liberally with fake blood. It has been many years since I last visited, but I remember emerging into an upper level hallway and peering down at a strobe-lit nightclub three levels below; an odd touch.

The Queen Mary itself has several on-board restaurants that cater to day visitors and overnight guests. The Dark Harbor exhibit features an outdoor cafeteria selling burgers and other foodstuffs. GringoPotpourri note: between the fake blood on the ship and the 3-D clowns in one of the other mazes, Dark Harbor may be too intense for children.

The verdict: The Queen Mary is such an iconic piece of early 20th century engineering that it almost seems, well, unfortunate that it draws the most visitors – especially those under 30 – during weekend nights in October. The entire ship, not to mention the neighboring submarine, the Soviet B-427 “Scorpion,” deserves a leisurely daytime visit. But if it is scares that you want, Dark Harbor delivers in spades. This being Los Angeles County, crowds are large, although the queues absorb them nicely. Bring lots of cash and hold on tight to the person you are with.

For directions, hours, and prices, read more at: https://www.queenmary.com/

Frightmare Manor

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it East Tennessee town of Talbott is home to a haunted attraction that has some basis in historical fact. Let us turn back the clock to July 5, 1902, when plantation owner and co-founder of Hamblen County Jeremiah Lexer took his own life and that of his family’s. Authorities searching the premises found another 27 bodies on the grounds – bodies belonging to people whose survivors had long wrote them off as having gotten lost in the nearby Appalachian Mountains.

Three haunted trails include one through the farm house – not the actual building in which Lexer murdered his family but one built over the same spot, and to the same floor plan according to local blueprints – traverse the grounds, while a corn maze and pumpkin patch dot the pasture next door and operate during daylight hours. If that isn’t enough, The Lexer Jump provides daredevils (yep, Loyal Reader, that would be you) the “opportunity” to leap off a platform into 30 feet of darkness. (Don’t worry, an air mattress breaks your fall at the bottom – if a ghoul doesn’t snatch you from the air, that is.)

Compared to other haunted attractions on this list, Frightmare Manor packs a lot into a small space. The sacrifice, perhaps, is in the dining options. A single kiosk sells burgers and pulled pork sandwiches, but when I went there two years ago, stomach growling, they had run out of almost everything. Of course, this may have changed. While you dine at picnic tables, a open-air Jumbotron broadcasts footage of guests screaming as they make their way through one of the mazes.

The verdict: Frightmare Manor is smaller, but also less expensive, than either of the other sites on this list. The Forest Trail, simply named “Backwoods,” is my favorite. Yes, Leatherface was there. Ultimately, though, whether or not to visit Frightmare Manor is a question of taste. I, of course, have about as much taste as I have tact (but if you know me then this comes as no real shock), so for me, the answer is a no-brainer.

Read more at: https://frightmaremanor.com/

Markoff’s Haunted Forest

Do you live in or around the nation’s capital? Each October, the Maryland suburb of Poolesville plays host to what may be the best haunted house I’ve yet visited: Markoff’s Haunted Forest. A large farmstead that backs onto a woodland hillside transforms into a massive haunted attraction that can take several hours of your time to explore. Three haunted trails dot several acres, and I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite. Two of them are floodlight forest trails, and the fact that they are disorienting in the dark and during the frequent October fog only adds to the effect (as does the fact that I ran into Leatherface here, yet again). The third is a sort of “haunted hayride,” except the tractor pulls a cage, not a hay cart. The prisoners (you once again, Loyal Reader) are dropped off at the entrance to The Town, which according to the website is named Onslaught Mills.

Because I expected to pass costumed actors along the hayride and didn’t see any, I let my guard down by the time I reached The Town. Big mistake. My friend Jenny and I survived, and had so much fun that we eventually didn’t even notice how cold we were. Log benches situated around one of several ginormous bonfires helped keep the cold at bay as well, and the on site burgers and apple cider hit the spot.

There is much to do besides hike the haunted trails. The well-named Transylvanian Games featured themed variations on darts and other carnival games, renamed “Slayer” and “Silver Bullet” and the like. Prizes are tickets that you can redeem for other attractions, such as a zipline? Have you ever ziplined 40 feet above the ground…at night? Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds. Gringopotpourri note: The highlight of my visit in 2014 involved climbing a pole to ridiculous heights and descending to near-ground level from a horrifying rope swing. I saw no mention of the swing on the 2018 website. Was the Giant Swing removed for liability purposes?

The verdict: Amazingly, Markoff’s Haunted Forest is a non-profit event; proceeds go to Calleva summer camp and Mexico earthquake relief, among other areas. I mention this because prices are ridiculous; you can expect to shell out well over $100 for two people; more if you play the games. There are some line management challenges as well, though I suppose this is to be expected considering the short operating window – just four weekends a year plus Halloween night. That being said, I had more fun here than at Dark Harbor or Frightmare Manor. But next time I’ll bring a warmer jacket and a thicker wallet.

Read more at: https://www.markoffshauntedforest.com/

What are your favorite haunted attractions? How scary were they? Let us know by leaving a comment below!


Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food and culture all while weathering the challenges of life in a city with over 20 million people. Life's unpredictable journey has since brought him to Tennessee, where he is close to family and to the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, top ten lists, and travel in general.

3 thoughts on “Haunted Houses around the U.S.”

  1. One teensy correction, Scott: your friend, Jenny, didn’t have a good time. I was scared shitless by that Haunted Hayride (mainly the parts that activated my claustrophobia… still sorry you couldn’t go down that shute because of me). I did like the church and the earthquake part. The Forest was actually less scary, IMO. But still, if you hadn’t been there to, literally, hold my hand, I would have just been curled up into a ball on the ground. And I’m a horror flick fan!!! lol

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