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Over 1,200 professional haunted houses popped up over the last decade that would shock even the most extreme thrill seekers throughout the U.S. Among them, thirteen offer horror movie realism. Big companies have begun to developed chains of extreme haunted houses while nationally marketing “real horror.” The houses on this list cater to adult audiences and display what can be conjured up when fear is a dominant commodity in the entertainment business. The six haunts below shatter the traditional rules and limitations of haunted attractions to provide the scariest, most intense experience the haunt industry has to offer. Have they gone too far? You be the judge…
5. Haunted Hoochie at Dead Acres
Located in: Pataskala, Ohio
After surviving the Haunted Hoochie At Dead Acres attraction a female patron unsurprisingly described her experience as “Thrilling.” What may come as a shock is that she was referring to an actor physically grabbing her, throwing her over his shoulder, carrying her off into a dark room, spinning her around several times and then pushing her back out to join her group. Most haunts stress of no physical interaction between costumes and actors. Dead Acres has taken this standard to the chilly, spirit ridden world. But, you can’t say you weren’t warned. A sign at the entrance of the haunt warns, “Attention: Entering Dead Acres entails known and unanticipated risks that could result in physical or emotional injury. Risks may include, among other things, slipping, falling, collision with fixed objects or other participants… This may be the best haunted house you’ve ever experienced. Have Fun.” One reviewer claims: “You will be touched, shoved, and you’ll probably have a chainsaw come in contact with your legs as well.” Probably?!
4. Dead of Night
Located in: Long Island, New York
Dead of Night is an attraction on Long Island which has one of the most horrifying haunt presentations many have ever seen. Every patron waits in line, listening to the initially calming, hypnotic recorded phrase “We are here for your protection.” This is suddenly interrupted by an air-raid siren followed by an onslaught of men in gas masks who drag some of the unsuspecting patrons into the haunt. However, these are the lucky customers. Others are thrown over actors’ shoulders before being zipped into body bags. After this initial abduction scenario, the focus shifts to humiliation including the smearing strange substances on patrons’ faces and even hitting people with large, heavy objects. The experience has evolved quite a bit since 2013 by adding living insects and reptiles such as snakes, cockroaches and spiders to crawls over your body and it might have been because of this that the attraction was closed down in November of 2015.
3. ScareHouse: The Basement
Located in: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Basement at ScareHouse is an intense, immersive, interactive experience in a nearly 100 year old historic and reportedly haunted building. You may enter in pairs or alone, though odds are, not many people will be entering this place by themselves. The actors in this haunted house are incredibly convincing, using a lot of improvisation and dialogue as you make your way through each scene of your own personal horror movie. It’s not possible to make it from start to end without multiple actors jumping out at you unexpectedly and customers are either picked up, carried off, or tied up. The physical contact is constant and includes nightmarish scenarios such as simulated drowning, being locked in tight spaces, and real electric shocks. The overwhelming assault begins from the outset, with the noisome scent of burning sage and a gollum-like gatekeeper laying his hands upon you and carrying you inside the shadowy darkness of the first room you will enter, where he will leave you to face the evil hell that awaits you.
Located in: New York/California – $45 – $150
You have to sign a waiver before you enter this 18-and-older haunted house because, according to their website, you will experience the disorienting effects of “extreme horror, tight spaces, darkness, fog, strobe lights, exposure to water, physical contact, and crawling,” among other things. So yeah, this is one of the places where the actors can touch you. People who have gone through Blackout have reported being physically groped, forced to put unsavory objects in their mouths or endure faux-water boarding, and being physically or verbally humiliated. You are given a “safe word” for when it all becomes too much. Imagine a real American Horror Story scenario coming to life and that’s Blackout. Oh, and by the way, you have to do this thing alone.
1. McKamey Manor
Located in: San Diego, California
McKamey Manor is an attraction on the list that I really don’t want to personally experience. This insanely extreme home haunt tops the list because it can use scare tactics that are business owned attractions. I’m also not sure that what they’re doing is completely safe due to the fact that little of the haunt is an illusion. Participants are covered in real blood, forced to eat disgusting things, threatened with actual power tools, stuffed in small, contained spaces like a clothes dryer, submerged in water repeatedly, and being physically assaulted constantly. Did I mention the experience lasts for four to seven hours?!
Compared to all these new ways of stimulating fear, I can’t help but think back to a time when haunted houses were made up of flashing lights, fog machines, and cheap robotic pop-ups. After reviewing the haunts on this list, that doesn’t sound too bad right now.
Overall, the main reason here that people actually want to do this is not exactly easily explained because every person is different. Mainly, it has to do with the adrenaline rush that we get even if it’s for a short time. What I’m trying to say here is, basically, scary things make everything else more “vivid,” and this is exciting and appealing.
A majority of thrill seekers argue that engaging in these activities are actually helping your psyche when it comes to facing your fear. Extreme fear such as the kind generated by going through an intense mentally challenging haunted house can be good for us in ways that go beyond helping us forget about job stress, school, and money problems. It’s a sensible amount of fear that stops us from jumping off cliffs or picking fights with burly wrestlers. Not only is it an important emotion for self-preservation, some argue that it may be a primary motivating factor in life.
It’s not limited to thrill seekers, either. After reading through these haunted house tactics, I decided to take the opinions of several students and faculty staff, in the hope to discover if these haunts could be too much for the public. Following the showing of a few haunted houses from this list to a total of fifteen people (eleven teens and five adults) I asked them a question: Would you go to one of these houses? I was surprised when eight teens said yes, along with two adults. And when asked for a reason, they all had similar responses. “It gives you that thrill and can be a very memorable experience.” Those who said no had a very logical answer. “It’s just too crazy, it’s not worth being violated and traumatized over.”
In the end, most of us like a good scare, maybe some of us more than others. There is no doubt that a line must be drawn when we’re on the brink of going too far to experience the thrill of adrenaline caused by fear. Is it time to draw the line now? Have we gone too far to satisfy our thrills? So far, the thousands of patrons who are spending up to one hundred and fifty dollars and making reservations for these haunts years in advance are clearly saying, “No.”