The haunting season is upon us again, and soon all the ghosts and ghouls will be crawling (or jumping) out of their hiding places to celebrate Halloween. If you pride yourself on surviving the latest Saw movie this time of year, we're here to help you get your next adrenaline fix. These eight haunted houses range from sorta spooky to totally terrifying. But remember, you are the best judge of your own (or your child's) capacity for frightening thrills, so be sure to trust your instincts and enter at your own risk.
Through November 6
Nightmare is one of New York City's most well-known (and feared) extra-horrifying haunted houses. Now in its seventh year, the haunted house's theme changes every fall. This time, the setting is an insane asylum populated by folks who have “broken superstitions” and committed themselves as protection against the consequences. To gain their freedom, they must entice the brave souls who enter to take on their bad luck—by breaking the very same superstitions. Before you enter Nightmare, walk through the Fun House, another scary attraction where the mental patients run the hospital.
Through October 31
Generic name aside, the creators of Haunted House have really upped the ante when it comes to scaring the pants off of even the most hardened New Yorkers. None of it sounds too out of the ordinary (it's dark; people touch you), unless you consider rule number one: you have to walk through alone. No exceptions. Of the almost 700 people who walked (alone) through A Midsummer Nightmare—Haunted House's first foray into terrifying the public back in May 2009—more than 75 people didn't make it. (OK, they weren't literally scared to death, but they did ask to be pulled out.) This one is definitely not for the faint of heart—or for the kiddies, as no one under 18 is allowed.
Through November 6
This venue is not so much ghostly as it is deranged. The haunted (ware)house in Chelsea is full of blood (naturally), bodies and mental patients. If just the sound of that makes you squeamish, wait until you actually step inside. The screams emanating from this spooky spot can only be described as bloodcurdling.
Steampunk Haunted House at Abrons Art Center
October 23–24, 27–31
The folks at Steampunk Haunted House at Abrons Art Center, an artful counterpoint to Blood Manor, proudly boast that they don't use a single drop of blood. They forgo cheap scares in favor of making people uncomfortable and creeping them out with an arsenal of flickering lights, unfamiliar sounds, claustrophobic hallways and strange characters lurking around and getting a little too close for comfort. Children under the age of 8 are not admitted.
Madame Tussauds After Dark
October 21–24, 28–31
The lifelike re-creations of celebrities and historical figures at Madame Tussauds are creepy to some in daylight and, at the very least, fascinating in their uncanny resemblance to their living or once-living counterparts (as evidenced by multiple pranks involving real celebrities convincingly posing as their wax figures). Few know French artist Marie Tussaud's history, though. Before setting up her original museum in London, she was forced to make death masks for executed nobles—among them Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI—to prove her allegiance to her country during the French Revolution. Venture into the unlit museum after dark if you dare. But be forewarned: it may be difficult to tell which figures lurking in the darkness are made of wax and which are not.
Through November 6
As Outbreak’s backstory tells it, a recent toxic chemical spill at Green Lab Solutions has left hundreds of the company's employees with horrible mutations. Government documents warn one and all to stay far away from the building—but what would be the fun in that? This one's pretty terrifying (although not as traumatizing as Haunted House), but older children love it. If Outbreak were a movie, we'd rate it PG-13.
Haunted Pier at Sequoia
This 21+ costume party is more haunted nightclub than haunted house. With two floors of terror, a DJ and drink specials from 9 to 10:30pm (table reservations are available), this shindig will definitely be one hell of a good time. Tickets are $20, and we recommend getting them early, since the party sold out last year. (You can buy them at fullyequippedent.com.) Costumes are mandatory, and the grim reaper will be enforcing the dress code, so best not to take your chances on being anything less than decked out.
October 21–23, 28–31
Gravesend Inn is an annual production put on by Theatreworks, the resident theatrical troupe of the New York City College of Technology (NYCCT), with support from the school's entertainment technology department. After more than 10 years of experience (the tradition started in 1999), the NYCCT crew has got all the technological tricks and treats down pat. It's even one of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's favorite haunts. The scares are all in good fun, however, and suitable for most children.