Ahh, the soothing sounds of screams in the evening. There's just something so memorable about a chainsaw-wielding, killer clown chasing you through an endless maze of terror. I can't say exactly when I fell in love with haunted houses. Maybe it evolved from my love of horror films (the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill was terrifying in its day) or it might have been after taking a film appreciation class and learning about all of the intricate work that goes into building a set and makeup artistry. Either way, I was hooked from day one.
I still remember my first haunted house experience: walking through an old warehouse where a "convicted murderer" was scheduled to be executed. The prison guard strategically placed us in the perfect position – in front of the electric chair. The switch was flipped, sparks flew, the strobe lights were cued and – unexpectedly – the prisoner in the orange jumpsuit broke out of the chair and charged us in fury. Our group shrank back in terror, right into the chicken coop fencing. Everyone started to run away but, confusingly, I was being held back. It wasn't until later that I realized my shirt had gotten stuck in the fence and half of it was missing.
With Halloween around the corner, now is the perfect time to face your fears and create your own chilling memories at these haunted houses:
The Beast/Edge of Hell/Macabre Cinema, Kansas City – This complex of haunted houses will have you sleeping with the lights on. Choose one or make it a weekend trip and experience all three. State-of-the-art animatronic props, grizzly fiends and horrifying discoveries will have you crying for your mommy. Will you have what it takes to drop down a five-story pitch-black slide? Don't worry, the staff will give you a nudge if you need some motivation. If that doesn't scare you, wait until you come face-to-face with Medusa, the Guinness World Record largest snake in captivity, measuring 25 feet 2 inches (and that was her length seven years ago)! Outside, the scare cast roams the free Festival of the Full Moon where you'll find hayrides, fire throwers and food.
Worlds of Fun Halloween Haunt, Kansas City – This theme park is transformed into a foggy nightmare as hundreds of creatures seek their prey. Will you make it out alive?
The Living Dead Haunt, Lee's Summit – This scary "open world environment" differs from the classic haunted house maze structure, which begs the question: which way do you go, and how do you get out? Why don't you stop and ask a flesh-eating zombie for directions? Before they try to eat you, that is.
The Darkness/The Hive Zombie Experience/Terror Visions 3D, St. Louis – The Darkness has been making visitors wet their pants for 25 years. The newly renovated and expanded haunted house is bigger and better than ever. Don't mind the body parts affixed to the ceiling, just make sure you keep all yours attached! Will you have the courage to walk through their sewer system knowing Pennywise is lurking nearby? More clowns can be found at Terror Visions, a black light 3D experience.
House of the Occult at Lemp Brewery, St. Louis – There's something mind-blowing about a haunted house located inside…well…a haunted building. Hopefully the resident spirits are not disturbed by the demonic entities performing satanic rituals underground. Take your own peek at their cave system to discover the horrors that await.
Fright Fest at Six Flags, St. Louis – It doesn't get any better than roller coasters and monsters. As dusk approaches, the whistle of the train signals the release of oncoming fright. Sinister clowns, trolls and vampires converge on the park, making guests run in terror. Tickets can be purchased to go through any number of the park's haunted houses.
Creepyworld, Fenton – Boasting 13 attractions in one location, Creepyworld has been called the biggest Screampark in America. See if you have what it takes to escape the clutches of Jason as he descends on Camp Blood. Looking for a slower pace? Try the Trick R Treat Haunted Hayride. Did I mention serial killers inhabit the neighborhood?
Fear Fest, Columbia – One of the biggest haunted houses in central Missouri, Fear Fest provides multiple attractions in one location. From first sight, you'll be hesitant to enter the ramshackle asylum filled with nightmares. The brave can heighten their experience by purchasing an "Extra Scare Level" marker – making you the perfect target for the danger that lurks around every corner (please note, this marker means the scare crew CAN touch you).
The Dead Factory Haunted House, Mexico – Psychology is a mysterious study. For centuries, doctors have been trying to solve the mysteries of the human mind – including the deranged doctor inhabiting The Dead Factory. Make your way through 25 rooms of horror or become his next living experiment.
Hotel of Terror/Dungeons of Doom, Springfield – Open since 1978, Hotel of Terror has been scaring through generations. Explore four floors of fright, squeeze (and even crawl!) through tight passages and escape down a 96-foot slide. Nearby, Dungeons of Doom is housed in an old food plant – dare we presume meatpacking? Make sure to wear your tennis shoes, because look-alike appearances from Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter and Leatherface will have you running.
R.I.P. at Myer's Inn, Carthage – At this haunted hotel, the question "checking out?" has a completely different meaning. The static from the TV illuminates a gruesome scene, leaving no doubt the occupants of the room met their demise. Keep your wits about you, or you may be next.
Waco Schoolhouse Haunt, Waco – Take a lesson on fear at this abandoned schoolhouse. No one knows what's been going on behind its closed doors for the past 30 years, but a brave adventurer like yourself can soon find out. Don't mind the biohazard zones and threat that awaits in Sector 13.
Branson's Haunted Screampark, Reeds Spring – The Screampark "comes alive" at night, offering 11 Levels of Fear. Hordes of zombies, ghosts and violent prisoners terrorize guests as they make their way through various haunted dwellings. As if a mirror maze wasn't difficult enough, add the prodding of vicious werewolves and you have an unforgettable time.
This is just a small sample of the haunts offered this Halloween season in Missouri. Assemble your scream team and prepare to run for your life…all in the name of fun, of course.
Written by Ashley Sneed