These Haunted Houses Are Major Drama Queens

RumplestiltskinWhen I was in middle school (what we used to call Junior High, back in the dark ages), my friends Mia, Heather, Mariette, and I spent Halloween putting on elaborate haunted houses in each of our homes (except mine -- my mom wasn't having it).
 
Apparently my merry band of black cats and mummies kicked off a national obsession, because these days, there isn’t a city or town that doesn’t have a haunted house, boat, or (my personal favorite) hayride.
 
If I were going to make one now, I’d just send people through a door and onto a stage, behind a podium with an audience waiting (public speaking is supposedly the most common phobia). Scary? Not to me, but I’m a middle child.
 
Good thing I’m not in charge. The latest trend in haunted houses creates truly theatrical experiences using top local talent -- because all the world’s a stage, especially on Halloween!

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When you live in a big city, you find yourself with an overabundance of professional-level talent. In New York, theater producer Timothy Haskell has collected special-effects experts, top-tier art directors, and well-trained actors to create Nightmare, a haunted house in the so-hip Lower East Side with a different theme each year. This Halloween, it's "Fairy Tales." If my past experience is any indicator, patrons literally won't believe their eyes.

In L.A., Universal Studios has tapped the minds of Eli Roth (the director of Hostel), '70s scare-rocker Alice Cooper, and Rob Zombie to create horrifying mazes as part of their Halloween Horror Nights -- which also takes advantage of the Universal Studios back-lot. Psycho house, anyone?
 
The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride has its own not-so-spooky secret: Since it’s set in the Griffith Park Observatory, it’s overrun with celebs, and you never know who’s going to show up -- Amy Smart has come to read scary stories, and Stephanie Pratt and Emmy Rossum have been spotted among the ghouls.
 
In Las Vegas (and many other cities, but this one’s the biggest), you can take in a production of Evil Dead: The Musical, a stage show based on the cult classic movie that features tickets in the “Special VIP Splatter Zone.” That’s right: You pay extra to be doused in gore. Who wouldn’t?

If you want to stay home and get a different kind of scare -- the kind that keeps me up more nights than any imaginary ghouls and goblins could do -- you can watch the documentary Hell House. It's just a little film about, oh, the Halloween houses put on by evangelical groups to scare religious people away from "sinful activities" like gay sex. Terrifying!

What's the best haunted house you've ever been to? 


Image courtesy of NightmareNewYork/Jon Wasserman

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