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7 Floors of Hell

12 Haunted Tours Worth Traveling For

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7 Floors of Hell

We are entering the premier weekend for haunted house tours. In the past couple of decades, the haunted tour has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, with attractions in every city and small town. Some are worth traveling for, as you'll see in this list. It is not an exhaustive list, but may give you an idea of what's available to scare the living daylights out of you this Halloween. Be aware that many of the attraction websites have auto play sound. Happy haunting!

1. The Darkness

Photograph from The Darkness at Facebook.

The Darkness in St. Louis, Missouri, has evolved over twenty years into a megaplex of haunted attractions. In addition to The Darkness, you can tour Terror Visions 3D, Creepyworld, and The Haunting of Lemp Brewery. The attractions are gathered together under the name Scarefest. The Darkness is an indoor self-guided maze that takes about a half hour to get through -unless you run away scared!

2. The Asylum

Photograph from The Asylum at Facebook.

The Asylum in Denver, Colorado, is one of four related haunted attractions. Its sister haunts are 13th Floor, Undead Haunted House, and Primitive Fear: the Apocalypse, all in Denver. The Asylum is a tour down into "Gordon Cottingham's Hospital for the Mentally Insane." Inside, you'll find "spiders, rats, snakes, and the endless screams of the tortured souls.”

3. The Haunted Prison Experience

Photograph from The Haunted Prison Experience at Facebook.

The Haunted Prison Experience takes place at the defunct Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. The prison opened in 1896 to house young offenders. Over its 94-year history, the institution held 154,000 incarcerated men, many who died there, sometimes by murder, sometimes by suicide. The prison was closed in 1990, and later became the setting for the movie The Shawshank Redemption. You can see for yourself how spooky the empty facility is, only populated by the spirits that roam the halls -both actors and real spirits.

4. 13th Floor

13th Floor is open in Phoenix, Arizona. In many buildings, the management skips labeling the 13th floor and floors go from 12 to 14, due to the superstition about the number 13 being unlucky. The legend is that these buildings actually do have a 13th floor, but it inaccessible because the souls of the dead live there. And that's the theme of this haunted attraction in Phoenix. A second attraction, Zombieland, has been added, so that the tour now encompasses 60,000 square feet of space.

5. House of Shock

The House of Shock in New Orleans, Louisiana, has been scaring folks for 21 years. More than just a haunted house, it has a bar and restaurant, a place to sit and watch the ghouls go by, a concert stage, and a complete outdoor Halloween festival! This is all very handy for friends and family members to scared to tour the House of Shock. The video shows the stage show presented before the tour begins.

6. Waverly Hills Sanatorium

Waverly Hills in Louisville, Kentucky, is open for haunted house tours. This is not an attraction from an entertainment company, but an actual hospital with a haunted history. Waverly Hills Sanatorium has been a tuberculosis hospital, a nursing home, a failed religious monument, and a paranormal investigation site. Now the Waverly Hills Historical Society invites you to relive the misery of the past by touring the entire first floor of the haunted hospital.

7. Haunted Overload

Photograph from Haunted Overload at Facebook.

The Haunted Overload at Demeritt Hill Farm in Lee, New Hampshire, is a combination indoor-outdoor tour with props that loom monstrously tall over the visitors. There are scary shows scheduled at night with actors (rain or shine), non-scary shows with lights but no actors, and casual tours during the day in which you can take your time strolling through. They recommend that you buy show tickets in advance. If you arrive without a ticket, the show may be sold out, and even if not it's an extra $5! The attraction is all-new for 2013 -see a video of the construction that began last summer. 

8. The Dungeon of Horrors

Photograph by Flickr user Sideonecincy.

The Dungeon of Horrors is the name of the special Halloween haunted tours of the West Virginia State Penitentiary. The prison held inmates from 1866 until it was closed in 1995. The facility was famous for overcrowding, poor conditions, and inmate abuse. It was the site of many executions, both by hanging and by electric chair, plus numerous murders. In addition to the Halloween tours, you can also book a Ghost Adventures Tour, in which your group can stay from midnight until 6AM -if you dare.

9. 7 Floors of Hell

Photograph from 7 Floors of Hell at Facebook.

7 Floors of Hell in Cleveland, Ohio, was named after an urban legend: a tale of a haunted house attraction that no one survived to exit! Rodney Geffert heard the story and made the attraction real, although his visitors do survive to visit another day. The "7 Floors" are seven different attractions: Blackout, The Cemetery, insane Asylum, The Crypt, Psycho Circus in 3D, The Butcher Shop, and The House of Nightmares. You can buy tickets to your choice of three haunted houses, or a general ticket to visit all seven.

10. Terror Behind the Walls

Photograph from the Collection of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in America. Open 142 years, the prison was a place of madness, torture, and suicide, as well as murder and the despair of prisoners who served time until they died of natural causes. Every Halloween, you can take the Terror Behind the Walls tour, which has the spookiness of the historic prison plus the added scariness of actors and special effects. There are six attractions inside, from state-of-the-art 3D illusions to the experience of solitary confinement in the dungeon.

11. USS Nightmare

Photograph from USS Nightmare at Facebook.

USS Nightmare in Newport, Kentucky (just across the river from Cincinnati) promises to scare the ship out of you! It's a haunted steamboat on the Ohio River. The 20-minute tour takes you through two levels of an old river dredge with lights and actors. The tour focuses on historic ghosts who once inhabited the boat.

12. Field of Screams

The Field of Screams in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a haunted hayride that takes you to several haunted houses, but the hayride itself is terrifying, with ghouls and goblins inhabiting the haunted cornfields.

What haunted attractions would you recommend?

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Pop Culture
Why Are We So Scared of Clowns?
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Warner Bros.

With the box office-smashing success of the new adaptation of Stephen King's It, it’s safe to say that coulrophobia (fear of clowns) isn’t a fringe phenomenon. The colorful circus performers are right up there with vampires and werewolves on the list of iconic horror villains. But unlike other movie monsters, clowns were originally meant to make kids laugh, not hide under their beds in terror. So what is it about clowns that taps into our deepest fears?

According to Yale doctoral candidate Danielle Bainbridge, the unsettling clown stereotype goes back centuries. In the inaugural episode of the new PBS digital series Origin of Everything, Bainbridge explains the long history of this pervasive part of our culture.

Before clowns wore floppy shoes and threw pies at each other’s faces, early versions of the performers could be found in royal courts. The court jester wasn’t evil, but he was the only person in the kingdom who could poke fun at the monarch without fear of (literally) losing his head. The fact that fools didn’t fall within the normal social hierarchy may have contributed to the future role clowns would play as untrustworthy outsiders.

From the medieval era, clowns evolved into the harlequins of 16th-century Italian theater. Again, these weren’t bloodthirsty monsters, but they weren’t exactly kid-friendly either. The characters were often mischievous and morally bankrupt, and their strange costumes and masks only added to the creepy vibes they gave off.

Fast-forward to the 19th century, when the white-faced circus clowns we know today started gaining popularity. Unlike the jesters and harlequins that came before them, these clowns performed primarily for children and maintained a wholesome image. But as pop culture in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s showed us, that old perception we had of clowns as nefarious troublemakers never really went away. Steven King’s It, the cult classic Killer Clowns From Outer Space (1988), and that scene from Poltergeist (1982) all combined these original fears with the more modern association of clowns with children. That formula gave us one of the most frightening figures in horror media today.

If you’re not completely spooked yet, watch the full story below.

[h/t Origin of Everything]

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fun
This Oregon-Based Nonprofit Creates Amazing Costumes for Children in Wheelchairs
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Courtesy of Magic Wheelchair

Ryan and Lana Weimer celebrate Halloween all year round: The couple from Keizer, Oregon, runs a nonprofit called Magic Wheelchair, which the two founded in early 2015 to build elaborate—and free—costumes for kids in wheelchairs.

The Weimers’ eldest son, Keaton, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) when he was 9 months old. The rare genetic disorder affects the control of muscle movement, so Keaton uses a wheelchair to get around. In 2008, the 3-year-old asked his parents if he could be a pirate for Halloween. It was then that Ryan had an idea: Instead of simply giving Keaton a tri-corner hat, why not build a pirate ship that fit around his wheelchair?

Weimer constructed the wooden ship, and “what happened when we went out trick-or-treating was really just a wonderful, wonderful experience for us,” Weimer tells Mental Floss. “There's this weird awkwardness around disability. People don't always look at the kid and say hi, or talk to him or look at him. Instead, they just pause, or stare … But with that [pirate ship] costume on [Keaton’s chair], his disability really seemed to disappear, and people saw him before they saw his wheelchair.”

Kids swarmed around Keaton as they admired his ship, and he even wound up getting his picture published on the front page of the local newspaper. An annual tradition was born: Not wanting to rest on his laurels, Weimer continued building Keaton elaborate, wheelchair-friendly Halloween costumes each year. When his younger son Bryce—who was also diagnosed with SMA—was born in 2011, he included him in the fun, too. The positive reactions they received, Weimer says, inspired him and Lana to eventually “create a nonprofit to duplicate the experience we had for other kiddos and other families.”

A custom pirate ship Halloween costume, created by Magic Wheelchair founder Ryan Weimer for his son, Keaton.
A custom pirate ship Halloween costume, created by Magic Wheelchair founder Ryan Weimer for his son, Keaton.
Courtesy of Magic Wheelchair

Magic Wheelchair—which is funded by individual and corporate donors—relies on teams of local volunteers around the country, who work together to build costumes for children in their communities. To be considered for a costume, families fill out an online application, which provides the nonprofit with a kid's biography and a description of their desired ensemble.

After receiving automatic email confirmation that Magic Wheelchair has received their materials, recipients are selected on a first-come, first-serve basis, although kids with life-threatening conditions do get priority. The rest are placed on a waitlist until a local volunteer team is able to complete their build. This process can take a few months or a few years, depending on whether there's an available team in the region.

Once kids make it off the waitlist, they meet with volunteers to discuss their vision. After that, the teams work anywhere from 100 to 500 hours, from start to finish, to construct the commissioned costume. The final product is kept under wraps so Magic Wheelchair can surprise the lucky recipient at a grand unveiling.

One of these kids was 13-year-old Cassie Hudson, a fan of comic books who hails from North Plains, Oregon. Cassie, who has spina bifida and other related health issues, first heard about Magic Wheelchair in 2015 when she noticed a flyer for the nonprofit hanging in the lobby of Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The non-profit was new at the time, so Cassie and her mother, Tess Hudson, figured they wouldn’t have the resources to provide the teen with her dream Halloween costume. But in 2016, Magic Wheelchair approached a physical therapist at Shriners and asked if they knew anyone at the hospital who would be interested in receiving one of their custom creations through a big reveal at the upcoming Rose City Comic-Con. “She was like, oh my goodness, I know exactly the kid!” Tess tells Mental Floss.

Cassie’s favorite fictional superhero is Green Arrow, who appears in comic books published by DC Comics. “I just think he’s super cool—he’s one of those superheroes that doesn’t have any powers and just wants to help people because he feels the need to,” Cassie says. She wanted Magic Wheelchair to transform her chair into his motorcycle. The costume the volunteers built lights up, makes noises, and looks so much like an actual motorcycle that at one comic-con Cassie attended, security teams initially said she couldn't bring it into the building.

A custom Halloween costume created by Magic Wheelchair for 'Star Wars' fan Bryce Amiel.
A custom Halloween costume created by Magic Wheelchair for 'Star Wars' fan Bryce Amiel.
Courtesy of Magic Wheelchair

Designing custom costumes for wheelchairs does pose a unique set of challenges: For one, "these kids need their chairs," Weimer says. "Our volunteer teams don't have the chair to build on, so they take measurements and pictures and build off of those."

Also, Weimer says, "you definitely have to consider what the kiddo is capable of, where [the costume] is going to be stored, and where it's going to be transported—because they're big." Costumes, which wrap around the wheelchairs, range anywhere from 2.5 feet by 4 feet to 5 feet by 8 feet and are sometimes constructed in pieces, which makes moving them around much easier. Like pieces of a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, these parts fit together on the wheelchair's base and are secured in place with brackets, plastic and metal pipes, zip ties, duct tape, and specially designed metal mounts.

These obstacles don't interfere with Magic Wheelchair's goal to build what Weimer calls the "biggest, baddest costumes" imaginable for kids. "The sky's the limit," he says. "The only limitations are what's OK with the family and the kiddo." One particularly ambitious recent build was for an Atlanta resident named Anthony. "He loves cooking, and so [the volunteers] built him this chef's kitchen around his wheelchair, with a stove," Weimer says. "There was even food—a turkey, and different dishes on the stovetop."

In just a few short years, Magic Wheelchair has grown from six volunteer teams, with anywhere from one to 10 members, to around 50 teams. This Halloween season, they plan on constructing around 50 costumes—a far cry from the seven or eight ensembles the nonprofit first produced in 2015. And it's poised to become just as big and bad as the costumes it creates. “We have a complete board of directors now,” Weimer says. “We were also able to get to the point where we have hired a fundraiser and some part-time staff. This just help us to keep on growing.”

For more information on volunteering with Magic Wheelchair, or to make a donation, visit their website.

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