Recent clown pranks across the U.S. have elicited an understandable amount of public fear , but there are plenty of ways to get in your seasonal dose of horror in a safe environment this October.
Several haunted houses have been working year-round, building props and perfecting makeup techniques, to ensure that horror fans can experience their scariest attractions just in time for Halloween.
From Netherworld, which utilizes about 100 actors each night, to House of Horror Hill, which relies on about 30 volunteers to open its doors, here are five haunted houses that are worth visiting this month:
A production that requires about 100 actors per night, 20-year-old haunted attraction Netherworld aims to deliver a horrifying experience for attendees from the moment they arrive in the parking lot. Krampus and other scary creatures greet customers, swiping their tentacles in their direction and dragging shovels that spark across the concrete.
Once inside main attraction Monsters, customers are in for nearly 20 minutes of horror. Rooms appear to spin as creatures jump out from the dark or fly above the heads of terrified attendees. Customers huddle together, attempting to make their way through the dark as a rusty car pops out, a giant pig oinks and a human-size bear swings back and forth.
Even if you’re not a fan of horror, the quality of the props, animatronics and character costumes is remarkable. That’s because co-creators Ben Armstrong and Billy Messina have backgrounds in television and film production.
“I became a late-night horror show host. (I was) a mad doctor,” Armstrong said. “Because of that, I got to help with muscular dystrophy telethons and raise money with haunted houses. That’s how I got into the haunted house business.”
When the haunted house he was working for didn’t open one year, Armstrong and co-creator Messina decided to open one of their own.
This year marks the 20th season for Netherworld. Praised as one of the best haunted houses in metro Atlanta and in the U.S., Netherworld wasn’t always as popular as it is today. Armstrong says hundreds of customers visit the attraction on slower nights, but he also recalled when just nine people showed up one night in Netherworld’s early years.
“When Netherworld began, we had a lot of ideas, but we didn’t necessarily have the ability to execute them. But after 20 years, we have the coolest monsters and the most amazing sets.”
7:30-10:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays through Oct. 31; 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays Oct. 7-29; 7:30-10:30 p.m. Nov. 4-5. $23-$28 Sundays-Thursdays (except Halloween), $25-$35 Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween. Netherworld, 6624 Dawson Blvd., Norcross. fearworld.com.
A combination of Newnan’s 1980s Horror Hill haunted house and the 13 Stories attraction that opened in Kennesaw in the late 2000s, 13 Stories opened in Newnan in 2014.
Now in its second season at the Newnan location, 13 Stories is leaning on founder Allyn Glover and his decades of work in the industry to deliver six haunted attractions.
The main attraction, the haunted house, is built on “human phobias,” according to 13 Stories’ website . “You just might encounter snakes, spiders, rats and more.”
Set up in a 54,000-square-foot former Playtex factory, the haunted house sells about 500 tickets per night with its blend of animatronics and traditional scare tactics that have become standard in most of the successful haunted houses.
Leah Valentine, marketing specialist, said she couldn’t reveal too much about one of 13 Stories’ newest experiences, Sacrifice, but described it as a “sensory deprivation experience.” To participate, you’ll need to sign a waiver first.
On select dates, attendees can also partake in the Apocalypse Zombie Kill Experience, which offers a chance to kill the walking dead, just as its title suggests.
7:30-10 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays Oct. 6-9, Sunday and Monday Oct. 30-31; 7-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays and Sundays, 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays Oct. 12-29 and Nov. 4-5. $17-$25 (includes access to four of six attractions). 13 Stories Haunted House, 320 Temple Ave., Newnan. 13storieshauntedhouse.com.
Their efforts include adding the new haunted maze, Mummy’s Curse, and scare zones The Witching Hour and Demon District. The two new scare zones both feature infected zombies and monsters chasing terrified victims through designated areas of the park.
The amusement park has also introduced a haunted virtual reality roller coaster, Rage of the Gargoyles, to the Fright Fest festivities. Riders will become pilots of an “Apache-style helicopter” and fight off “blood-thirsty gargoyles” on Dare Devil Dive.
Dressing up is encouraged (only for kids 12 and younger), but masks are not allowed at Fright Fest for the safety of other guests and staff.
6 p.m.-midnight Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28, 31; noon-midnight Oct. 8, 15, 22, 29; noon-10 p.m. Oct. 9, 16, 23, 30. Online prices: starting at $45.99 without Haunted Attractions Pass; starting at $65.99 includes Haunted Attractions Pass. General admission at the park: $65.99; $45.99 children shorter than 48 inches; free ages 2 and younger. Six Flags Over Georgia, 275 Riverside Parkway, Austell. www.sixflags.com.
House of Horror Hill
Wendell Whitfield believes the reason for House of Horror Hill’s longevity lies in its simplicity. Whereas many popular haunted attractions now rely heavily on animatronics and feature a year-round staff, this haunted house depends on volunteers and good old-fashioned scare tactics.
“We’re not knocking any of the other places for doing it, but we’ve found that it’s just as scary to keep it simple,” Whitfield said.
Now in its 35th season, House of Horror Hill takes attendees through eight rooms for nearly two-minute skits featuring volunteer actors of varying ages. In recent years, an average of 3,000 people attend the haunted house per season, a huge decline from the days when 1,500 would visit the attraction on any given October night in the 1980s.
For Whitfield and his volunteers, their friendships motivate them to meet up throughout the year and make plans for the Halloween season. He believes this passion and love of community have kept repeat customers coming back each year.
Starts at 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween night (closing times vary) through Oct. 31. $13. House of Horror Hill, 11950 Alpharetta Highway, Alpharetta. Gahouseonhorrorhill.com.
Folklore Haunted House
Folklore Haunted House founder Dan Riker has been putting his psychology and film background to use in the horror industry since opening the attraction in 2010.
Over the years, Folklore has moved from a 16,000-square-foot building to one that is 40,000 square feet and grown from one to four attractions.
The most popular attraction is The Manor, a Victorian-style haunted house that features scary surprises in various rooms, including two 6-foot rag dolls in a child’s room.
New attractions include Tremulous, which Riker described as a “journey through a mad man’s mind,” and Chromophobia, a dark light attraction geared toward an audience as young as 5 years old.
“It’s for our chickens and children,” Riker said of the attraction, which features pops of color and art instead of traditional scares.
Those who don’t suffer from claustrophobia might also enjoy The Last Ride, a coffin simulator that places a person inside a coffin for nearly five minutes and uses sound, smell and motion to take them on a journey from their funeral to the grave.
7:30-11 p.m. Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23, 26-27 and Nov. 4-5; 7:30 p.m.-midnight Oct. 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, 30-31. $5 (The Last Ride), $8 (Chromophobia), $15 (The Manor or Tremulous), $25 (Manor, Tremulous and Chromophobia), $40 (all attractions without waiting in line). Folklore Haunted House, 5389 N. Main St., Acworth. Folklorehauntedhouse.com.