We're in the heart of the Halloween season and there's a host of haunted houses and horror-themed attractions around the Valley that are ready to frighten the crap outta you. All of which will utilize a variety of scare tactics (as well as a rogue's gallery of costumed characters and creatures) to get hearts pounding and pulses rising.
Not all of 'em are good, however, and rank just above a haunted house at your local church in terms of quality. Since admission prices ain't cheap (and usually run around $20 per person, or more), you'll definitely want to get the most for your money.
Here's our list of five of the best haunted houses and Halloween attractions in the Valley.
5. Arizona's Original Scream Park
8823 E. McDowell Rd., Scottsdale
During the daytime, this ramshackle compound located on a dirt lot adjacent to the Loop 101 freeway looks like some a forlorn shantytown or rundown horse ranch. Come nightfall, however, it becomes the nightmarish domain of weapon-wielding psychopaths, blood-drenched butchers, and murderous folk aplenty. It's one of the Valley's longest-running haunted houses that's also one of the scariest, partly due the fact that it resembles the kinda dour dwelling where murderous methheads and serial killers would reside when they weren't butchering the locals. Consisting of four different attractions (the dour "Castle of Darkness," the rustic "Gold Miner's Revenge," the ultra-twisted "Alice's House of Nightmares," and the demonic "3-D Fear Factory"), Scream Park packs a variety of old-school haunted house excitement. The emphasis is on its cast of frightening freaks instead of animatronic creature, as costumed castmembers really get up close and personal while chasing you with chainsaws or threatening you with machetes.
2209 N. 99th Ave.
If Stephen King's horror masterpiece Children of the Corn taught us anything, it's that there's likely something sinister stalking through the stalks of a lonely corn field. In the case of this West Valley favorite, it's Tremmors and Flinch, a pair of evil clowns who terrify patrons with their roaring chainsaws and horrific taunts. The devilish duo are just some of the dozens of creatures and fearsome freaks who are adorned in professional-looking makeup and costumes while they prey upon the masses. Therein lies one of the reasons why Fear Farm ranks as one of the best in town: The quality of both its characters and the environments. There are six different settings including the kooky corn maze), each of which are populated by creepy and disturbing images, like the demented dolls and bizarre playthings of the "Twizted Toy Factory" or the skinned animals and cannibalistic swamp creatures of "Apocalypse."
Hours and pricing: Fear Farm's haunts open at 7:30 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday. Hours on October 31 are from 6 p.m. until midnight. Admission starts at $20.
3. The Nest
5700 W. North Loop Dr., Chandler
Got phobias? The folks at The Nest, which has been lauded as one of the best haunted houses in the nation, will likely exploit said fears in order to scare the living crap out of you with their unique array of attractions. To wit: If you happen to be afraid of the dark (a.k.a. nyctophobia), there's a pitch-black claustrophobic maze where patrons must feel their way around in order to exit. Or if you have a mean case of catoptrophobia, the maze of mirrors might provide some major scares. The Nest also offers an eerie backstory, which involves the spirit of infamous Arizona serial killer acob Kell (who murdered his entire family and dozens of others back in 1945) coming back to life.
Hours and pricing: Opens at 7 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday. Hours on October 31 are from 6 p.m. until midnight. Admission is $25 for general admission, $40 at the door, and an extra $12 for express entry.
Breanna Wynn and Kyle Thompson love hearing you scream. As the resident monster makers at Midnight FX Studios, the kooky couple has made a career out of crafting deathly demons and other creepy creatures inside their East Valley workshop. After more than a decade of creating costumes and creatures for a variety of local horror films and Halloween attractions, Wynn and Thompson finally have a place of their very own. They're the masterminds behind Monsterland, the new haunted house and film museum debuting this weekend in downtown Mesa. The two-floor devilish domain contains a vast maze of rooms filled with sharp-toothed werewolves, bloodthirsty yetis, mad scientists, animatronics goblins, and other creatures of the night.
Hours and pricing: Opens at 6 p.m. on October 20 through October 31. Admission is $15 for children 12 and up, $22 for adults.
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1. 13th Floor
2814 W. Bell Rd.
More than six months of work went into transforming an abandoned Albertson's market in North Phoenix into a huge haunted attraction that boasts two different attractions under one roof. The creators of some of the scariest haunted houses in the southwest conjured up this meticulously decorated domain of the macabre, which is one of the best-looking haunted houses we've ever seen. The sinister scenarios contained within include a 2,000-square-foot "tilted room" (that disorients the senses and requires you to hold on for dear life), a ginormous "chainsaw forest," and a zombie-filled cityscape where patrons must dodge the undead.
Hours and pricing: Open sat 7 p.m. every night through October 31. Admission is $25-$35.