A demonic denizen of Sanctum of Horror in Mesa.EXPAND
A demonic denizen of Sanctum of Horror in Mesa.
AJ Eisan

Scare City: The 13 Best Haunted Houses and Halloween Attractions in Phoenix

About an hour before Sanctum of Horror opens, the Mesa haunted house is hellaciously busy.

The family-owned Halloween attraction located outside of Superstition Springs Mall, one of many such fear factories in the Valley this season, is about to open for the second night of its 2018 run. And there’s plenty to do before the first patrons walk through its gates.

As the sun sinks over the horizon, the scene resembles a break room for the zombie apocalypse.

Actors dressed up as walking corpses, murder victims, or the undead mill around the backstage getting ready for a night of serving up horrors. A stereo tuned to hard rock radio station KUPD belts out Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole.” A half-dozen makeup artists are busy applying pustules, bleeding wounds, skin lesions, and bruises to their faces and arms. Other employees are helping people get into their costumes or going over details about where actors will be stationed in either Sanctum of Horror’s two haunts.

Everybody’s busy with some sort of task. And one of the busiest is Elizabeth Kaul, one of Sanctum of Horror’s co-owners and the “head witch in charge.” At this moment, the 23-year-old Gilbert resident is filling in as a makeup artist. And she has an important announcement to make.

“If you need chunky blood, come over here,” she says. “Or go see Lydia, she’ll tell you whether you need it or not.”

Applying the right kind of theatrical blood, be it chunky or drippy, is one of many tasks she’s taking care of at the moment.

“I just kind of oversee everything that’s happening, making sure everyone’s getting ready and everyone’s feeling happy,” she says. “We’ve got a bunch of things going on right now. It’s really kind of rush time.”

Just ask her father, 56-year-old Shawn Kaul, who’s nearby prepping a chainsaw by removing its blades.

The rest of the family members are also handling last-minute details. Elizabeth’s brother, Matthew, for instance, is dealing with some malfunctioning special effects, while their mother, Sherri, is overseeing the ticket and merchandise booths.

“This early in the season, the first two nights you’re open is about getting your actors tuned up a little bit and then fixing little things that don’t work,” Matthew says. “You’re just working out all the kinks.”

The Kauls have been putting on Sanctum of Horror for more than a decade. It came to life 12 years ago as a small haunted house the family built at their four-bedroom Gilbert home and slowly evolved into a professional attraction.

“It was just this silly thing,” Shawn says. “Our kids came home after going to see a haunted house in a friend’s neighborhood and were like, ‘Can we do something like that in our garage?’ So we set up some black Visqueen in our three-car garage in this U-shaped path with makeshift operating tables and boiled pasta with food coloring for guts. It was corny, but fun.”

A lot’s changed with the haunt over the last decade.

The staff Sanctum of Horror in Mesa. From left: Matthew Kaul, Shari Kaul, Elizabeth Kaul, Teresa Eisan, Malia Makiyama, and Shawn Kaul.EXPAND
The staff Sanctum of Horror in Mesa. From left: Matthew Kaul, Shari Kaul, Elizabeth Kaul, Teresa Eisan, Malia Makiyama, and Shawn Kaul.
AJ Eisan

“It just kept getting bigger and more elaborate,” Shawn says. “We had all these tunnels and facades and things. We were spending $3,000 to $4,000 every year but didn’t want to stop doing it. We wanted to get more into it, so we decided to go pro.”

After six years at the Kaul residence, they started putting on Sanctum of Horror in the parking lot of Power Square Mall in Mesa in 2012. Two years later, they moved to Superstition Springs Mall. The Kauls estimate that several thousand people visit Sanctum of Horror each year, a far cry from the 120 that turned out back in 2006.

“We just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger each year,” Shawn says. “It keeps on being a success, and we’ve got no plans to stop anytime soon.”

As any haunted house fan will tell you, Sanctum of Horror isn’t the only Halloween attraction happening around the Valley.

There are professional-looking scream spots like Fear Farm over in the west Valley or Scarizona Scaregrounds in Mesa, both of which utilize the latest interactive technology and special effects to frighten you.

And believe us, the folks who go to haunted houses are into getting scared.

Phoenix resident Maggie Bee is a regular visitor to local Halloween attractions and digs the thrill they offer.

“I just like to be scared and haunted houses are awesome. They’re fun for anyone like me who loves horror movies, blood and guts, or just Halloween in general,” she says. “I like the visual effects, the actors that put forth the effort to make it realistic and scary. It almost feels like being on horror movie set, and I think that’s just cool.”

Meanwhile, there are also DIY haunts that, like the Kauls’, are built by passionate Halloween junkies at their homes.

We’ve included both in our list of the 13 best haunted houses and Halloween attractions in the Valley, many of which boast big thrills and plenty of jump scares, not to mention flocks of teenagers jumping out and screaming “Boo!”

All will be open at various times from now until Halloween or even early November, and all offer the chance to be chased with chainsaws or have your life and livelihood threatened.

Enjoy the adrenaline rush, y’all.

Beware of things that go bump in the dark at Terror in Tolleson.EXPAND
Beware of things that go bump in the dark at Terror in Tolleson.
Courtesy of Isaac Pacheco

Terror in Tolleson
8609 West Preston Lane, Tolleson

Prepare yourself, mortal. The proprietors of Terror in Tolleson vow to deliver the “panic of a lifetime” to those that dare enter this 2,500-square-foot home haunt — and they’ll do it by making your worst fears come to life.

Its labyrinthine hallways and passages are a macabre milieu containing 17 different “scare zones” and a variety of obstacles and surprises, such as trap doors, cramped catacombs, and fearsome tunnels. And if you’ve got phobias, the attraction will definitely prey upon them. Like anyone who suffers from arachnophobia, for instance, will have to deal with the dreaded “spider tunnel,” while anyone with a killer case of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) should also be wary.

Meanwhile, a rogue’s gallery of beastly beings and things that go bump in the night will roam the joint and try to make you their next victim, says owner Isaac Pacheco. “We are an up-close and in-your-face home haunt,” he says.

Hours and prices: Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 11 p.m. through October 31. Admission is $10 per person or groups of up to five people for $40.

One of the many dour denizens of Mount Mayhem.EXPAND
One of the many dour denizens of Mount Mayhem.
Mount Mayhem

Mount Mayhem
1740 East Purdue Avenue

This impressive-looking home haunt in north central Phoenix has been frightening people since 2009 with its self-described mix of “malevolent clowns, foreboding fortune tellers, wicked games, torturous mazes, and freak show gore.” It’s created by a group of neighborhood kids and families who are big fans of Halloween and takes place in a large backyard.

This year, Mount Mayhem’s theme will be Zirkus: The Dark Carnival, which means lots of evil clowns, freak-deaky harlequins, and a surreal sideshow of strange occurrences.

Hours and prices: Runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on October 26 to 28 and 30 and 31. Admission is free but donations are accepted.

Fright Zone
11148 East Villa Park Street, Chandler

Every October, David Foster adorns the front of his Chandler residence with a series of towering 12-foot castle walls made from plywood. It seems fitting, since his property is invaded by a hundreds of kids, families, and costumed trick-or-treaters eager to check out his home haunt.

Foster also transforms his enormous garage into a gigantic maze containing pneumatically powered animatronic characters and other surprises, while his front yard becomes a graveyard. He estimates more than 1,000 people come out to his home each year.

“It’s just this thing I do every year that people love,” says Foster, who works in IT. “Home haunts are this dying art form that fewer people are doing. And if you don’t do them, they might fade away.”

Another reason Foster creates his haunt every year is because it offers a low-cost alternative to pricier Halloween attractions.

“I try to make as professional a haunted house as possible but don’t charge anybody, because there are people that can’t afford to go to the bigger haunted houses,” he says.

Hours and prices: Open from 7 to 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. It will also operate from 6 to 10 p.m. on Halloween It’s free to attend.

You never know who or what you'll encounter in the corn at Field of Screams.EXPAND
You never know who or what you'll encounter in the corn at Field of Screams.
Courtesy of Tolmachoff Farms

AZ Field of Screams
5726 North 75th Avenue, Glendale

There’s something quite ghostly and supernatural lurking out in the vast cornfields of Tolmachoff Farms in Glendale — and no, it’s definitely not Shoeless Joe Jackson. Instead, we’re referring to sinister and spooky creatures (including like leather-faced freaks, evil clowns, and bloodied brutes) that are dwelling in the darkness or occupying abandoned buildings throughout this six-acre haunted corn maze. And they’re prepared to leap out at whatever hapless victims cross their paths, unleashing plenty of heart-stopping scares.

There’s little in the way of ambient lighting at this nighttime attraction, which adds to the disorienting experience of wandering along the twisting and turning paths through utter darkness as the corn seems to close in around you. It also helps to hide whoever — or whatever — is out there waiting to pounce. In other words, prepared to be frightened during your trip through the field, which takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour. And your pulse will probably be pounding every step of the way.

Hours and prices: Field of Screams operates from 7 to 11 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through October 28 and on Halloween. (Tickets will be sold up until 10 p.m.) Tickets are $20 per person each night and $15 per person on Halloween.

Zombie Warz
Koli Road, west of Maricopa Road, Chandler

Want to play an IRL version of the zombie mode from Call of Duty: Black Ops II? Get your itchy trigger fingers ready and head for the southeast Valley, bub, where you can take up arms against the undead. The popular Halloween attraction, which is located on the Gila River Indian Community near the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, offers the chance to lay waste to countless zombies using a cannonade of paintballs.

According to the Zombie Warz backstory, you’ve been recruited by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. military as the last line of defense against a zombie invasion. After a quick tutorial on how to use a paintball gun, patrons hop aboard military-style flatbed trucks and trailers and are transported through a post-apocalyptic landscape where they can unleash kill-shots aplenty on wave after bloody wave of zombies. And feel free to aim for their heads or other vital spots, since the actors are wearing plenty of padding.

Hours and prices: The zombie-splattering action takes place every Friday and Saturday from October 5 to November 3. The trucks will run starting at 7 p.m. with the last one departing by 10 p.m. Tickets are $25 if you purchase online in advance, $29 at the attraction. Members of the military (both active and retired) and first responders are $20. Each option includes 100 free paintballs.

The Halloween House
3504 East Melody Lane, Gilbert

The story of this enormous home display starts in 2013 when Gilbert resident Robert Cox and his family lost a house-decorating contest put on by their neighborhood HOA. “We came in second and decided to put in a lot more effort the next year,” he says. “We started building out own props and putting up all these columns and decorations. Then we won.”

And their display just kept growing. It now encompasses the exterior of their house and a neighboring community space and includes a legion of skeletons, dozens of tombstones, a black-light room, a tunnel equipped with lasers and props, five fog machines, and more than 10,000 lights synced to music.

Needless to say, their HOA hasn’t done another contest since, either, “because of a lack of interest or because people couldn’t keep up with us,” Cox says.

Hours and prices: Visitors can stop by from 6 to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 6 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Halloween. It’s free to attend.

Halloween Christmas House
1001 East El Freda Road, Tempe

Last fall, local couple Francis and Jessica Brown decided to decorate their posh Tempe home with a massive display inspired by the stop-motion animation classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. And it proved to be a major hit, earning them praise from local fans of the film and even the city of Tempe.

Dubbed Nightmare Town, it features multiple characters from the film (such as Sally, Jack Skellington, and the trio of Lock, Shock, and Barrel) and a mix of both Christmas and Halloween-style elements, like monstrous wreaths and a spooky-looking Toys for Tots donation box. If that weren’t enough, the entire front of the house resembles an enormous beast, with second-story windows that look like eyes and the porch resembling a toothy maw.

It’s both frightening and festive, just like the film that inspired it, which Jessica says is one of the reasons they put up the display. “Our main reason for [doing it] is that my husband and I love both Halloween and Christmas and that the two holidays can collide,” she says.

The display will return this year, Jessica says, and will feature some new additions, like the Headless Horseman and other characters. Fittingly enough, the couple will also be handing out candy on Halloween, albeit without any worms or anything else creepy mixed in.

Hours and prices: Operates nightly from sunset to 10 p.m. through Halloween. The display will then change over to more of a holiday theme and will run through January 1. It’s free to check out the display.

Haunted Graveyard in Scottsdale draws crowds every year.EXPAND
Haunted Graveyard in Scottsdale draws crowds every year.
Robert Zale

Chris Birkett’s Haunted Graveyard
8414 East Valley Vista Drive, Scottsdale

Scottsdale resident Chris Birkett has been adorning his home with an annual Halloween display for going on three decades now — and it’s definitely a sight to behold.

Each year, the 43-year-old wedding DJ creates an attention-grabbing and interactive multimedia experience that goes above and beyond most other decorative yard setups seen around the Valley. It encompasses the front, back, and side yards of his house and is typically inspired by a mix of influences ranging from macabre illustrator Edward Gorey to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

This year’s display, however, is probably his most ambitious yet. According to Birkett, a large portion of it, including his entire garage and backyard, will depict the hideous life and horrific upbringing of slasher film icon Michael Myers from the Halloween series.

“I love those movies, and since there’s a new one coming out, I thought, ‘Why don’t we do something twisted like that?’” Birkett says. “So you’re going to see what a messed-up childhood he had while growing up and we’ll re-create different scenes from the movie.” That includes entering the character’s demented mind and witnessing the aftermath of some of his earliest murders. “So we totally transformed [the haunt] to create a storyline that could actively bring all those elements together,” Birkett says. “It’s going to be great.”

Not all of this year’s display will be dedicated to the life of Michael Myers, he adds, as the front yard will have more of a family-friendly vibe. “We’ll still have all the Disney-esque cuteness, including stuff from The Nightmare Before Christmas and this giant dragon perched on the roof that appears to shoot fire out of its mouth,” Birkett says.

Hours and prices: Check out the Haunted Graveyard from 6:30 to 10 p.m. October 27 through 31. Admission is free but a $5 donation is appreciated.

A creature found inside The Crypt in Mesa.
A creature found inside The Crypt in Mesa.
Tyler Barnett

The Crypt & The Asylum
1445 West Southern Avenue, Mesa

The owners of this mainstay of the Halloween season, which has been around since 1999, say they’ve made several changes to their attractions for this year’s edition. “We’re always evolving,” co-owner Keith Rich says. “We’ve revamped our haunts, added new scenes and new characters.”

In other words, even if you’ve ventured through each of the three attractions that make up this haunted house — The Crypt, The Asylum, and the Chaos Maze — they’ve added some new ways to scare the crap outta you this year. For instance, the Chaos Maze offers an evil carnival theme with tons of sinister clowns. “They’ll terrorize you until you’re begging to get out,” Rich says.

One thing that hasn’t changed at the haunted house, which is situated in the parking lot of the defunct Fiesta Mall is the overall themes of each of its attractions.

The Crypt is a foreboding funerary-themed creepshow that’s populated with ghoulish figures quite eager to fit you for a coffin and help you shuffle off the moral coil.

Then there’s The Asylum, which is literally a madhouse of crazy scenarios (like an ultra-gory autopsy room strewn with severed limbs or a claustrophobia-inducing closet straight out of Hoarders) with a cast of deranged inmates, led by the insidious Dr. Vantas, who seemingly have little regard for anyone’s personal space. It’s a prescription for terror.

Hours and prices: The attractions are open every Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight through October 27. On Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday, hours are from 7 to 10 p.m. They’ll also be open from 7 to 10 p.m. on October 29 and 30 and from 7 to 11 p.m. on Halloween. It’s $25 for the “Ultimate Fright Pass” covering all three attractions and $35 for VIP ticket that includes all access plus a fast pass.

A pair of monsters from Scarizona Scarigrounds in Mesa.EXPAND
A pair of monsters from Scarizona Scarigrounds in Mesa.
Courtesy of Scarizona Scaregrounds

Scarizona Scaregrounds
1901 North Alma School Road, Mesa

The groovy ghouls behind Scarizona Scaregrounds know a thing or three about frightening people. After all, they’ve been doing it for more than two decades. Up until a few years ago, they ran the now-defunct Arizona’s Original Scream Park in Scottsdale, one of the Valley’s O.G. haunted houses that first opened back in the ’90s.

These days, they’re getting people screaming in over in Mesa at Scarizona Scaregrounds, a “haunted theme park” spread out across an expansive compound that’s been open since 2016. “Yeah, they’ve been doing this for a long time now,” says spokesperson Nick Alfieri. “And they’re definitely up on how to scare people.”

Located in an old quarry on the edge of the Salt River, Scarizona’s four attractions include Startled Darkness, a “lights out” haunt containing Paranormal Activity-like jump scares and Epic Fear, which stars a variety of iconic Halloween characters like zombies, evil clowns, and witches. There’s also Slayer’s Slaughter House, a revoltingly gore-adorned home of a serial killer that’s decorated with rotting corpses and rancid flesh, and Operation Zombie Storm, where you can blast the walking dead with paintballs while riding around on a wagon.

Beyond these horrific offerings, the Scaregrounds routinely features an eclectic cavalcade of activities each weekend, including zombie trivia games, vendors, live music, and sideshow entertainers. If nothing else, it gives patrons an opportunity to chill out for a bit while they try to get their hearts back into their chests.

Hours and prices: Scarizona Scaregrounds is open from 7 to 10 p.m. on the following dates in October: 5 to 7, 12, 14, 17-18, 21 to 25, and 28 to 30. Hours will be extended to 7 p.m. to midnight on Halloween and on October 13, 19 and 20, and 26 and 27, as well as November 2 and 3. Admission is $22 for a single attraction, $28 for two, and $36 for all four. A fast pass is also available for an additional $10.

You never know who – or what – you’ll encounter at Sanctum of Horror in Mesa.EXPAND
You never know who – or what – you’ll encounter at Sanctum of Horror in Mesa.
AJ Eisan

Sanctum of Horror
6555 East Southern Avenue, Mesa

Shawn Kaul and his family have one goal in mind for their haunted house: They want to scare the crap out of anyone who rolls through. “When you walk through our haunt, we’re going to try to scare you as much as we can,” Kaul says. And over the next month, they’ll be trying to do just that via the two attractions that make up Sanctum of Horror in Mesa.

The first haunt, “The Breach,” involves a case of science running amok. “It’s a giant bunker where scientists and the military are doing crazy experiments on these quarantined creatures that escape and begin attacking everyone,” Shawn says. “There’s all these sirens going off, constant noise, and infected characters that jump out at you. It gets absolutely nuts.”

The family’s original haunt, “Sanctum of Horror,” which dates back to 2006, has people journey through the squalid, blood-soaked home of Lenore, a deranged mental patient who escapes from an asylum and wreaks havoc upon her family and the doctors who tortured here. “Ultimately, you’re going through her house and seeing all these horrible acts of revenge on her family and doctors, like making stew from her mother’s remains,” Shawn says.

It’s pretty twisted, to say the least.

Hours and prices: Sanctum of Horror runs from 7 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday through October 13, and then 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday through October 27. Hours are from 7 p.m. to midnight on Halloween. Other dates and times vary (check the website for full details). General admission is $22 per person. A fast pass is also available for an additional $10.

One of the evil nuns at 13th Floor.
One of the evil nuns at 13th Floor.
Abe Robinson

13th Floor Haunted House
2814 West Bell Road

All the rumors you’ve heard about 13th Floor are true. Horrible and disfigured ghouls will most definitely stalk you while waiting in line outside. And yes, this haunted house is indeed one of the best-looking and intensely frightening experiences in the Valley.

The north Phoenix haunted house features two equally thrilling and chilling attractions, each with their own collection of terrifying experiences. And according to 13th Floor’s staff, things have gotten even scarier this year. “Every year, we try to keep the haunt fresh, so we’re constantly reinventing our attractions and creating new themes,” general manager Jacob Redwood says.

For 2018, 13th Floor features “The Possession,” a haunt inspired by the hit horror film The Nun. It offers an abbey and other creepy locales populated by a cadre of sinister creatures that interact with patrons, including a terrifying nun known as Mara. “We always try to pick a relevant theme and right now, creepy nuns are really big,” Redwood says. “So one of our haunts is going to play around with that.”

Next door, there’s the urban hellscape of In the Shadows, where patrons flee through an abandoned city teeming with hordes of zombies infected with the PL4-GU3 virus. According to Redwood, patrons can interact with the attraction by pushing buttons or solving puzzles in order to proceed. “We’re made it into an immersive experience where you can interact more with the scenery instead of just walking through,” Redwood says. “Its more like there’s all this chaotic activity happening around you as everything goes nuts.”

Meanwhile, the lineup areas in the parking lot will feature a mix of live entertainment, food and drink vendors, and roaming characters. “We’ve fleshed out the customer experience outside the haunt so that it's more of a complete experience from start to finish,” Redwood says.

Hours and prices: 13th Floor Haunted House will serve up scares from 7 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday from October 5 to October 27. It will also be open 7 to 10:30 p.m. every Sunday starting on October 7, as well as on October 10 and 11, October 18, October 23 to 25, and October 28 and 29. On both Halloween eve and Halloween night, 13th Floor will operate from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $27.99 to $38.25 per person, depending on the night. A fast pass (which offers limited wait time) and a skip the line pass (which gets you inside ever quicker) are an additional $10 and $20, respectively.

Zombies and other creatures of the night prowl Fear Farm.EXPAND
Zombies and other creatures of the night prowl Fear Farm.
Abe Robinson

Fear Farm
2209 North 99th Avenue

Fear Farm’s boast of being the largest Halloween event in Arizona isn’t hard to argue. Nor is its claim of being the best haunted attraction in the Valley. Encompassing a 27-acre plot of land over in the west Valley, it offers five different attractions throughout the property that feature big scares and big production values.

The newest one is Fallout, a post-apocalyptic experience making its debut this year. According to Fear Farm general manager Tim Pugsley, it’s built from a number of refurbished storage containers that form a multilevel attraction resembling something out of the Mad Max universe. “Its different than anything we’ve ever done out there and turned out better than we could’ve imagined,” he says.

Other attractions include the zombie-themed Undead and an alien invasion-inspired experience called The Bunker: Area X that riffs on the infamous Phoenix Lights incident in 1997. If you’ve still got some gumption left over, you can encounter members of a demonic coven inside Legends: The Witch. Elsewhere, there’s also a haunted hayride and one of the largest corn mazes in the Valley, both of which are the stomping grounds of a few unsavory characters armed with chainsaws.

When they aren’t busy screaming their lungs out or running away in terror, Fear Farm patrons can also partake in a variety of carnival rides, a live entertainment stage, and a variety of food trucks, just in case you still have an appetite after getting the fright of your life.

Hours and prices: Fear Farm will operate from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. every Thursday in October, 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 7 to 11 p.m. on Sunday. It will also be open from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. every Wednesday from October 10 to October 24 and every Monday and Tuesday from October 22 to 30. Hours on Halloween night are 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $27.99-$37.99 per person, depending on the night. A fast pass (which offers limited wait time) and a skip the line pass (which gets you inside ever quicker) are an additional $10 and $20, respectively.

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