5 terrifying haunted houses in New York

haunted houses in new yorkWhat’s Halloween without a good old-fashioned haunted house? While that may be true, there is nothing old-fashioned about these terrifying haunted houses in New York.

Blackout Haunted House
54 W. 39th St. (between 5th and 6th)

Just based on the fact that you are required to go in solo is scary enough. Some things to expect as you make your way through this dark house of horrors include sexual and violent situations, physical contact, fog, complete darkness, crawling, water, and more. You must be 18 to enter and tickets are $30-$55.

Blood Manor
163 Varrick St. at Charlton St.

This haunted attraction is comprised of horror-themed rooms, dark hallways, and terrifying labyrinths and takes about 20-25 minutes to complete. According to Time Out New York, some things you will encounter include creatures, serial killers, twisted sideshow acts, and gruesome scenarios, like a blood drenched slaughter house with hanging pig carcasses. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult and tickets are $28.50-$50.

Nightmare: Fairy Tales
Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 107 Suffolk St. (between Rivington and Delancey)

The focus of this haunted attraction is taking the most gruesome scenarios from original children’s fairy tales (not the the one’s that evolved into bedtime stories for kids, but the one’s that were first created to keep children from acting out). Make your way through a dark, scary forest in this interactive experience as you become one of the characters in the story and live out a real life nightmare. While Nightmare: Fairy Tales is definitely scary, it is more disturbing and creepy than your usual haunted house. Children under 10 will not be admitted and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets range from $30-$100.

Trapped in Purgatory
2 Locations: Wizard of Gore is located at 2449 Veterans Rd. W., Staten Island. Hotel 666 is located at 5050 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island

You can choose the storyline behind your terrifying experience with this haunted attraction. Hotel 666 is based on a woman and her daughter who once stayed at a haunted hotel, never to be seen again, while Wizard of Gore will send you through a disturbing corn maze. Small children should go before 6PM when visitors are allowed to enter without the actors around. After 6PM, general admission is $18, or $30 if you want to do both attractions.

Nightmare Z-Day
1157 Commerce Ave., at Gleason Ave., Bronx

Experience the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Prepare to scream while you are chased around this haunted house by the undead who seem hungry for some flesh. No children under 10 will be admitted, and children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. General admission is $15, while students will pay $10. For $30, you can buy a VIP ticket and jump to the front of the line.

The good old days were horrible


Ah, Merry Olde England! A time and place with happy people, clean streets, and scenes that looked just like they do on BBC historical dramas.

Not!

Premodern England was a grim place of death, filth, and general misery. Actually that can describe pretty much everywhere in the nineteenth century, but the town where the Brontë sisters lived was especially nasty. Some authors write novels to escape reality, and the Brontë sisters had a lot to escape from. Two of their sisters died in childhood thanks to the neglectful conditions at their boarding school. Then the Grim Reaper took the remaining sisters and their brother one by one.

This may have been due to the horrible health conditions in their town of Haworth, Yorkshire. At a time when all towns were unsanitary, Haworth took the prize. Haworth stands on the side of a steep hill with much of its water supply coming from natural springs near the top. Also near the top of the hill is the town graveyard. So crowded was this graveyard that the coffins were often buried ten deep. Water flowing through the graveyard contaminated the public pumps and ensured a steady supply of more dead bodies, which would rot, seep their juices into the water supply, and start the cycle anew. The Black Bull pub contributed to this by using this spring water to brew its own beer. One wonders what it tasted like.

%Gallery-104759%This wasn’t the only spring in Haworth, but the locals managed to ruin the others by placing open cesspools next to the pumps. Although the connection between cleanliness and health was only imperfectly understood, Patrick Brontë, local clergyman and father of the Brontë sisters, realized a place where 41 percent of the population died before age six had some serious issues. In 1850 he brought in Dr. Benjamin Babbage (son of Charles Babbage, who built the first computer) to make an inspection. Babbage was horrified at what he saw and his damning report of the local squalor made reformers take notice. If it wasn’t for Babbage, Haworth probably wouldn’t get so many tourists. People tend not to like smelling open cesspits and drinking decayed bodies while on vacation.

If natural causes didn’t bump you off, the Haworth poisoner might do it for you. John Sagar ran the local workhouse, the place where the poor were forced by law to live. There they were underfed, overworked, and slept in rat-infested little rooms as a punishment for the cardinal sin of poverty. Sagar was a “short, dark, vulgar-looking man” who only had one arm, which he used to beat his wife Barbara mercilessly. Everyone was too afraid of him to come to her aid. When she finally died it wasn’t by beating, but by arsenic poisoning. Sagar was the obvious suspect. Questions were also raised about the deaths of their nine children. Yet Sagar got off due to lack of evidence, and he lived to the ripe old age of 78, a small miracle considering the conditions of the town. Strangely, his is one of the only graves in the cemetery that shows signs of weathering. Some locals say nature is serving justice where the courts did not.

Links to the eerie past still linger. On some old buildings, strange stone faces stare out onto the street. They look like ancient Celtic stone heads, but researcher John Billingsley says they were a continuing folk magic custom that experienced a rebirth of popularity in the area in the 17th and 19th centuries. They were used to ward off evil, and as late as 1971 a head was placed over the front door of the Old Sun Inn to stop a haunting. It’s said to have worked! If you had witch trouble you could also carve a “W” into your door frame, or put pins into a bullock’s heart and bury it beneath the floorboards. Special witch bottles could be used to trap witches. I’ve seen pinned hearts and witch bottles at the West Highland Museum in Ft. William, Scotland, and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, so the practice was widespread

With all the death and tourists, it’s not surprising that Haworth is full of ghost stories. Not only did I stay in a haunted hotel room, but every single bar I drank at or restaurant I ate in had a resident ghost. Phantom drinkers, gray ladies, even haunted carriages all prowl Haworth at night. There are deeper mysteries than ghosts, however. Witchcraft and folk magic abounded. Fear of witches was so great that local “cunning man” Old Jack Kay, a contemporary of the Brontës, would lift curses for a price. He also told fortunes and could show you your future spouse in a mirror or bowl of water. He and other “cunning men” brewed cures for the sick. Some were herbal medicine that might have been effective, while others had dubious ingredients. The urine of a red cow supposedly cured cancer. I suppose it would be unscientific to dismiss red cow’s urine as a cure for cancer with testing it, but good luck getting volunteers for the clinical trial.

So the next time you’re in some charming historic locale, think back on how things used to be, and be thankful that they’re not like that anymore!

Don’t miss the rest of my series on Exploring Yorkshire: ghosts, castles, and literature in England’s north.

Coming up next: Hiking the Yorkshire moors!

A special thanks to local historians Steven Wood and Philip Lister for all the great stories that contributed to this article, and all the great ones I couldn’t fit in.


This trip was sponsored by
VisitEngland and Welcome to Yorkshire, who would have a lot less to brag about if Dr. Babbage hadn’t fixed a few things.

Three nights in a haunted hotel room


The best thing about being an agnostic is that you don’t have to live your life fearing the unknown. The worst thing is admitting the possibility that there might be something to fear after all.

Instead of pretending to have all the answers, my belief system ranks things in order of likelihood, and ghosts are pretty far down the list. Not as low as Santa Claus or the “we never landed on the Moon” conspiracy theory, but a poor ranking nonetheless. So when I heard that my hotel room in England was supposedly haunted, my only thought was that I’d bagged a good story for Gadling.

Unlike a lot of supposed hauntings, this one’s actually based on a true story, related to me by local historian and folklorist Steven Wood.

Back in 1906, Haworth, Yorkshire, was holding its annual gala. Like in other years, brass bands played, entertainers wowed the crowd, and food stands sold all sorts of delicacies. This year, however, the people of Yorkshire had been promised something special. Lily Cove, a famed “aeronaut”, was going to do a death-defying parachute jump from a balloon. This was only three years after Kitty Hawk, so nobody in the area had ever seen an airplane, and balloons were a rarity too. Seeing a lovely lady jump from one and land safely was something of a miracle.

Lily Cove stayed at The Old White Lion Hotel in Room 7, the very same room I had. While waiting for a day with good weather the glamorous aeronaut made many acquaintances in town and became very popular.

On June 11 the weather was fair and thousands gathered to see her performance. After she and her manager Captain Frederick Bidmead checked the balloon, she secured herself to a trapeze hanging from the bottom. The balloon soared into the air with Lily waving to the crowd with a handkerchief. The idea was that once she got to a good altitude, Lily would leap from the trapeze and a ripcord would open up her parachute. She’d then float gracefully to earth.

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The balloon floated over the fields. After it got up to about 700 feet Lily jumped. The parachute opened as planned, but one witness saw Lily shrugging her shoulders and a moment later she detached from her parachute and plummeted to the ground. Farmers rushed to the spot, but she was dead. Her broken body was carried back to her room, my room, and laid out until a coffin could be made for her.

The whole town went into mourning. Captain Bidmead, a veteran of 83 parachute descents, said he might never fly again. At the inquiry he gave the opinion that she’d deliberately separated herself from the parachute. He suggested that because she was drifting towards a reservoir and didn’t know how to swim, she decided to get to the ground early. She must have thought she was much lower than she was and could land without injury. Others said she committed suicide, but there seemed no reason for this. The court ruled that Lily Cove died of “misadventure.” Parliament soon banned parachute performances so such a tragedy would never happen again.

According to local ghost story collector and guide Philip Lister, it wasn’t long before guests began reporting strange happenings in Room 7. Some woke up with a start, thinking they were falling through the air. Others saw an attractive young woman standing at the foot of their bed. The sightings have continued to the present day, and everyone in Haworth knows of Room 7’s reputation.

I didn’t hear any of this until I had spent my first night in the room. Tired from a day’s travel from Madrid, I slept fine, although I woke up once, glanced at the clock, saw it was 4:10, and went back to sleep.

The next day one of my travel companions told me my room was haunted. She started telling me the story but I stopped her. I didn’t want to be subject to suggestion. I wanted to test Room 7, and not have my own mind play tricks on me. The conversation turned to ghosts stories in general, and over the course of the day four of my nine travel companions told me they’d seen ghosts at least once in their lives. I was amazed. These educated, quite sane travel writers were telling me in all seriousness that they’d seen spirits. Nearly half of our group had a story to tell, and I didn’t even get around to asking all of them! Apparitions from the beyond are more common than I supposed.

The second night I slept fine again, although I briefly woke up again shortly after 4am. I think it was 4:08, but I was too sleepy to be sure.

By my third night I’d heard the whole story. I even went on a ghost tour, which I’ll describe in my next post in this series. So when I tucked myself in I knew just what had occurred to that poor woman who had stayed in my room. Once again I saw nothing, except I briefly woke up and looked at the clock.

It was 4:11 in the morning.

Waking in the middle of the night isn’t unusual for me, but I never wake up at the exact same time three nights in a row. Is this significant? Well, by the third night I was wondering if I would again awake shortly after four, so that might have been autosuggestion. The time seems to have nothing to do with the haunting, since Lily did her ascent at seven o’clock in the evening.

So was Lily Cove waking me up? Probably not. The tricky thing about ghosts is they’re unprovable. Even if I’d awoken to see a spectral woman at the foot of my bed, that wouldn’t prove anything except I had a weird experience that could have been a hallucination. Yet ghost stories are found throughout history and in most if not all cultures. We seem to need ghost stories. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s life beyond death or that dead people occasionally come back to scare the crap out of the living, but it does show ghosts are a part of the human experience. What they signify is something we’ll probably never know, and not knowing is far more interesting than pretending you have all the answers.

Don’t miss the rest of my series Exploring Yorkshire: ghosts, castles, and literature in England’s north.

Coming up next: The good old days were horrible!

This trip was sponsored by VisitEngland and Welcome to Yorkshire, who really should have put someone more impressionable in Room 7.

Photo of the Day (10-28-09)

I wonder if when this house was first built near Brockville, Ontario Canada, the owners realized that their home would be photographed one day as a perfect version of a haunted house. That’s exactly what Bryson Gilbert did when he snapped this photo earlier this year. With Halloween coming up this weekend, Gilbert’s photo seemed fitting. The black and white treatment and the ominous clouds add to the eeriness. Would you want to be here after dark? What lurks behind those shuttered windows?

If you have a photo to share, send it our way at Gadling’s Flickr photo pool. It might be chosen as a Photo of the Day.

Ten tips for choosing the right haunted house

When picking out a haunted house to go to for Halloween fun with kids, it helps to know your child. Even then, it may not be a guarantee of a good time. When we headed into the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World a few days before my son’s 6th birthday, I envisioned a shriek or two followed by chortles of glee–the mark of a delicious and welcome fright.

After all, his sister loved that ride when she was five, and she’s the one that dressed up like a pink fairy princess for Halloween when she was his age. He was Darth Vader that growled out, “Beware of the dark side” in between his “Trick o’ Treats.”

But from the ride’s first scream that pierced the dark, and every one of the floating, dancing holograph ghosts, he hid his eyes in my armpit and kept them there until the very end when we clamored out of the car–him, in relief that the ordeal was over. Happily, he immediately bounded back, ready for a different ride. When he remembers that day, he sees the Magic Kingdom as a good dream come true. That bad mother moment did not last long.

Bad mother (or bad dad) moments seem hard to avoid when accessing the various Halloween options. “How haunted is too haunted?” one wonders.

One the other side of the age spectrum are older kids who might want more than the Casper, the friendly ghost version of ghoulish. Anything less than heart-pounding fright is a big yawn.

Here are 10 tips for picking out an age appropriate haunted house experience so that no one is disappointed and your money is well spent.

1. Look for the guidelines provided by the haunted house attraction. For example, the Ohio State Reformatory’s Halloween Experience in Mansfield, Ohio will not allow anyone under 13.

2. If the attraction’s description says “PG-13, no one under 13 admitted without an adult” like the Bludzwurth Casket and Urn Company Haunted House in Davenport, Florida, don’t assume that just because an adult is along, the attraction might be appropriate for a 4-year-old. This one looks pretty gory. Consider what you want your child’s experiences to be like.

3. Ask yourself this question: How much is my child able to distinguish between fantasy and reality? Young children, and even children over five have a blurred line when knowing the difference. Even if the child knows the haunted house isn’t real, his or her imagination can turn the experience into something troubling after wards.

4. Pay attention to how the haunted house is described. The 13th Door in Denver, Colorado’s website says, “If you want to be really scared, then experience the terror of the 13th Door.” If you don’t want your kids to be really scared, or perhaps you don’t want to be really scared, give this one a pass. Even though the 13th Door has the distinction of being voted the #1 haunted house in Colorado, perhaps the best isn’t really the best for you and yours.

5. Is the haunted house one that comes with warnings? Look for words like “strobe lights,” “fog machines” and not good for people with heart problems or who are pregnant. These warnings are there for a reason. The Darkside Haunted House in Wading River, New York also suggests people with back or neck injuries stay away.

6. Is the haunted house one where you’ll be touched? Most seem to be the type where you won’t be touched even though, the characters might come too close for comfort. You could assure you’re child beforehand that he or she won’t be touched.

7. Find out if an attraction has different versions of scary. At EnterTRAINment Junction near Cincinnati, Ohio, during the day, the haunted house is the kid-friendly, scary light version, while at night, the scary factor has the volumed turned up.

8. If you’re not sure if an attraction will be good for your child, call and ask someone who works for the attraction. This is particularly true if the attraction doesn’t have a website. Some haunted houses are local events put on by fire departments and community clubs as a fundraiser.

9. While going through an attraction, keep your eye out for the emergency exits in case you’re in the middle of a bad choice. Netherworld in Atlanta, Georgia is one such attraction. If you child gets upset, you can leave. Don’t insist that he or she persevere. Why create a bad mom or dad moment with your stubborn behavior?

10. And. to make sure you aren’t disappointed once you decide, find out before you go if you can still get tickets. Some haunted houses sell tickets beforehand. They can sell out. Because it’s close to Halloween, be ready for longer lines. Show up early and bring money for hot chocolate or a snack.