The Halloween season is upon us and there are plenty of opportunities in the Baltimore area to get scarred by the time-honored tradition of the haunted attraction.
There's no costumes required, just a fearful soul and a few hours out of your weekend to enjoy the spooktacular fun our area's finest haunts have to offer. From hay rides to hell maws and abandoned military facilities, the state's haunted attractions are sure to provide plenty of scares for thrill seekers of all ages. And plenty of hot cider, too. Don't forget the cider.
Legends of the Fog
500 Carsins Run Road, Aberdeen
Years open: 8
Open: Fridays through Sundays through Nov. 1 (and Oct. 30); tickets from $25; legendsofthefog.com.
First impressions: Legends of the Fog stops just shy of being a full-blown festival-style amusement park situated in the middle of a massive corn field. With an entry area featuring horror-ific midway games like "Zombie Ball" and a "Coffin Ride," alongside a fire pit for warmth/teenage makeout sessions and food trucks for pre-terror sustenance, the atmosphere is pretty family friendly.
The concept: Three main attractions: the Sinister Circus, a gore-soaked take on the big top, a haunted hayride and Carsins Manor, an orphanage for psychopaths. Both adults and kids get in on the scare tactics. There are few things creepier than zombie children, right? Unless you simply hate kids, which makes YOU the monster.
Fear factor: The Sinister Circus features some elaborate scenes with great costumes and scares, including the most frightening of all: a filthy outhouse. Passing through the privy conjures visions of fecal-based monsters jumping out of the toilet hole — what a gas.
Biggest scare: At one point the hayride came to an abrupt halt. Heavy metal music began blaring and a frozen-mohawked character dubbed "Frostbite" began terrorizing everyone with a chainsaw. He then lowered the chainsaw, leaned over to one of the small children and wiped one of his pretend boogers onto the kid's face. Truly surreal.
Insider info: Owner Mike Barberry is particularly proud of his staff after revamping the Sinister Circus attraction and expanding the Carsins Manor finale for this year. "Who would have thought that at 62 I'd be scaring people for a living?" he wondered with a smile. Hey, somebody's gotta do it.
Bottom line: The teens and younger kids are really good at making jokes to defuse the horror. At one point a bird monster was delivering some terrifying action to a group of kids who all started shouting "GO RAVENS!" or "Will you be my friend?" alongside other such comments, usually before screaming in actual terror at some other critter that popped out of the cornfield. Pretty heartwarming in a way, actually.
F7967 Max Blobs Park Road, Jessup
Years open: 14
Open: Thursdays through Sundays until Nov. 1 (and Oct. 27-29); tickets from $30; bennettscurse.com.
First impressions: Located in the middle of a large field, Bennett's Curse appears as an unassuming massive white tent — but terror lies within. Spooky music blasts from a distance, screams can be heard (both speaker-based and real) emanating from the structure that contains a tightly packed series of frights. With almost cinema-quality detail going into every scurrfactor (trademark pending), it's not terribly surprising that Bennett's Curse was selected as one of Travel Channel's Best Halloween Attractions of 2014.
The concept: Tight corridors wind through well over 45 rooms broken into three themes: Medieval, [Dante's] Inferno 3-D and Asylum. Nearly every square inch of the attraction is cov- ered in some form of demon, goblin, corpse, ghoul or well-crafted hideous animatronic beasty. The Inferno 3-D feature invites the participant to don actual 3-D glasses and navigate through a Dante's "Inferno"-style exhibit. One teaser: painted and bloody skulls appear to float off the wall.
Fear factor: Bennett's Curse contains some truly impressive artistry, but the true scare comes from its dozens of costumed performers. Every nook and cranny has a devilish, cray-cray creature lying in wait to jump out and scream in your face.
Biggest scare: One portion of the Asylum exhibit features a hallway of hospital gurneys covered by bloody sheets, with who knows what underneath.
Insider info: Owner Jill Bennett is very excited about the new 3-D edition of Inferno, which replaced last year's Zombie 3-D exhibit. This is the last year that Bennett's Curse will be featured at the former Blobs Park, so they're looking forward to a new and expanded home in 2015. "Nothing is set in stone yet," she said.
Bottom line: If there's a word to describe Bennett's Curse it's "harrowing." So many costumed performers attempting to scare you leaves you a jittery mess after about the second leg of the hellmaze. Still, the top-notch animatronics and attention to gory details make Bennett's Curse a must attend.
431 Eastern Blvd., Essex
Years open: 21
Open: Fridays through Sundays Nov. 2 (and Oct. 30); tickets from $20; kimskrypt.com.
First impressions: You don't expect to see a haunted attraction within an office complex that's in sniffing distance of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, but owner Kim Yates is known for her unconventional approach to horror. With a winding staircase descending into a creepy, seemingly abandoned basement, the frights begin almost immediately.
The concept: Over 5,000 square feet and 38 rooms embrace your phobias, including a super-bloodied clown, an entire wing of spiders (ugh) and, worst of all, your crazy family members.
Fear factor: Kim's Krypt reliably utilizes its claustrophobic environment to ensure the scares come fast and loose, with some actual liquids and raw meat thrown into the mix for some gross-out factors.
Biggest scare: While the blood-soaked walls filling your soul with dread are fine and well, the biggest scare lies within the merchandise. Among the shirts and bracelets there are also voodoo dolls for sale — featuring actual bits of Kim Yates' hair. Positively horrifying!
Insider info: This year, managers Dennis Collins and Tracie Russell are taking over the Krypt for the first time as owner Yates expands the operation with a second location in Spring Grove, Pa. "We're really proud of all of our original characters. No Freddies or Jasons here," Collins said.
Bottom line: Kim's Krypt manages to pack a lot of scares into what would otherwise literally be an empty basement with fluorescent lighting. With each "pod" winding into the other, crazy transition effects keep you on your toes.
The Haunted Dungeons at Fort Howard
Fort Howard Park, 9500 North Point Road, Edgemere
Years open: 32
Open: Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 1; tickets from $12; haunteddungeons.com.
First impressions: Fort Howard Park is replete with decommissioned artillery batteries that date back to the 1800s which have been retrofitted to contain for the macabre. Come for the terrifying scenery, stay for the blood-soaked maniacs.
The concept: Each artillery battery — aka "Dungeon" — has several rooms, each housing a terrifying "sketch" performed by teams of ghouls. Each sketch ranges from a take on classic movie scares to more unique terrors like a demonic, oversized Jack in the box with a crank that's just begging to be turned.
Fear factor: There are few things on Earth creepier than defunct military installations complete with wrought-iron bars and crumbling concrete, much less all of that full of screaming teenagers dressed as demons with blood shooting out of their eye sockets.
Biggest scare: At one point of the trip, there's a long pathway running through the woods lit only by ground-bound lanterns and moonlight. Let's just say that a well-timed explosion coupled with a chainsaw-wielding maniac tearing out of the foliage is enough to make even the most hardened freelance reporter jump out of his shoes.
Insider info: Organizer Skip Hammond said Dungeons is a community fundraiser put on by the Edgemere Sparrows Point Recreation Council. Volunteering at the Dungeons is something of a right of passage for every kid in the area since 1982, and it even counts toward community service requirements for high-school students.
Bottom line: The community aspect and extremely creepy crumbling armaments make the Dungeons a decidedly fun haunted destination. There's a summer-camp feel watching eager young volunteers scaring the bejeezus out of everyone they possibly can.
Field of Screams Maryland
4501 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Olney
Open: Thursdays-Sundays through Nov. 1. Starts Oct. 12.
Price: $15-$45.Group rates available.
309 Port Penn Road, Middletown, Del.
Open: Fridays-Sundays through Nov. 1
Price: $20-$50. Group rates available.
99 Stehman Road, Lancaster, Pa.
Open: Fridays-Sundays through Nov. 8
Price: $25-$50. Group rates available.
Terror Behind the Walls
Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia
Open: Fridays-Saturdays (and select Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) through Nov. 8
Price: $19-$45. Group rates available.