Eleven months out of the year, most of us are somewhat sane and enjoy going through life without having evil clowns holding chainsaws chasing us down dark hallways. But then October comes, and with it the advent of Halloween. Suddenly, not only do we not mind the thought of terrifying figures jumping out of the shadows at us, we start to seek out the scares.
If you’re one of those people who likes the thrill of a pounding heart and nervous perspiration, then you’ll definitely be into all of these haunted attractions across the Bay Area, several of which take place in amusement parks so you can double-down on that adrenaline rush by riding roller coasters. Oh, and one involves male full frontal nudity for a select chosen few. So do what you will with that info.
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SoMa The historic San Francisco Mint has been transformed into a bone-chilling horror attraction, complete with several immersive experiences that will leave you croaking and exhausted (in the best way) from all of the screaming and running. The Terror Vault is a 45-minute tour of a “secret prison” where you’ll come face-to-face with murderous characters who, if you opt-in by wearing a red necklace, can touch you, write on you, and even remove you from the group. It’s one of the best (and scariest) Halloween activities you’ll find in SF, so don’t miss it. You can also try to help save the world at Apocalypse: A Zombie Survival Game, which is part escape room, part zombie-infested maze. In addition, there’s a speakeasy-era bar, a cafe with a tarot card reader, and an arcade where you can play vintage pinball games. The whole thing is put on by horror drag impresario Peaches Christ, and professional haunt producer David Flower Productions -- so you know it’s gonna be good. And we’d say that even if we hadn’t been pulled aside and witnessed full frontal nudity in a bed soaked with blood. Cost: Terror Vault: $62; Apocalypse: $35; $5 discount if you buy tickets for both
Fisherman’s Wharf Go back in time and experience San Francisco’s perilous past during this hour-long live actor-led-journey where you’ll laugh and scream your way through nine interactive shows with evil prospectors, corrupt crimpers, rat catchers, and the ghosts of Alcatraz. You can actually visit The San Francisco Dungeon year-round, but in case you need an excuse, what better one than Halloween? And then get a Double-Double at In-N-Out, which is just a three minute walk; just go after the Dungeon, as you’re not going to want a full stomach when you’re on the Escape Alcatraz Drop Ride at the end of the tour. Trust us. Cost: $33 online; $38 at the door
Santa Clara In case the roller coaster-induced screams aren’t enough for you, Great America transforms into a haunted experience on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights through November 2. In addition to all of the usual rides, there are also eight haunted mazes (each with a unique theme, like Roadkill Roadhouse and Zombie High), a Dia de los Muertos party with music and dancing, a nearly pitch-black wax museum where you’ll have to figure out which figures are wax and which are actually alive, and two scare zones, including Killer Clown Town, a twisted carnival world full of disgruntled clowns. Cost: $32 to $47 online; $56 at the gate
San Jose This bizarre haunted mansion is open for tours all year long, but only in October can you partake in the mind-bending, after-dark experience that is “Unhinged,” a fully-immersive horror show that takes place in the dark passages of the cursed estate. During the hour-long journey, you’ll trespass inside of rooms that are forbidden to the general public, confront evil spirits, and discover twisted tales and secrets of the house. Because you’ll need a drink to both muster the courage to go on the tour and calm your nerves after, there are cocktails and treats for purchase in the courtyard and gardens. While you sip, you can also watch a projection mapped light show that uses the home’s architecture as a canvas as well as admire a display of an edible gothic-inspired replica of the house. Just don’t eat it or who knows what evils will befall you. Cost: $44 to $54
Santa Rosa What’s the first thing you think about when you escape a dilapidated house inhabited by three evil sisters who have sworn to curse anyone who crosses the threshold? Probably that you’d love to torture yourself even more with a second haunted house -- this one a funhouse run by a demented and delirious clown. The good news for you is that at Blind Scream, you can do just that as there are two haunted houses and over 15,000-square-feet of sheer terror. Before you leave, and if you’re don’t suffer from claustrophobia, nyctophobia, or taphephobia, check out “The Last Ride” where you’ll be sealed inside of a casket… which may or may not ever be opened ahhhhgggaaaiiiinnnnn. Cost: $15 to $35
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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who you’ll never find in a “sexy” cat/nurse/teacher/Mr. Rogers costume, but who you’ll always find first in line for a haunted house. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf.