This list offers the most influential haunted houses in the history of our industry. These haunts have made an impact for one reason or another and some even make the list despite the fact they are no longer existing businesses. However, their impact is still felt to this day. There are many great haunted attractions in our industry’s history, but none have made a bigger impact than these next 13 haunted attractions. Keep in mind, these may not be the best currently operating haunted houses, but they are the haunted houses that made the biggest all-time impact on the haunted house industry in dated history. Haunt owners have left full time jobs in droves to make owning and operating a haunted house their life! With that being said, many haunt owners like touring haunts in the off season and many haunts open for special events. These haunts have helped inspire, teach and develop the industry and have expanded the limits of what is possible in haunted houses today.
1. Netherworld Haunted House in Atlanta, GA - www.fearworld.com: Netherworld has set nearly every record in this industry for attendance and national publicity and is one of the best haunted houses in America. Netherworld has been visited by haunted house owners across the World just to get a glimpse at their unique show which features tons of actors both inside and out and even roaming the parking lot to get those overall scares. Netherworld helped show the haunt industry that haunted house actors can be iconic horror characters, and costuming should go beyond simple face paint & rubber masks. With the most amazing collection of special FX artists, icon characters and more, you simply must get the opportunity to attend Netheworld. It won’t disappoint, but even more importantly, the haunt industry has learned so much from this attraction over the years.
2. The Darkness Haunted House in St Louis, MO - www.scarefest.com: The Darkness is so important to the haunted house industry, because it hosts annual industry tours in March. This amazing haunted house has been featured on national television more than any other haunted house in history. It is also the scene for over 25 how to haunt instructional DVD’s. Additionally, The Darkness was a first in many things: first to use CGI effects, the first to build multi motion sets, the first to use Chromodepth 3D technology, and much more. The technological team behind The Darkness builds the most creative multi motion animations, and their talents are showcased in the incredibly detailed sets. The main reason why this haunt has been so important is because it has the opportunity each year to show the haunt industry how far you can actually take a haunted house. The producers of this haunted house have been great ambassadors for the haunted house industry over the years and always put the industry in a positive light. The Darkness is celebrating its 20th Year of Fear this haunt season!
3. The 13th Gate & 13 Necropolis in Baton Rouge, LA - www.13thgate.com: This is a newer haunted house than some on this list and with perhaps not as large of an impact as say Spookyworld or Rocky Point, but with bonus points for still being open as an active haunt, that reason alone throws them up in order to #3 on the list! This haunt has set the new bar for the new generations of haunters on set design & special FX, and for defining what over-the-top truly means to a haunted attraction. There is no haunt in America as detailed or over the top as 13th Gate.
4. Thrillvania Verdun Manor in Dallas, TX - www.thrillvania.com: This attraction was originally created by Lance Pope who unfortunately died several years ago, but his legendary attraction and influence in the haunt industry lives on. Now under the control of another one of America’s greatest haunts, Cutting Edge Haunted House, the attraction continues to terrorize it’s victims! It was one of the first haunted houses to combine incredible sets, amazing make-up artistry, detailed costumes and pyro FX. Haunted House owners knew, loved and visited Lance’s haunted house every year from all across America. Fortunately, the attraction lives on better than ever!
5. Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, NY - www.headlesshorseman.com: Is one of the most influential attractions in the haunted house industry, because they were really the first event to build a haunted hayride with spectacular sets, costumes, and special FX within a hayride. Prior to Headless Horseman, most hayrides where nothing more than jaunts through the woods with the occasional actor jumping out, but Headless Horseman changed the way the industry builds and designs hayrides.
6. Rocky Point Haunted House of Utah: Rocky Point HH located in Salt Lake City, UT closed many years ago. However, the impact of this haunt is still being felt today. Owner Cydney Neil was one of the first charity haunts who broke nearly every record for attendance, sponsorship, award winning set design, and national recognition for her haunt. Cydney worked with Hollywood special FX designers to bring guests one of the best haunts that ever haunted!
7. Terror on Church Street of downtown Orlando, FL: This attraction is no longer in operation. However, the impact was profound on the haunt industry due to their incredible detailed costumes, make-up and well-trained actors. This haunt operated year-round, not seasonally, and was actually the first real attempt to operate a major haunted attraction year round, proving it can be done! Today, there are a hundred or more year round haunted attractions. Terror On Church Street had it all… a great location in Orlando, an incredible haunted house, terrifying actors, and a gift store that inspired haunters. Back in the day, nearly every haunted house in America was started ONLY AFTER an educational visit to Terror on Church Street.
8. Spookyworld: The original Spookywood, now closed, was the first MASSIVE screampark ever created with multiple attractions in one location for one price. Spookyworld also was the first to make national news, bring in horror celebs to sign autographs, and view the haunt industry as more than Halloween, more than just making people scream. It was billed as America’s Horror Theme Park. Haunt attraction owners in the New England area purchased the name and have fortunately reinvented it in conjunction with their event Nightmare New England for all to enjoy once again! Spookyworld, previously owned and operated by David Bertolino, was the first true industry wide inspiration for all haunted house owners.
9. Haunted Schoolhouse and Lab in Akron, Ohio - www.hauntedlab.net: Haunted Schoolhouse started in Ohio in 1974 back when there was nothing but Jaycee haunt attractions, and it was the first to ever attempt a high level of detail for their haunt sets and scenes. The legend of the Haunted Schoolhouse spread across the industry long before there was ever internet. America wide, haunters would visit this attraction, and all were left inspired by the Schoolhouse.
10. Haunted Overload at Demeritt Farm in Lee, NH - www.hauntedoverload.com: This attraction started as a home haunt that outgrew the neighborhood and had no choice but to look for a bigger location. Today Haunted Overload is one of the industry’s most marveled attractions with all custom built props, some of which reach 50 feet or more in height. Haunted Overload might be the most incredible outdoor haunt in America, and it especially lends inspiration to all home haunters with dream.
11. The Edge of Hell and Beast Haunted Attractions in Kansas City, MO - www.edgeofhell.com: These haunts created urban legends of multi storied haunts with live animals of lions and more, but at this particular haunt, it’s all true! Their haunted houses have been around for over 30 years and feature 5 stories of fear with slides that descend patrons all the way back down to the first floor. The Edge of Hell was the haunt industry’s first true mega haunted house, and it inspired hundreds of haunts today.
12. Haunted Happenings of Hartford, CT: Haunted Happenings, once located in Hartford Connecticut, is now closed. It was owned by millionaire, Arnold Chase, who bought anything and everything a designer could dream up. Haunted Happenings had more animated FX and inspired more haunts to animate their Halloween attractions than any haunted house in history. When the attraction closed, it hosted the biggest haunted auction the industry had ever seen at that time.
13. Kevin McCurdy’s Haunted Mansion in Poughkeepsie, NY - thehauntedmansion.com: Kevin McCurdy’s haunted mansion is very important in the history of the haunt industry, because Kevin was one of the first to make how-to instructional DVD’s for haunt owners. These videos were created while he renovated the Haunted Mansion in action, and they gave many haunters great ideas on detailing a haunt before it was even popular to do so!