Orange County’s Spookiest: Rating Top Local Haunted Houses


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The Pumpkin Eater, one of the most popular mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm, offers a frightful experience with gore and jumpscares but usually has a wait time of an hour or more.

Jenny Won, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

As Halloween rapidly approaches, adventurous families and independent thrill-seekers alike begin their search for the best horror experiences to celebrate the beloved holiday. For those who want a little more thrill than trick-or-treating for candy, Orange County offers three haunting experiences suited for every taste.

3. The Gershon Dungeon

Held for two nights each year in an old Santa Ana mansion, The Gershon Dungeon is a free haunted house experience well-suited for horror rookies. Its next available date is Oct. 31.

Being a family-run haunted house, the props are relatively lackluster, but it offers an authenticity that professional attractions such as Knott’s Scary Farm often lack. With its classic old-fashioned haunted mansion narrative, the Gershon Dungeon is perfect for those seeking a simple thrill but nothing extremely disturbing.

2. Knott’s Scary Farm

The quintessential Halloween-themed amusement park, Knott’s Scary Farm attracts crowds from all over the country every year. From 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night throughout late September and October, Knott’s Scary Farm offers a variety of mazes on top of Knott’s signature roller coasters.

Characterized by professional scarers and elaborate props, each of Knott’s mazes has a unique theme. Some examples include “Special Ops: Infected,” which features an urban zombie apocalypse engaged in a laser-tag mission, and “Paranormal Inc.,” which involves a ghostly hospital filled with tortured spirits.

The fright lies outside the mazes as well; all throughout the park, scarers wander the streets amid the crowds, innocuously blending in only to scream in unsuspecting pedestrians’ ear.

However, being such a popular destination, Knott’s Scary Farm is notorious for its long wait times. Especially on weekends, lines can be two to three hours long. If you are planning to visit only once, it may be worth purchasing a Fast Lane pass to bypass the lines.

While tickets start as low as $45, they can reach up to $70 online and $90 at the door. With the added price of $75 for a Fast Lane plus food and drinks, a Knott’s trip can end up being quite costly.

1. The 17th Door

Notorious for its disturbingly realistic (and sometimes real) props, extremely involved actors and a psychologically-jarring narrative, The 17th Door is the ultimate haunted house experience for the most dedicated thrill seekers.

As The 17th Door enters its fifth year, it continues last season’s story of a woman named Paula Barclay, a woman imprisoned in the Perpetuum Penitentiary for murdering her infant son. After enduring a manifestation of her inner demons in the 2018 season, her story this year involves the cruel lab treatments of the scientists in the Penitentiary that promises a psychological thrill.

Unlike most other haunted houses, The 17th Door is a hands-on experience. Scarers are permitted to touch visitors, subjecting them to treatments ranging from electrical shocks to confinement in rooms full of animal corpses and cockroaches. Signed waivers are required for entrance, and anyone under 16 is forbidden to participate without parent consent.

Both a physically- and psychologically-exhausting experience, The 17th Door is not for the faint of heart. Each year, many visitors cry the safe word “Mercy” to be escorted out an emergency exit.

Located in Fullerton, The 17th Door has tickets ranging from $25 to $40 for an affordable all-night experience that is absolutely worth the price.