Corrie-lynn Dyson is Hanging Out with the Ghouls [Fierce Anticipation]

One of the many things I love about living in New England is that Halloween starts at the end of September. It’s not just that the Halloween candy starts showing up in the stores, that happens everywhere, it’s that tons of haunted attractions open their doors a full month before Halloween so they are in full swing as the actual day approaches. New England has a rich history of being creepy. Most of our nation’s fun Halloween activities, such as carving pumpkins and trick or treating, have their roots in terrified people desperately trying to stave off death for one more winter.


If you want to be just a little afraid for your safety, you need to head to Fall River, MA. First of all, you can rent the actual room where Lizzie Borden may or may not (the court found her not guilty) have given her (step) mother forty whacks. During the day, you can go on the tour and see where Lizzie may (or may not) have given her father similar treatment. Lizzie Borden’s home is a B&B, of course Fall River knows how to celebrate Halloween!

The older and better known of Fall River’s two major haunted houses is the Factory of Terror. It’s promoted as three haunted attractions in one. What that really means is, it’s a long haunted house. You won’t be in and out in five minutes. You will have time to be truly scared and a little concerned that it will never end. Just by virtue of being in an empty factory in a once industrial part of town, the place is creepy. The special effects are quality and the actors are generally enthusiastic. It’s a popular attraction, for good reason, and the downside is long lines and the inside of the attraction tends to get backed up. There’s nothing that kills a good haunted house buzz like looking at your phone while you wait for the group in front of you work their way through the room full of fake hanging meat.

Just a few blocks away is the newer and much scarier Asylum of Horror. I’ve been going to Asylum for years and though they don’t change much from year to year, the actors really go for it! Sadly, it’s gotten slightly less scary over time as they tone things down for safety. Personally, I miss the days of an actor grabbing me by the arm or getting so close to my face I could smell his cinnamon tic-tacs but I understand they need to protect themselves legally. Still, the actors push the limits at Asylum of Horror. Once, when my husband and I went early on a Thursday, we were the only people there when we arrived. In many haunted attractions, a slow day means a skeleton (Ha!) crew. At Asylum, a slow night meant being trapped in a room by five actors calling me by name (cheerfully provided by my husband) and at one point making me walk backwards through the maze wondering if I would ever be set free.

For an epic evening in New England, head to Witch’s Woods in Westford, MA. Set at a ski resort, Witch’s Woods offers four haunted houses and a haunted hayride. The individual haunted attractions can be hit or miss but the quantity of entertainment assures you’ll get your money’s worth.

For those a bit south of New England, Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary is a must see! The former prison once housed Al Capone and Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and Most Haunted have all done investigations at the allegedly haunted site. The location itself is seriously spooky. The penitentiary is enormous and the was literally designed to make you feel isolated (so prisoners could focus on penance. Penance, penitentiary… you’re being scared but you’re also learning). The lines get seriously long, but you get plenty of bang for your buck. Your tour begins with search lights flashing as you’re herded through a bus and into the prison. After being scared senseless during a seemingly endless tour (and I mean that in a good way!), you can learn all about the evolution of the prison system in America. It’s a good way to recover before heading to South Street for a cheesesteak (forget Pat’s and Geno’s and head straight to Jim’s!).


There’s plenty to do for the Halloweener (that’ll never catch on) who likes to learn while growing increasingly paranoid with each haunted attraction. Nearly everywhere in New England has ghost tours and graveyard tours. Salem is a natural hot spot for Halloween. Although the historic district is packed with people, great costumes and a nice Mardi Gras atmosphere, the city does not fully embrace the holiday. The stores, restaurants and bars mainly stick to their usual schedules and I’ve spent many an hour just meandering as I waited for traffic to die down, wishing there was an open bar, restaurant (or liquor store) to help me pass the time.

The haunted attractions in Salem are so-so, designed to handle the volume and keep the lines moving. The ghost tours vary widely. Do your research ahead of time. Some tours only exist for the Halloween season and lack the research and polish of the more established tours. I’m especially fond of Spellbound Tours and go on their ghost hunting tour at least every other year. During October, many of the historical tours begin incorporating ghost stories and it’s a fun way to get your scare and your nerd on at the same time.

Did you know that Rhode Island was once the vampire capital of the US? In Exeter, RI, you can visit the grave of Mercy Brown, the woman who likely inspired the character of Lucy in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When Mercy died, her spirit was believed to be haunting and tormenting her brother. What could her father do but dig her up, cut out her heart, burn it and feed it to his ailing son? FYI, the son died two months later; apparently ingesting the burnt heart of his sister didn’t cure his tuberculosis. The events were covered by the Providence Journal, and Bram Stoker was known to have clippings of the story in his possession at the time of his death. The tombstone has managed to stay relatively in tact in an accessible graveyard. Unless you actually go on Halloween (when you will see small children in costumes trampling through the graveyard) you can visit her gravesite in peace and quiet and reflect on her tragic story.

Plymouth, MA, hosts both the surprisingly unimpressive Plymouth Rock (it’s a small rock) and a multitude of disturbing ghost stories. A beautiful town with plenty of restaurants, shopping and historical attractions; Plymouth is a win-win for the Halloweener. You can get your history, your scares and a good Mexican meal all in one visit.

Family Friendly

For atmosphere, you can’t beat a hayride. There are several worth mentioning. Field of Screams in East Greenwich, RI is set on a Christmas tree farm. Nothing on their tour is quite as creepy as the giant Santa Claus that waves goodbye to you as you leave. Field of Screams is a nice little combo of a moderately scary haunted house, a mildly exciting hayride and a nice little 3-D house to round off your evening. No big scares are to be found but you’ll get the occasional screams among the generally laid back atmosphere. The farm is beautiful and it’s worth it for Rhode Islanders to go and get a good look at stars.

Slightly scarier is Trails to Terror in Wakefield, RI. Set on a lovely farm, you can get scared silly and buy some fresh baked goods. You can take the hayride or haunted trail separately, the haunted trail may be a bit scary for the little ones, or buy the combo ticket. The hayride is surprisingly scary with well-utilized special effects and interactive actors and the terror trail through the woods has enough chaos to make you feel a little afraid for your safety (a quality I enjoy in haunted attractions).

Lake Compounce, an amusement park in Connecticut, turns itself into a haunted attraction for October. The midway remains open with the addition of a few small haunted attractions but the showpiece is an enormous haunted house that takes roughly 45 minutes to walk through. The props and special effects are excellent. While you’re there, enjoy the free Pepsi products and buy some fried Oreos. It’s Halloween, it’s time to worry about ghosts and goblins, not diabetes and hypertension. Get into the spirit!

If you liked this post, please do us the further boon of Liking the Fierce and Nerdy page on FaceBook. Also, we’re giving great stream on Twitter, so do give us follow.

featured image credit:victoriabernal