Scary Places

Haunted House

I’ve been to a few scary places while traveling–most of them because I got lost and wandered where I should not be. But today I’m thinking about scary places that people plan travel to–in Phoenix, Mansfield Ohio, and New Orleans.


For the second year now, Rawhide, just south of Phoenix, has been home to “The Nest.”  The ironically named Halloween attraction is based on the home of a mass murderer who killed off his Arizona family back in the 1940s. Jacob Kell and his idea of a good time– cutting people up and stuffing them in the fridge–forms the centerpiece of The Nest, but before you get to Jacob’s house, you traverse three mazes and a graveyard full of zombies plus a freak show.

Zombie in the graveyard
Zombie in the graveyard

I’ll admit that I am cynical about haunted attractions.  I think my mind is still stuck back in the home-made haunted houses of childhood where someone blindfolded me and made me stick my hand in a pot full of cold spaghetti which they said was brains. Never did believe that stuff.  And going through a mirror maze was so lame because I could generally see through cracks and easily figure out where I was. But haunted attractions today have gone to Disney School–they are packed with special effects including animatronics and laser lights playing tricks on your perception.

Second admission–I actually got a kick out of The Nest, even though I went through in the daytime so I could see the tops of false walls and never truly got disoriented. I would like to go back when all of the 100 plus actors were there jumping out at people.

Snarling Joker
Snarling Joker

Some of it was downright beautiful, like the neon-painted, laser-lighted Turmoil maze that plays all kinds of tricks on your eyes.

Turmoil Maze
Turmoil Maze

Some of it was gag-inducing. Finger sandwich anyone?

Kell's Kitchen Counter
Kell’s Kitchen Counter

This attraction was purpose built in a large warehouse on the grounds of Rawhide, an old West attraction. No one under 12 is allowed through, but that doesn’t mean the family can’t enjoy a Halloween visit to Rawhide, because out on the main street the younger set can enjoy Doomtown, including such wholesome fun as “Legend of the Zombie Hunters.”

Glenn Rea, main creator, is proud of the fact that 36,000 people went through last year.  Many of the actors (whom he says are “in to being creepy”) have been with him for 20 years as he developed every scarier scares. The secret of a good haunted house? Rea says he tries to recreate your childhood fears.  Fear of falling, the dark, being shut in, and of course the biggie–getting sliced up in little pieces.


I have not yet visited the Mansfield Reformatory in Ohio which not only sponsors night-time ghost walks all year round, but creates a special Halloween attraction called Deranged.  Like The Nest, this one strictly forbids anyone under 12 on the tours. Unlike The Nest, the creator, Myron St. John does not allow any photos and will not give out information about attendance (although he says they are in the top 2% in the country) or specific activities on the tour. He did say that they have more than 60 actors and brand new animatronics this year.

St. John says, “..a customer going through the prison will go through close to 90% of the structure(which is huge) and travel through cell blocks, solitary confinement, administrative areas and eventually to the basement which actually housed the prison’s morgue… The time is usually 40-45 minutes, although many only last about 5 minutes and leave early due to fright.”

The Mansfield Reformatory, closed since 1974, was the home of endless real horrors for many years. You’d recognize it as the location  for Shawshank Redemption, and probably agree that it  is about the last place that anyone would want to spend time normally, so naturally that makes it a great candidate for a Halloween Haunt.

And about those real ghosts at the Reformatory? St. John says, “Every year I have customers tell me about their hair being pulled, getting pinched or a shadow moving into or out of a wall and ask how we did it…well, we didn’t…that’s the supernatural part, obviously the spirits want some Halloween fun too.

The Mortuary

New Orleans, even before Anne Rice, has some extremely spooky corners. Take those above ground cemeteries, for instance.  And right beside one of the cemeteries stands a lovely old house built in 1972 that once housed a mortuary.  Now packed with electronic gear, TV cameras, sound sensers and thermostats, the morturary attracts ghost seekers year round as  Mystère Mansion.  Managers emphasizes the beauty of the house as they markets to event-planners. The only hint that something different lurks here, is the availability of a seance room.  Like the Reformatory, though, at Halloween it ups the ante with electronic ghostliness and becomes simply The Mortuary.

In the seance room of the Haunted Mortuary

You can read more about the Mystère  Mansion and its evil twin, The Haunted Mortuary in my 2009 article here.

And here are more scary places:

  • FreeEEEEE  Halloween Events from National Geographic Travelers
  • If you want to actually SLEEP with the ghosts, try this article:    Haunted Hotels by Kerri Campbell at
  • Planing a trip? How about haunted highways?  Wandering  invites you to…travel down a narrow dark highway late at night” “In Haunted Highways … see what it is like to feel scared when you see hitchhikers dissappear into thin air in your back seat, or … see the ghost train with Lincoln’s casket on board.”
  • Scary songs and ghostly music from Music Road. (I like the one in which the murder victim’s bones turn into a fiddle.)
  • Bake some Ghostly Brownies with My Kids Eat
  • Some comic relief from all that scary stuff, from My Itchy Travel Feet and dogs in worldly costumes from Will My Dog Hate Me.

With the exception of the top photo which came from Flickr, all of the photos are the property of Vera Marie Badertscher, all rights reserved.  I saw The Nest on a preview press tour, and will soon travel to Mansfield Ohio Reformatory at the invitation of the Mansfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. My trip to New Orleans, when I visited Mystère Mansion was sponsored by the Hotel Monteleone. No matter who pays for the ticket, I only write about things I think you will be interested in.

Your turn. If you had to vote for the scariest Haunted  attraction you had ever visited, what would be your choice?



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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

6 thoughts on “Scary Places

  1. I didn’t know about Rawhide near Phoenix. Need to check that one out. These are truly scary ideas, Vera. You’ve already spooked me and it’s not even Halloween yet. Thanks for including a link to my humorous Halloween photo.

  2. scary!! i remember making haunted houses when we were kids. gosh it took up a LOT of time – our parents were so patient when they had to go AGAIN and again through the haunted house!

    that said – i would NOT go through one that a kid didn’t make now. i’m too scared! 🙂

  3. Call me squeamish, but the kind of haunted houses I like are the ones aimed at young kids. I really get a charge out of their thrills and chills. There are enough real horrors in the world without seeking out fake ones!

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