Want to scare up some fun this season? After you’ve hit that pumpkin patch or farm festival on a brisk October weekend afternoon, head to one of these spots after dark that make getting terrified a treat.
Named one of the scariest haunted houses in the country by Travel & Leisure, this PG-13-rated attraction in Leesburg is purportedly actually haunted, which adds to the ambience (as does the fact that it’s more or less in the middle of nowhere.) It all takes place in the 32-room, 20,000-square-foot Carlheim Manor, which was built in 1872 over limestone caverns and an underground lake with a rumored history of paranormal activity. Park at nearby Pennington Lot, take the free shuttle to the menacing abode, and listen as your ticket-taker recounts the story of the resident Carver Family, which has a propensity for capturing and butchering creatures of all kinds–including the human variety. But banish thoughts of bailing; it’s all for a good cause. Volunteers may tell you that “they scare because they care”; 100 percent of the proceeds each year go to The Arc of Loudoun, an advocacy organization focused on helping those with disabilities and their families. (In 2019, the event raised a whopping $800,000.) Parties enter Shocktober in small groups, which ups the fear factor and assures lots of jump scares. The walk through the four flights of the main house takes twenty to thirty minutes, depending on whether you like to linger or sprint, and includes several flights of stairs and some areas of tight or low clearance. Afterward, queue up in a separate line to check out the optional basement, dubbed the Well of Souls, whose dank concrete setting might bring back memories of the final scene in The Blair Witch Project. A laser-light effect makes you feel like you’re chest-deep in a swirling pool of red liquid.
Don’t think you have the guts to make it through? Purchase a neon “Chicken Necklace” before you enter and the ghouls won’t target you–but the ones strolling the grounds may make fun of you. The dates remaining for Shocktober are October 22, 23, 24, 29, and 30. General admission timed tickets can be booked online and cost $40 per person, which includes access to the event grounds, the Manor, and the Well of Souls. 601 Catoctin Cir. NE, Leesburg
During the day, the goings-on at popular Cox Farms in Centreville are quite tame, with slides, rope swings, farm animals, and a towering pile of hay bales to climb; in the evenings, however, things turn much more sinister. During your ride on the Dark Side Hayride, you’ll come across a circus abandoned in the 1900s that springs to life when living beings approach; those who suffer from coulrophobia (fear of clowns) will be especially freaked out at being brushed by the clowns hanging upside down in the barn. Walk through the rows of the Cornightmare; there’s only one path, so you can’t get lost, but you’ll encounter more than tall stalks. The Forest: Back 40 is the most well-done of the bunch, a pitch-black trek over more than half a mile that’s partially lit by candles along the way; en route you’ll come across spiders, chainsaws, and the supernatural–and the feeling that the trees do indeed have eyes. During your visit to Fields of Fear, you can also stay warm around one of the roaring fire pits on the Firegrounds, hit the dance floor, do some karaoke, grab a potato sack, and whiz down the huge six-lane slide, and nosh on cider donuts, kettle corn, cider, and more.
Fields of Fear is open 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights through November 6, plus Sunday, October 31. Tickets range from $25 to $35, depending on the evening, and include admission to the Firegrounds, one Dark Side Hayride, one entry to Cornightmare, and one entry to The Forest: Back 40. Tickets must be pre-purchased online, masks are required at all times on the hayride and haunted trails. 15621 Braddock Rd., Centreville
During the day, this haunted house in Winchester offers a less aggressive and intense experience; after 6 p.m. however, all bets are off. Be prepared to encounter lots of live actors who want to startle, scare, and make you want to run for the nearest exit. The team is tight-lipped about what exactly you will come across, be it clowns or chainsaws, so you’ll have to be brave enough to enter the four walls to know for sure. Ten people are permitted to enter at one time, and the house is recommended for those older than seven. Once you’ve made it out alive, stay awhile to tackle one of their escape rooms, a hayride, and the corn maze.
Haunted Nightmares is open for the remainder of the season on October 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30 and 31; hours vary depending on the day. Tickets for the haunted house cost $12 to $14 for the daytime hours, and $15 to $17 for the evening hours. 933 Barley Ln., Winchester
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