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Haunted Houses in Manhattan

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published October 25th 2010
Be afraid. Cling to loved ones. Try to block out those blood-curdling screams. And run, fast.

It seems that New Yorkers—just like the rest of Americans—love getting the bejezzers scared out of them. Case in point: The ever-growing number of haunted house attractions that crop up on Manhattan island each year. Each one is a little different, though the creators do their best to out thrill one another with each passing year. This season is no different, so prepare to be spooked and freaked beyond your wildest imagination—just leave the little ones at home.

Blood Manor
An eerie maze of chills and thrills awaits you at this long-running Chelsea attraction now with even more suspect characters, including a crazed wolf man and someone who might qualify as Hannibal Lecter's brother. As you and about five others meander through a darkened maze of dizzying and horrific scenarios, trouble creeps up from behind all corridors. The non-stop thrills can be pretty exhilarating, and the amazing attention to detail can pass muster by any horror buff. If you run quickly, it's all over in about 15 minutes, though those with a higher tolerance can keep the nightmare going for up to a half hour. The usual disclaimers apply: Those with weak hearts should stay home. Bonus: Group discounts are available by e-mail; see website for details. Blood Manor is open now through November 6.

Nightmare: Superstitions
Farther downtown in NoLita, those in search of frightful characters can stop into a mock insane asylum filled with more psychosis than gripped Jack Nicholson and Anthony Perkins combined. Each room is filled with deranged mental patients who urge you to join in the fun by committing various superstitious acts, which takes you further into the labyrinthine at different levels. Perhaps not as scary as Blood Manor, but according to visitors, the gross-out bloody birth scene nicknamed "Bloody Mary" was a top-notch fear factor. Prepare to interact with the characters and sets. Bonus: Check the website for special discounts, such as "Couples' Nights" and other promotions. Nightmare: Superstitions is open now through November 7.

Vortex Theater's NYC Haunted House
Also in Chelsea is Vortex Theater's NYC Haunted House, a hands-on attraction where each participant travels through the building with a flashlight and a mask. The actors will actually touch you, and since this is an adults-only event, you can count on an ample amount of sex and violence. (Call out "safety" if you want the thrills to cease and someone will escort you to the nearest exit.) The house itself is disorienting and dark with plenty of action, but the fact that each person must go in alone maximizes the fear. This haunted house experience comes as close as possible to the real thing with plenty of paranormal activities and a little less blood. Bonus: You have to sign a waiver before going in, so stay at home if you're not prepared to experience what the New York Times called a cross between a date with "a dominatrix and an executioner." Vortex Theater's NYC Haunted House is open now through October 31.
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Why? Because shock has more value when it's in person.
When: Now through early November.
Where: Various locations; see websites for details.
Cost: Varies; $15 to $45
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