Say 'boo!' to your favorite haunts
How are you celebrating the Halloween season?
Perhaps you're marathoning every horror movie in Netflix's collection. Or maybe your taste for fall is a little more subtle, sipping the occasional comforting cup of hot cider, taking in the crisp air in a cozy sweater, marveling at the color-changing leaves.
Horror and gore aren't for everyone.
But for Portlanders who enjoy such scares — and who want to get off the couch — there's no shortage of activities, including haunted houses and corn mazes full of ghosts, goblins, ghouls and chainsaw-wielding zombie maniacs, all around the metro area.
Portland's top haunted house is FrightTown, billing itself as "A whole city block of screams and shock!" After a brief scare that it wouldn't reopen following last year's downturn in ticket sales, the mega-haunted house beneath the Veterans Memorial Coliseum reopened this year as usual.
"We're paying our actors this year, so the quality of our actors is above and beyond what we've had before," says James Sharinghousen, a manager and lighting and animatronics designer at FrightTown for the past seven years. This season marks its 13th in operation.
The haunted house boasts three haunts, including Sector 13, a covert research facility "housing an unnatural alliance between humans and a race of extraterrestrial beings."
If you're wondering whether FrightTown will be around in the future, fear not.
"We're actually developing a five-year plan right now. I'd say it's looking great for next year," Sharinghousen says. Tickets are $30, and can be bought at frighttown.com.
FrightTown isn't the only thing going on, though. I ventured to these four decidedly haunted locations.
All have at least a few things in common: Be prepared to wait in line unless you go on an off night — Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday, generally — and they're not particularly cheap outings.
Fear PDX Haunted House Scream Park
There's a lot packed into that title, and it doesn't disappoint. It's a little difficult to spot at its location, 5413 N.E. Columbia Blvd., in the dark, and near some strange industrial facilities. As at most haunted houses, you buy a ticket (don't miss the food truck — fried oreos and chili dogs) and enter a well-oiled machine.
You're immediately subjected to near-torturous levels of scare tactics, while everything is seemingly going 1,000 mph. Add smoke, strobes, and blasting metal and dubstep music, and you're in a twisted, industrial-rave-themed horror nightmare.
Tickets/info: $30, fearpdx.com.
Bella Organic Haunted Corn Maze
I was intrigued that there are two haunted corn mazes a five-minute drive from each other on Sauvie Island.
How are they different? For one, Bella Organic, at 16205 N.W. Gillihan Road, is much busier. Or at least it was at 8 p.m. Saturday. The whole farm was crowded in a party-like atmosphere, where electronic music blasted on the speakers and people were dancing atop giant tractor tires.
After waiting in long lines for cider and elephant ears, my friends and I attempted to buy tickets at around 8:30 p.m., and learned it would be at least a two-hour wait until our group would be called into the maze.
Many weren't interested in waiting that long, leaving to return to Portland. But a few of us brave souls stuck it out, hanging out by a firepit — for what ended up being a three-hour wait.
Finally around 11:30 p.m. we got into the maze, the last group of the night. The maze itself was exciting as we wandered through billowing cornstalks. There was seemingly no rhyme or reason at that point in the night as people darted through the maze while chainsaw-wielding maniacs emerged out of the corn.
Some advice: Wear boots, it's muddy. And bring cash; there are ATMs, but there were long waits to use them.
Tickets/info: $15; open every Friday and Saturday in October, open starting at dark while the last ticket is sold at 10 p.m.; bellaorganic.com/haunted-corn-maze.
This place, on a Friday night, was a much more laid back affair. It had the atmosphere of a small-town music festival. People happily chatted while a band with a lead singer who has serious harmonica skills wooed the audience.
Before entering the maze, one of the farm's owners told a story about an insane ex-employee — who was, again, wielding a chainsaw — on the loose out in the corn.
The farm, at 17100 N.W. Sauvie Island Road, has been operating in that format for the past five years, while the Krugers have owned the farm since 2000.
We exited the maze probably around 8 p.m., when it was noticeably much busier. After that, attendees were treated to a team of fire dancers.
Tickets/info: $15; open every Friday through Oct. 27 and every Saturday through Oct. 28, from dark until 10 p.m.; admission to the haunted maze includes admission to see the Corn Cabaret; krugersfarm.com/pumpkin-season/haunted-maze.
13th Door Haunted House
The 13th Door Haunted House also is in an interesting spot, and for those who've never been there it might be a little tricky to find. Located at 3855 S.W. Murray Blvd., in Beaverton, it's behind a strip mall that includes a K-Mart, a black light arcade called Glowing Greens, and Maguffy's Pub. The haunted house is directly behind the bar.
On a Sunday night, it wasn't particularly busy. 13th Door was unique in the quality of its props, which were near-movie-grade, with giant moving spiders, sharks and other creatures. Interestingly, it engaged another sense: smell. At one point, through a portion that resembles an old meat factory, a putrid stench fills your nose. I assume it must be what a dead body would smell like. It wasn't pleasant. But that's not the point, is it?
13th Door is definitely worth a trip — if only to marvel at the elaborate decoration and artistic engineering that went into the house.
Details: $18 for those with cash and $20 with card; starting Thursday, Oct. 19, it will be open every night through Halloween, and two special nights on Nov. 3 and 4; 13thdoor.com.