Animatronics and pyrotechnics alone can't do the job at these haunted houses -- they rely on seriously demented actors and even real live beasts to elicit screams of terror from anxious visitors.
St. Louis, Missouri
Creepyworld is a one-stop shop for creepiness with a variety of haunted attractions. At Raven's Manor, guests encounter a chainsaw-wielding bride in the Freezer Room, flying sparks in the Boiler Room and a bloody bathtub scene straight out of a horror flick. If you survive the mansion, you may navigate the mazes at Silo-X, a simulated radioactive military base manned by zombies. Other spooky sites on the premises include the graveyard, the Dominion of the Vampire and a haunted hayride.
Kansas City, Missouri
Housed in the original John Deere headquarters, the Beast couples real-life horrors with classic haunted-house fare for some serious mind games. Visitors meet a real Florida Everglades alligator before heading into the Louisiana swamp to encounter some fake ones. Then there's the 220-pound anaconda, the largest in North American captivity. These real-life beasts add a spooky dimension to the haunted-house experience and leave guests wondering what they might really find while wandering through the thick fog in the 1/4-acre Werewolf Forest.
The 13th Floor Haunted House
It takes some convincing acting and plenty of makeup to bring Denver's 13th Floor Haunted House to life. The adventure begins with a hillbilly horror show that portrays a backwoods bloodbath. Then there's a contortionist-aerialist dangling in chains, a fire dancer writhing in flames, extra-large rats and even a government cover-up to keep guests screaming. But the real ghosts on-site are even scarier than the actors -- paranormal experts have 5 EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) recordings to prove that there's something legitimately creepy about this 13th floor.
Greensboro, North Carolina
All aboard the Ghost Town Express, a haunted train ride into the deep dark Spookywoods. Spread out over 55 acres, this haunted complex has a creepy cornfield, a twisted maze and, of course, a haunted house. During the Flash Fright Experience, visitors venture deep into the haunted woods with a flashlight. But there's a catch -- the staff controls these flashlights via remote control so be prepared for the lights to flicker before the monsters come out to play.
Nightmare on 13th
Salt Lake City, Utah
At the foot of the Rocky Mountains, the Nightmare on 13th starts scaring guests before they even step foot in the haunted house. The waiting line is known for its sophisticated pre-show that matches the intensity of the main event. Highlights in this cavernous 36,000-square-foot fright fest include a cannibalistic Aztec witch doctor, an explosive volcano and a replica of the Bates Motel.
Pittsburgh is no stranger to cinematic horror as it has served as the backdrop for classic flicks like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead." Housed in an early 1900s building, ScareHouse puts its own spin on classic ghouls. Creepo the Clown threatens guests at a twisted birthday party while the Dead Farmer prowls around with his meat cleaver. You'll even need 3-D glasses to truly experience a trippy party with Delirium, one messed-up party girl.
The Haunted Hotel
San Diego, California
Located in San Diego's Gaslamp District, the Haunted Hotel is a haunted house in a 130-year-old building. Check in and check out the wild elevator ride that takes unwitting guests deep into the hotel. Clowns carry chainsaws in the Clown Asylum, zombies make a living scaring people in the zombie office space and ghouls seem to crawl right out of the walls in the Dot Room. With rooms full of scares, you'll be relieved your stay is brief.
The House of Torment
In this former theater, actors truly get into character as they frighten visitors in 2 distinct horror experiences -- House of Torment and Illusion Manor. The House of Torment brings video game thrills to life against a backdrop of a decaying, post-apocalyptic city taken over by zombies. The experience has a cinematic feel as the actors pull off impressive stunts, flying through the air on zip lines and catapulting through windows. For a different experience, Illusion Manor celebrates classic Halloween thrills with a twisted funhouse atmosphere including a tilted room.
13th Gate Haunted House
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The home of the 13th Gate has a depraved history, as this 150-year-old building was once a brick-making yard manned by slaves and, later, an actual slaughterhouse. This domicile of doom appeals to every imaginable phobia with flesh-eating zombies, twisted serial killers and a "Hellevator" ride to the other side. The swamp setting just adds to the creepiness with a dank graveyard and hundreds of writhing, hissing live snakes.
Nightmare on the Bayou
Located next to Houston's oldest cemetery, many believe that this site is home to some full-time ghosts. This makes it difficult to tell if you were frightened by an actor or the real deal as you move through the haunted rooms. This spooky spot is best experienced while wearing 3-D glasses, which blur the line between illusion and reality, particularly in the psychedelic clown room.
Ft. Worth, Texas
The Guinness Book of World Records bestowed a perfectly creepy title on Cutting Edge in 2009, naming it the largest walk-through haunted house in the world. And this walk will seem interminable when you're busy dodging zombies, vampires and the gothic ghouls who inhabit these haunted halls. The senses are assaulted by pumping music, heavy fog and horrific sights like workers disassembling body parts on old meat-packing equipment in the "Meat Slinger" room.