Encounter chills and thrills at local haunts

by Sandra De La Torre


The scariest time of the year is finally here. As Halloween nears, it’s time to prepare costumes, eat too much candy and get a little spooked. One way to enjoy the holiday is to check out some of San Diego’s best haunted houses. Thrill seekers have a variety of frightening options within reasonable driving distance.

The longest running attraction in San Diego is the Haunted Hotel, located in the Gaslamp District. This year it was ranked No. 19 by America’s Best Haunted House Directory, and in 2009, it was featured on the Travel Channel show “America Haunts IV.”

In this hair-raising hotel, guests are separated into small groups that are then escorted directly into the Hellelevator. In each room, the groups encounter horrifying themes including a dead nursery, Freddy Krueger’s workshop and a zombie office. All kinds of zombies, dead babies, clowns and multiple Freddy Kruegers await their next victims.

“A tiny clown with a knife went toward my legs and then a zombie girl went behind me saying, ‘I’m following you, I’m following you! I’m right behind you!’” Phylicia Barela, a criminal justice major, said. “I just kept running away,”

Those who enjoy the outdoors may prefer the Haunted Trail in Balboa Park. The trail is a mile long, but frights begin early, as excited screams can be heard while waiting in line.

The Haunted Trail is divided into different sections and themes that change every year. In previous years, it has housed a cemetery with cloaked figures and a haunted school bus visitors must pass through to complete the trail. This year, the trail offers a new attraction called, “The eXperiment,” an additional 3,500 square foot maze featuring “incarcerated souls (that) will stalk you as you scurry through.”

“The whole thing was really well done,” journalism senior Venice Fahey said. “If you want to be scared, you should definitely go. There’s something about being chased at a park trail in the dark that gives me the heebie jeebies.”

The cost for general admission to the Haunted Hotel and the Haunted Trail is affordable, less than $20 per person on weekends.

Now, if the options described above don’t seem frightening enough, the McKamey Manor might be a better choice. However, be warned this is unlike any other haunted house. It’s described as an “intense, claustrophobic in-your-face experience.” The house is located in a residential area and is open Fridays and Saturdays all month from 6-10 p.m.

“It’s an aggressive experience,” Russ McKamey, one of the producers of the manor, said. “People will live their own little horror movie and will be made to participate.”

The haunted house requires visitors to sign a waiver before entering. Unlike the Haunted Trail and the Haunted Hotel where no physical contact is allowed, these actors are permitted to touch participants once the waiver is signed.

Another aspect that differentiates this haunted house from others is that there is no charge for admission. Instead, those who wish to enter must bring two non-perishable food items that will be donated to the Feeding America food bank.

For those who would rather avoid the nightmare-inducing scares of these haunted attractions, Old Town’s Dia De Los Muertos celebration may be a more enticing option.

The two-day event takes place from Nov. 1-2 and is put together by the Save Our Heritage Organization. As it is celebrated in many Latin American countries, this holiday aims to celebrate the unity of life and death.

The event will feature a variety of activities, including skull face painting, workshops, lectures and films for those who wish to learn more about the holiday. There will also be a display of altars created by members of the community.

“It’s a neat way to bring the community together,” Alana Coons, the education and communications director for SOHO, said.

No matter what level of thrill San Diegans may choose to seek this spooky season, this city’s scares will not disappoint.