BY BAYLIE SCHWAMBERGER
There are so many things to do to celebrate Halloween: buy that pumpkin spice latte, carve jack-o’-lanterns, plan out that perfect costume. One of the most classic Halloween traditions is the haunted house, and I mean good ones, not the spooky garbage bag and mask combo your neighbors used to put on. Take it up another notch! If you believe in ghosts or spirits, a real haunted location will give you more thrills than clown makeup ever will. Here are some great “real” and “not really” haunted places you should check out in Ohio this spooky month.
“THE RIDGES” MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTION
Once known as The Athens Lunatic Asylum, The Ridges is Ohio University’s most popular haunt. A well-known legend is one of a patient named Margaret who went missing. When they found her dead body, it left a stain that can never be fully cleaned off of the floor. They say if you touch this stain it will cause you to have a terrible experience, accident, etc. So a word to the not-so wise: don’t f*cking touch it. Just kidding, you can no longer access that part of The Ridges, but they do offer tours of the grounds, including the surrounding cemeteries. This is great to get the outdoor fall views around some gravestones.
THE MOONVILLE TUNNEL
If you’re from southern Ohio, you’ve probably heard many stories about the Moonville Tunnel, including some personal experiences. Moonville Tunnel has had its fair share of appearances on ghostly television shows. The hauntings of the tunnel started after two trains collided with each other in the 1800s, killing one train’s engineer and fireman. Since then, people have seen ghostly figures and lights. If you do head to Moonville be careful, as it is surrounded by forestry and collapsed train tracks. Don’t forget your camera; a ghost has already been captured once.
THE OHIO STATE REFORMATORY
Mansfield Reformatory is a place near and dear to my (and many Ohioans’) hearts. It was the set for many movies, including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Air Force One.” It looks like a beautiful castle on the outside, but the inside houses the largest free-standing cell block in the world with six levels. The prison has a dark past, including an inmate setting himself on fire within his cell. Pro tip: that cell is one of the most active for paranormal activity, just ask for the cell number. You can do a self-guided tour of the building, too—the spirits don’t just go away because the sun is up.
KINGS ISLAND HALLOWEEN HAUNT
Kings Island is best known for its thrill rides, including an upcoming Giga coaster named Orion. Most people head over for summer fun, but in September and October, Kings Island transforms into a true Halloweentown on the weekends. There are fog machines placed everywhere, “scare” actors all around the park, stunning decorations, and a ton of scary mazes. Almost all of the coasters are open, so you can score several night rides while deciding which haunted attraction to go to next. And, if you are an amusement park enthusiast, a couple of the mazes are located in defunct ride buildings, so you can experience a blast from the past.
DEAD ACRES HAUNTED HOOCHIE
Alright, disclaimer here: this is not for anyone who hates being touched or is disturbed by visual horror. The Haunted Hoochie is an ever-popular attraction best known for its gory, very dark, and borderline demonic themes in its shows and haunted house, which you cannot see from the outside. It has multiple scenes of horror throughout the “house”, including a downed airplane, a strobe light path, and other horrors I don’t want to describe on the page, honestly. (Be warned: they have a recent history of political incorrectness and have had their fair share of criticism–don’t mistake this for any old haunted house. Their goal is to really get to you.) If you’re looking for a truly terrifying “not really” haunted house, this is the spot; you have to experience it yourself to understand. Also, please don’t bring kids.
THE OHIO STATE REFORMATORY: ESCAPE FROM BLOOD PRISON
Ok, I know what you’re thinking: you just said this place was really haunted. Well, it is, but the former prison doesn’t just offer ghost hunts and tours (18+ only); every Halloween season, there is an event called Escape From Blood Prison, so you can go to a fake haunted house inside a real haunted location. Genius, I know. What makes this a signature Halloween event is that it takes place in a real former prison with old cells and pathways, but amps up the anxiety with people wandering around in costume. Be careful of who you run into…they may not be part of the show. Or you know, alive.