San Francisco Bay Area’s best haunted houses and attractions
Jan 08, 2024
A curious attraction indeed
Haunting is big business in the U.S. today.
The professional association American Haunts estimates some 1,200 haunted attractions—loosely defined as haunted houses that employ live actors in place of or in addition to animatronics, dummies, props, and visual effects—in the country, bringing in up to $500 million in ticket sales each year.
If you’re still trying to dig up some plans for Halloween night, the Bay Area features a buffet of hallowed haunts ranging from the charmingly amateur to Hollywood grade.
All of the attractions listed below are open Halloween night, and some have a couple of extra days of business on either side of the big one.
Blind Scream in Sonoma County is advertising two different haunts, the Funhouse and Horrortorium, but possibly more intriguing is the Last Ride, a trip for particularly brave (and non-claustrophobic) guests sealed inside a coffin.
Six Flags claims that its annual Halloween haunt is “San Francisco’s most terrifying” horror experience, which is quite ambitious given that it’s in Vallejo.
New to the package this year are the Demon’s Lair and Scarecrows Hollow haunts, the latter of which is presumably even more effective if you happen to be a crow.
The Dungeon features murder, ghostly doings, and some deliciously harrowing overacting for the entire year, but for Halloween the waterfront tourist trap has added a 19th-century seance to the usual tour, in which “spirit guides” summon up some unexpected specters.
In a weird publicity stunt, the Dungeon advertising also threatens that people over the age of 60—”faint-hearted fossils,” as they’re dubbed—are banned without a doctor’s note for fear they’ll drop dead of fright.
This is an old trick from the days of B-movies, but in this age it seems tasteless to stigmatize seniors.
Other than Alcatraz (which will sadly never happen), there’s no more ideal or unnerving a setting for a haunt than the long decommissioned SF Mint.
The bulk of the action in Terror Vault takes place in a space behind the old vaults, including an unforgettable segment where guests are free/forced to wander the old brick corridors for themselves. Of course, they’re not alone down there.
Now in its tenth year, Fear Overload at the Bayfair Mall advertises two back to back haunts, the Washroom and Amnesia Ward.
The Washroom is admittedly a bit of a weird theme for a haunted attraction—and in truth the two spaces are so visually similar to each other that it’s hard to tell them apart from the inside—but the industrial, Silent Hill-esque vibe is good fun.
The big creative addition to this haunt is that guests are stuck finding their own way through dimly lit corridors with only a flashlight—modified to provide only a tiny pinpoint of illumination. Happy trails.
After 27 years, Pirates of Emerson at the Alameda County Fairgrounds is the longest tenured haunt to moor itself in the bay. This year the place packs fives haunts back to back to back to back to back, and although usually only a weekend excursion they’re open for some extra midweek dates the nights before and of Halloween.
Silicon Valley features two purported ghostly funeral home haunts this year. Three Skulls in Milpitas was MIA last year but is rising once again to greet Halloween night 2018 with “voices of the deceased” and “strange figures roaming the halls.”
Three Skulls is free of charge, but the haunt also collects donations for the American Diabetes Association.
Getting haunted can be murder on your budget, but Great America actually allows you to buy seasonal haunt tickets on an installment plan. The lineup features eight different haunted houses ranging from a wax museum to a homicidal corn maze.
The Winchester House is spooky all year long, of course, but it’s no surprise that business picks up in the month of October. House management offers a special, extra ghostly candlelit night tour this time of year.
Note: the candle is actually electric—can’t risk damaging the historic assets—and the ghostly additions in the past have sometimes been a little cheesy.
But this year features a new show titled The 13th Door, and the house is a reliably spooky Bay Area treasure in any case, so you can’t really go wrong.
Also featured in:
The Bay Area’s ultimate horror movie filming locations map
The 50 most haunted spots in the Bay Area
Those looking to get haunted on a budget can dig up a trip to the Rebel Yell funeral home haunt in San Jose, allegedly the home of Doctor Von Braun’s experiments on the dead since the haunt’s premiere in 2000.
Entry is free, but they ask for a $5 donation if you’re in a giving mood. The haunt is advertised as PG-13, which means “undead creatures,” “corpses,” “blood,” and “laser beams,” but “no one will chase you around with a chainsaw.”