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Aug 14 2014

Halloween Hauntings In Philadelphia

High-Tech Haunted Houses, Cemetery Tours & Creepy Cruises Are More Treat Than Trick

While rumors persist year-round of real ghosts and goblins inhabiting some of Philadelphia’s most historic sites, it’s during Halloween season when other-worldly creatures emerge from all corners of the region to make it a happily haunted time of year. Families with wee ones get gentle thrills at the Philadelphia Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo and Morris Arboretum’s Scarecrow Walk. And for serious thrill-seekers, several of the area’s haunted houses (think Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary) have earned acclaim for their Hollywood-quality special effects, animatronics, pyrotechnics and teams of horrifically talented professional actors.

Here are some spots that offer Halloween tricksters some delightfully frightful treats:

Haunted Houses & Hayrides:

  • Some say the dilapidated halls of the historic Pennhurst Asylum are truly haunted, making the high-tech haunted house even more frightening. Crawl through the Tunnel of Terror, go to laser-tag battle with zombies and wander the labyrinth in the Dungeon of the Lost Souls. Friday-Sunday, September 19-October 12; Thursday-Sunday, October 16-November 2. Church Street & Bridge Road, Spring City, (855) Haunt00,
  • Housed inside an old factory building in South Philadelphia, this year’s Fright Factory summons screams galore. Bigger than ever, it offers even more dark passages and hidden corners where more professionally made-up monsters and high-tech horrors wait to torment visitors. Weekends, September 19-November 1. 38 Jackson Street, (215) 33-GHOST,
  • The once-abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary is now home to one of the nation’s most frightful haunted house events, Terror Behind the Walls. Hollywood-quality sets, animatronics, custom-designed soundtracks and a cast of more than 200 professional performers delight in scaring thrill-seekers, earning kudos as one of the top haunted houses in the country. Select nights, September 19-November 8. 22nd Street & Fairmount Avenue, (215) 236-3300,
  • With professional performers and all-new hair-raising animatronic effects and pyrotechnics, it’s no wonder that Bates Motel has been called one of America’s scariest haunts by the Travel Channel. Also on site: Haunted Hayride and Haunted Corn Maze. September 26-28, October 3-5, October 10-November 2. 1835 N. Middletown Road (Route 352) Glen Mills, (610) 459-0647,
  • There are even more fearsome attractions in store for the brave guests who dare venture into HorrorFest at Shady Brook Farm, and they come in the form of Barn of Horror, Hayride of Horror, Carnage and the 3-D Alien Invasion. September 27; Friday-Sunday, October 3-26 and November 1. 931 Stony Hill Road, Morrisville, (215) 968-1670,
  • Climb aboard the Haunted Hayride and confront monsters and other horrors inhabiting The Valley of Fear, where only the bravest dare to venture. Prepare for the zombie apocalypse in the terrifying Zombie Escape Maze, and do battle with the undead. New for 2014: Operation Z, a live-action zombie paintball hunt. September 27-28; October 4-5; Thursday-Sunday, October 10-27; October 29-31. 301 W. Bristol Road, Feasterville, (215) 942-9787,

Creepy Cruises:

  • Patriot Harbor Lines runs the irreverently uncensored Ghost Ship Terror Cruise: Pirates & The Jersey Devil on the Delaware River. The evening features tales of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, pirate ghouls and the region’s favorite fiend, the Jersey Devil. Guests ages 17 to 20 must be accompanied by a parent. Friday-Saturday evenings in October. (800) 979-3370,
  • The Spirit of Philadelphia hosts two haunted cruises on Halloween night: Boos and Brews Halloween Cruise and Old School 100.3 Halloween Moonlight Cruise. Both feature music, prizes for the best costumes, food, drink and more. October 31. 401 S. Columbus Boulevard, (866) 455-3866,

Family-Friendly Frights:

  • Inspired by paintings by a local artist, the Straw Maze: Bales of Cornwall at Woodmere Art Museum is part sculpture, part maze and part climbing apparatus for kids. On Saturdays, a visit also includes craft activities. Weekends, September 5-November 2. 9201 Germantown Avenue, (215) 247-0476,
  • Kids come in costume for The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular at Sesame Place. Whether it’s Elmo’s Silly Bones Spooktacular Dine, Zoe’s Monster Mash Dance Party, The Count’s Batty Birthday Bash or Grover’s Not So Spooky Birthday Bash, every weekend features rides, two new Halloween shows, mazes and everyone’s favorite furry creatures. Weekends, September 20-October 26. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, (866) GO-4-ELMO,
  • Hop aboard the Hayride to the Witch’s House, where the friendly witch who lives in the woods at Linvilla Orchards regales families with stories and serves snacks around the bonfire. September 26-28, October 3-5, 10-30. 137 W. Knowlton Rd, Media, (610) 876-7116,
  • Family-friendly Franklin Square welcomes October with a month of special Halloween happenings. Tee up at Spooky Mini Golf, featuring fog, lights, music and surprises. Pick a pumpkin from the Pumpkin Patch, and adorn it to take home. Decorate a bag, and pick up goodies along the Trick-or-Treat Trail, welcoming children age 10 and under. Take a spin on the Lightning Bolt Express. Various days from October 3-31. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026,
  • Hero or villain, that’s what’s up for vote at Morris Arboretum’s Scarecrow Walk. Thirty scarecrows are decked out as good guys and bad guys along the Oak Allée, where visitors vote for their favorite. October 4-19. 100 E Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777,
  • Kids get to trick or treat with lions and tigers and bears during Boo at the Zoo at the Philadelphia Zoo. Costumes are de riguer when kids set out on scarecrow scavenger hunts; enjoy games, storytelling and musical performances; and collect treats while visiting their favorite animals. October 18-19, 25-26. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100,
  • The Penn Museum, Mexican Cultural Center and Mexican Consulate join forces to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Tour the museum’s Mexico and Central American galleries, visit Day of the Dead Altars created for the event, then join in an afternoon filled with puppetry, storytelling, crafts and more. November 1. 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000,

Terrifying Tours & Literary Looks:

  • Discover what may be lurking behind the shadows throughout America’s Most Historic Square Mile. Ghost Tours of Philadelphia uncover haunted spots throughout Society Hill, Independence Mall and Washington Square, telling chilling tales of Benedict Arnold and Founding Fathers along the way. 5th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 413-1997,
  • Tiptoe carefully through cobblestone streets as the Spirits of 76 Ghost Tour guides tell tales of history and hauntings, stopping at 20 scary sites in some of Philadelphia’s most historic neighborhoods. 325 Chestnut Street, (215) 525-1776,
  • A night on the historic Haunted Olympia reveals whether spirits still roam the ship when the Tri-County Paranormal Society demonstrates the equipment used in ghost-hunting before leading guests on a special investigation tour through the brig, engine room and some of the cruiser’s eeriest parts. October 24. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655,
  • With case after case of skulls, skeletons and medical anomalies, the Mutter Museum is always intriguing. But during Halloween week, it becomes downright eerie when brave souls get a rare nighttime, behind-the-scenes experience during Flashlight Tours of the Mutter’s galleries. October 28-30. 19 S. 22nd Street, (215) 563-3737,
  • During special-collections tours at the Rosenbach Museum and Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia, visitors get an up-close look at the horror. Literary buffs explore Bram Stoker’s hand-written notes for Dracula at the Rosenbach on October 29 and 31 and Poe’s manuscripts for haunting favorites like The Raven and Annabelle Lee at the Free Library on October 30. Rosenbach, 2008 Delancey Place, (215) 732-1600,; Free Library, 1901 Vine Street, (215) 686-5322,
  • Pack a flashlight and prepare for an evening of bone-shivering, spine-tingling eerie tales when storytellers gather around campfires at the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery and regale visitors with Ghost Tales and Goosebumps: Local Legends by Firelight, followed by palpitation-calming hot cider and snacks. October 30. 3822 Ridge Avenue, (215) 228-8200,

Ghastly Galas:

  • Go black-tie glam or stylishly ghoulish to the Gravedigger’s Ball, the annual fund-raising event supporting activities at the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery. Costume contests, silent auctions, music and dancing add a touch of glitz to the evening’s unearthly celebrations. October 24. Crystal Tea Room at Wanamaker’s Building, 100 Penn Square, (215) 228-8200,
  • There’s no such thing as too much bling at the Fall Ball Masquerade Party, benefitting the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. Miss Richfield 1981 presides over dancing, dining and drinking. October 25. Philadelphia Downtown Marriott, 1201 Market Street,
  • The annual Henri David Halloween Ball, the granddaddy of all Halloween parties, is an extravaganza of fanciful and outrageous getups that reflect the host’s philosophy: Come as you want to be, not as you are. October 31. Sheraton Philadelphia Center City Hotel, 17th & Race Streets, (215) 448-2000
  • There are spooky goings-on at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the Halloween edition of Art After 5. Show up in costume, and let the face-painters work their magic. Then get down to a haunting soundtrack, and don’t miss the fashion-design students walking around in costumes they designed inspired by the museum’s collection. October 31. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100,

Freaky Festivals:

  • Not all scarecrows are scary. Especially those that are part of Peddler’s Village annual Scarecrow Competition and Festival, displaying dozens of creative scarecrow creations. Do-it-yourselfers get creative during the scarecrow-making workshops, while others vie for honors in pumpkin pie-eating contests. And everyone can join in pumpkin painting and enjoy live entertainment and children’s activities. Festival, September 20-21; Competition and Display, September 8-October 26. Route 263 & Street Road, Lahaska, (215) 794-4018,
  • Muggles and wizards turn out in costume for the Harry Potter Festival when the shops and restaurants in Chestnut Hill get a total Hogwarts makeover. The magical weekend features wizardry workshops, Quidditch tournaments, Dumbledore’s Maze, sorting hat demos and more. October 17-18. Various locations along Germantown Avenue, (215) 247-6696,
  • Kids, adults and even Fido enjoy Fall Festival and Spooky Saturday. While youngsters are painting pumpkins, trick or treating at local shops and showing off during a kids’ (and dogs’) costume contest, the adults can hit up food trucks and local restaurants for tasty nibbles and seasonal beverages, rock out to live bands and shop for crafts. October 25. Tasker Street & E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 336-1455,
  • Watch out for the pint-sized ghosts and goblins who gather at the annual Pumpkin Fall Fest at Headhouse Square. Costumed revelers of all age enjoy hay rides, art projects, music, circus performances and pumpkin decorating. Local restaurants and pubs serve up fall fare and spirits of the season. October 25. 2nd Street between Pine & Lombard Streets, (215) 413-3713,

Fearsome Films:

  • After the sun sets, the grainy joys of the film experience are brought to audiences amid the historic tombs of Laurel Hill Cemetery. During Cinema in the Cemetery, participants bring a blanket or beach chair, pack a picnic and enjoy the spine-tingling cinematic chills of a classic creepy Halloween flick in the most fitting of settings. October 4. 3822 Ridge Avenue, (215) 228-8200,
  • Prepare to do the time warp again when the Colonial Theatre presents the classic Rocky Horror Picture Show complete with costume contest, pre-show, full-shadow cast and prop bags for sale so viewers can participate in the madness. October 18. 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, (610) 917-1228,
  • There will be no dozing during the 24 Hour Horror-Thon, Part VIII at International House Philadelphia. Starting at noon, some of the biggest horror titles of the last 30 years play before and after some really rare gems, tons of classic trailers, shorts and other oddities, all projected on 16-mm or 35-mm film. October 25-26. 3701 Chestnut Street, (215) 387-5125,
  • It’s a horror-flick double-header smackdown when the Philadelphia Film Society, the Rosenbach Museum and Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia present a two-night horror flick series at the newly renovated Roxy Theater. The Wednesday night screening is all about Dracula, while Thursday’s lineup features films based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. October 29-30. 2023 Sansom Street,,

VISIT PHILADELPHIA, formerly known as Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, and make up the most-visited website network out of the 10 biggest U.S. cities. Visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photos and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for information and tickets.

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