Scare up some fun at Alabama’s haunted attractions
By Emmett Burnett
Happy Halloween (Cue the spooky creaking door hinges). Beyond these cobwebbed thresholds are opportunities: ghostly encounters, mysterious rooms, and perhaps memories of an old ghoul friend.
A haunting we will go, in October, but first, take note: COVID conditions, weather, and other factors may alter schedules so check before visiting your favorite spooky destination. Also, some haunts might be a bit scary for young children, so use discretion. Read on to learn more about the best of Alabama’s things that go bump in the night.
Nightmare at 3008
1731 Decatur Highway, Fultondale
Nick and Lori Bryan’s Nightmare at 3008 is known as the “Haunt with a Heart.” Its charitable endeavors include a food drive on Nov. 4-5 with cash and canned items donated to Fultondale’s food bank. But the haunt with a heart makes yours beat faster.
The Nightmare includes two indoor main attractions and an outdoor trail. One theme is a post-apocalyptic underworld. Occupants seek refuge below earth from the blistered surface above. It is not going well.
In total, about 30 to 60 scary-costumed actors await your presence at Nightmare’s venues. Some are still alive. Characters in various states of goriness scream, moan, and shriek as you walk by, often briskly.
“We are a touch haunt,” says Lori. “But for guests not wanting to be touched, we offer chicken sticks.” Actors see the sticks and comply with its unspoken message, “do not touch me for I am chicken.”
3150 Lee St., Pelham
Pelham’s house of horror gave the heebie-jeebies to thousands last year. “We have a little of everything,” notes owner Jason Sills. Gruesomely costumed characters meander through 50 scenes of terrifying good times.
The merry mayhem occurs in a former lumber supply warehouse turned horror abode in 2013. As for the cast, these folks are not shy.
“We don’t want to invade people’s space but we are definitely in your face,” Jason says about the creature crew. Typically one walks through the facility in about 30 minutes – “or faster,” he laughs. “Depends on how fast you run.”
The signature attraction is Rigamortis – a traditional haunted house with high-tech special effects. Other venues include the 3D Experience, Escape Room, and Lights Out Lantern Night.
Pro tip: Visit with someone you can outrun. If monsters give chase, they will catch your friend first.
A Literary Nightmare In a Dark, Dark Wood
Ina Pullen Smallwood
224 Grant St., Chickasaw
How cool is it being immersed in a storybook, right? Not so fast.
For starters, these novels are authored by the likes of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. Tales of horror come to life with you in a supporting role.
A fundraiser for Chickasaw’s public library, past thrillers included such greats as The Fall of the House of Usher and Dracula. In recent years, guests met the incarcerated Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter, so jailed because he enjoys people of good taste, sometimes with ketchup.
Each scenario offers interactive and sometimes embellished scenes. One guide this year is Little Red Riding Hood, who leads the gullible (that would be you) to grandma’s house. But as Chickasaw Library’s Director and Operations Coordinator, Amber L. Johnson, says, “Little Red isn’t little anymore.”
Amber adds, “Red takes the approach, ‘if y’all end up being eaten by the Big Bad Wolf don’t blame me. You should have listened.’”
Other scenes include the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Pet Cemetery, and other tomes of terror. For those preferring a milder alternative, a hayride is offered through the friendly streets of Chickasaw, a Big Bad Wolf Free Zone.
Mountain Creek Trail of Fear
1802 County Road 23, Verbena
The woods of Verbena reveal many secrets along its path in the Mountain Creek Trail of Fear. Joe and Jackie Wilson’s ominous foot path and hayride have delighted and frightened thousands who keep coming back for more. “We want to scare people but as part of having a really good time,” notes Joe. His wife Jackie chuckles, “there’s a lot of spookies in the woods.”
Preparation begins in August for the October spectacle as laser lights, fog machines, and props are strategically placed for maximum boo factor. Trail of Fear is two segments: A walking trail where one strides and a hayride journey through creepiness. Both are chilling good times on 35 acres.
Encounters feature a maze, Clown Town, an old barn, doll house, tunnels, and other pursuits if you dare. The woods host many creatures along the path. Ready or not, here they come.
Spooktrail Haunted Maze
17327 Highway 269, Mile Marker 24
With 31 years in operation, Spooktrail Haunted Maze is one of the longest running fear factors of its kind in Alabama. Visitors also come from Tennessee, Mississippi, and elsewhere to unite for fright. They are not disappointed.
Site owner “Spook’’ explains the unwritten mission statement: “This is a quarter-mile long maze through the woods in an old junkyard and we try to scare you.” Mission accomplished.
The trail takes about 20 to 30 minutes. One meanders through a green forest on a black night. You are not alone but might wish you were.
Lurking nearby are an array of monsters and misfits. “We consider what we do here as a family haunt,” Spook says. “If you want your whole family scared, bring ’em in.”
The usual suspects are there – vampires, zombies, and goblins of note. Concerning intensity, Spook notes, “We try to customize the experience to the groups coming through,” – perhaps less intense for the timid. Spooktrail offers a discount to the adventure in exchange for a canned food item to benefit Forever and Always Patriots’ food pantry.
4051 US 72
Arx Mortis is one of the most detailed haunted houses in the U.S. The complex, including a 50,000-square-foot facility of monsters galore, is about 10 miles from Florence, in – wait for it – Killen, Alabama.
The detail and special effects rival Disney World’s. Sheri Grosso, who co-owns the hobgoblin-infested property with husband Vinny Grosso, explains, “Each room takes you through scenarios as the story unfolds.” Guests walk through dungeons, prison, insane asylums, cemeteries and evil doctors performing dubious experiments.
Two main venues are available. One features live actors. “It is rated 5 skulls in the fear factor,” says Sheri. The other is an encounter hosted by animatronics (think of Disney’s Hall of Presidents with fangs). “It’s scary too, but not as frightening as the live action,” adds the owner. ‘I’d give it a three to four skull rating.”
From funny to frightful, haunted adventures await discovery across Alabama. Be safe, have fun, and if things become too scary, wave your chicken stick.
The Haunted Chicken House
7522 Hwy 431
An ominous presence lures visitors to Heflin, Alabama. Behold, the Haunted Chicken House, where the cluck stops here.
Guests are lured to a flock of fright. Inside are costumed evil clowns, mad scientists, and swamp creatures of dubious character. They join forces for good times, a great scare, and live chickens.
Be warned, this is not poultry in peril. These yardbirds are not frightened. You are.
Eighteen rooms of horror, each with a different scene and theme, interact with the brood – your brood, not the chickens.’ “I’ve seen a 4-year-old girl laugh all the way through it,” recalls site owner Dan Hopkins. “I’ve also seen grown men tremble.”
Dan adds, “Last year was our best ever. We had over 13,000 visitors.” He advises, “come early.”
The closer to Halloween the larger the crowd, which enters the 440-foot long chicken coop one small group at a time, about 5 minutes apart.
The Haunted Chicken House is a fundraiser for the area’s emergency response team, Hollis Fire and Rescue.
Pope’s Haunted Farm
450 Lee Road 724
This east Alabama Halloween tradition celebrates its 28th year of “terror at every turn,” and owner Troy Pope and his team change it up every year.
The haunted hayride is about a mile and half long, with scary scenes and sets and state of the art animatronics. Then there’s a haunted barn, where 8-10 people go through without a guide; there’s also the haunted forest, outside through the woods, which features more “chicken outs” for those who can’t make it through, the website says.
Troy says it’s a “PG-13” kind of frightful, “but we try to make it as chilling and thrilling as we can.”
Why keep it going this long? Pope and his team have a passion for Halloween, he says, with great family and friends and people who come back every year. He says it takes about 180 people, including dozens of live actors, to put on the event, and the planning for it is year-round.