Did you know that voluntary scary experiences increase your mood? This is especially true for those who are challenging or facing their fear when they enter a haunted house or other scary attraction.
That’s according to a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh anyway. Their study suggests scaring yourself on purpose has a similar effect to a runner’s high, which occurs after a runner pushes hard releasing chemicals in the body—called endorphins—that increase mood.
We don’t know how much weight this study holds or if haunted attractions really improve your mood. But we do know they can be fun for many.
Here are some haunted attractions in Des Moines and throughout the state, where you can scare yourself senseless, but first, a couple of caveats:
- Autumn weather in the Midwest can be wonky and not all attractions are rain and shine. Make sure to check the attraction’s website or social media before driving a long distance to get your scare on.
- Haunted attractions are popular and only happen in October. The best ones sell out, especially on weekends. Consider visiting during the week or ordering tickets online before you go, so you aren’t disappointed.
- We’ve included the scariest places on this list and they are most definitely not suited for young children. Some haunted attractions have strict age restrictions or require those under a certain age are accompanied by an adult. Check the rules before you go to make sure everyone is old enough to enter.
Slaughterhouse Haunted Attraction, Des Moines
500 Locust St., Des Moines, IA
Open Thurs. and Sun. 7 p.m to 10 p.m.
Admission: $25, Fri. and Sat., 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., $30
The narrative around the Slaughterhouse puts it among Iowa’s scariest haunted attractions. The story of the Slaughterhouse centers around the history of the Biggs Family, who were cannibals that started in Tennessee and moved to Iowa. If you are really brave, let them lock you in one of their escape rooms.
Sleepy Hollow’s Haunted Theme Park, Des Moines
4051 Dean Ave., Des Moines, IA
Open Oct. 14-15, Oct. 21-23, Oct. 27-30, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Admission: No admission after 10:30 p.m., $28 and up
Sleepy Hollow provides a buffet of scares for visitors. With more than six haunted attractions inside the park, and growing every year, you are sure to find the fright that forces you to check your pants. You can walk through the Freak Show, Castle of Blood, Funeral Home Nightmares, and play zombie paintball, plus a lot more before checking out their food vendors.
Linn’s Haunted House, Des Moines
3805 6th Ave., Des Moines, IA
Open Oct. 14-15, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., Oct. 21-22, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., Oct 23 and 27, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Oct. 28-29, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., Oct. 30-31, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Admission: $20 per person
Located in the basement of Linn’s Supermarket, Linn’s Haunted House has been a staple scary stop in October since 1984. Visitors crawl through tunnels and feel their way through pitch-black hallways as they explore dozens of frightful horror scenes. The owners pride themselves on using suspense and startling visitors instead relying on blood and gore, making it exceptionally scary.
Haunted Forest, Ames
1400 S. 4th St., Ames, IA
Open 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. nights in October, $25 (cash only)
You might think about skipping the Haunted Forest because of their websites’s cheesy backstory about “Vincent,” the Phantom of Bijou, but don’t. The Haunted Forest will scare the bejeezus out of you for the full 30-minute walk through the woods. You might even find out you are a strong runner as you meander through the scary scenes.
Scream Acres, Atkins
3260 69th St., Atkins, IA
Oct. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, & 29, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Admission: $43.95 at the gate, $36.95 online
Your admission to Scream Acres gives you access to four creepy and scary attractions, including The Slaughterhouse, Cell Block Z, 3D Sinister Silo, and the Haunted Corn Maze. If you make it out of the corn maze alive and you’re over 21, you can catch your breath and have a beer at Bloomsbury Farm’s Beer Garden.
Scare Central, Sioux City
1229 4th St., Sioux City, IA
Open weekends in October, Fri. and Sat. 6:30 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sun. and Halloween 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Admission: $12 per attraction or $20 for both
Sioux City’s Scare Central offers two different mega-scare experiences, some of the best in this area of Iowa. The first, Nightmare of 4th Street, is 5,000 square feet of live actors, special effects, and frightful monsters. The Fear Factory is your encounter with human flesh-eating zombies.
The 5th Realm, Cedar Rapids
4444 1st Ave. NE Ste 0001, Cedar Rapids, IA
Open Thurs. to Sun. through October, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat., 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thurs. and Sun.
Admission: $15 and up
If scary medical facility settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and sanitoriums give you nightmares and delightfully scare the heck out of you, you will love The 5th Realm. Their attraction includes two parts: the haunted house and Cedar Hills Sanitorium. The haunted house area includes an exploration of the monsters behind the problems at Cedar Hills, so by the end of your tour, you can connect the two.
by Jessica Lee
Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.