13 of Iowa’s Scariest Haunted Houses and Creepy Attractions of 2023

By Guest Post

October 11, 2023

By Katie Mills Giorgio, Starting Line contributor

Spooky season is officially here, and if you’re the type of Iowan who likes a good scare, we’ve got you covered.

This list of 13 haunted houses around the state of Iowa is sure to freak you out. Located throughout the state, these awfully frightful attractions will leave you screaming all the way home. Click through to their websites—if you dare.

“Witch”-ever haunted attraction you choose, enter at your own risk.

Eastern Iowa

The Heart of Darkness, Waterloo

When: Oct. 6-29 (Thursdays and Sundays 7-10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 7-11 p.m.)

Cost: $20-$30

Plan to visit The Heart of Darkness in Waterloo this year. It’s sure to be a shocker as this is their 20th year striking fear in the hearts of Iowans in and around Blackhawk County.

There are 13 themed fright areas to explore in this haunted complex, including Darkhold Castle, Creeper’s Bus, Claustrophobia Black Out Maze, Jack-o-Lantern Lane, 3D Killer Circus, Goblins Lair, Salem’s Coven, and Grizzly’s Chainsaw Massacre—just to name a few. There are also concessions and a live DJ on Friday and Saturday nights to help you dance out those jitters.

Wrenwood Haunt, Waterloo

When: October 27-31, 5:30-10 p.m.

Cost: Free, donations accepted

Plan to get freaked out for a good cause at Wrenwood Haunt in Waterloo. This free haunted attraction is a fundraiser for the Cedar Bend Humane Society, so donations are highly encouraged.

This particular attraction is sure to bring the fear for adults with a terrifying outdoor walk-through experience, but also features a less-frightful-but-also-haunted cemetery walk-through for children. There’s also trick-or-treating with costumed characters handing out candy, so you can make a visit with the whole family and decide who’s ready for what level of fright upon arrival.

Harris Haven Haunted Funeral Home, Evansdale

When: October 6-31 (Fridays and Saturdays 7-10:30 p.m., Sundays and weeknights 7-10 p.m., Halloween Night 8-10:30 p.m.)

Cost: $15

Harris Haven Haunted Funeral Home claims to bury the competition—see what they did there? Make your way through this frightening attraction and just hope you find your way out alive.

This year the basement of the house is open for haunting as well, so you’ll find yourself going underground one way or another.

Circle of Ash, Central City

When: Sept. 30-Oct. 29 (Thursdays 8-10 p.m., Fridays 8 p.m.-midnight, Saturdays 7 p.m.-midnight, Sundays 7-10 p.m.)

Cost: $25-$70

Circle up your crew and get ready for a frightening night in Central City.

There are three different attractions to creep through at Circle of Ash: a traditional indoor-style haunted house, a walkthrough funhouse maze filled with terrorizing clowns, and a haunted forest brimming with monsters. This popular attraction in eastern Iowa gets pretty busy, so if you are limited on time, you might want to consider paying for a fast pass to help skip the lines. VIP tickets allow you to not only skip the lines but go through each attraction as many times as you’d like.

Scream Acres, Atkins

When: Oct. 6-28 (Fridays and Saturdays 6:30-10 p.m.)

Cost: $34-$46

With this many acres, nobody will hear you scream.

Located within Bloomsbury Farm (by day, a not-so-scary fall theme park that’s worth an autumn visit), this haunted destination features four attractions for one admission price. There’s the Slaughterhouse, Cell Block Z, Haunted Corn Maze, and 3D Sinister Silo, making Scream Acres one of the creepiest farms in the state. Plus, there’s a beer garden for those over 21 who want to grab a drink before the haunting begins—or to help recover from the experience.

Eclypse Haunted Attractions, Iowa City

When: Oct. 6-31 (Fridays and Saturdays 6:30-11 p.m., Thursdays and Sundays 6:30-9 p.m.)

Cost: $25-$40

Eclypse claims to be Iowa’s most evil haunted attraction, so come prepared to face the wrath, as this park utilizes less common illusions and tricks to optimize the frightening experience. They also sell fast passes to skip the lines and season passes if you don’t get enough of a scare on your first visit.

If you are up for a truly terrifying experience, check out the Black Out Lights Out nights on Oct. 19 and 26, during which you wander through the attraction guided only by an unreliable flashlight.

Thrashers House of Terror, Mount Pleasant

13 of Iowa's Scariest Haunted Houses and Creepy Attractions of 2023

(image from https://www.thrashershouseofterror.com/about/)

When: Oct. 5-28 (Thursdays 6:30-10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 6 p.m.-midnight)

Cost: $15-$25

If you find yourself looking for a fright in southeast Iowa, stop by Thrasher’s House of Terror.

This haunted attraction has been around for 17 years and changes things up annually, from clowns to mad doctors and other freaky features. Run fully by volunteers, this 12,000-square-foot haunted attraction is a fundraiser for the Midwest Old Threshers. So get your dose of terror and support a local nonprofit organization while you go screaming into the night.

Central Iowa

The Slaughterhouse, Des Moines

When: Oct. 6-29 (Thursdays and Sundays 7-9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 7-11 p.m.)

Cost: $25-$30

It’s the year of the slayer and The Slaughterhouse haunted attraction in Des Moines has an experience you won’t soon be able to forget.

This industrial-inspired haunt in an old packing plant promises to bring sheer terror to anyone who dares enter. The elaborate backstory will be appreciated by true-crime lovers as well. Grab regular admission tickets or VIP tickets to skip the line. Either way, be ready to run for your life.

Tormented Souls Haunt and Scream Park, Madrid

When: Oct. 6-28 (Fridays and Saturdays 7:15-10 p.m.)

Cost: $22-$46

Nothing is quite so creepy as a haunted attraction in the middle of the Iowa countryside. That’s why Tormented Souls Haunt and Scream Park is particularly terrifying.

On the 22-acre site, you’ll find demons, zombies, spirits, and mayhem. It starts with a ride on the Terror Bus (truly the only way in and out) before you brave your way through the haunted maze in the woods. A fun addition for the trigger happy: Do some zombie hunting in the zombie apocalypse paintball course—just don’t become the midnight snack.

Barnum: Circus of Freaks, Des Moines

When: Oct. 6-29 (Fridays and Saturdays 7:30-11 p.m.)

Cost: $25-45

Don’t lose your head, but there’s a new haunted attraction in town and it promises to be a real creepy circus.

Barnum: Circus of Freaks in Des Moines promises to be a freak show not for the faint of heart. Snag a regular admission ticket or a fast pass to skip the line. Either way, you’ll be sure to get your fill of freaky frights.

Western Iowa

Jaycees Feargrounds, Sioux Falls, S.D.

When: Oct. 13-31 (Thursdays-Fridays 7-9 p.m., Saturdays and Halloween 7-10 p.m.)

Cost: $12-$22

Just across Iowa’s western border from Sioux City is the Jaycees Feargrounds, the group’s largest fundraiser for the year and one of the longest running (since 1974!).

Face your fear of clowns with this year’s scare: 50 Years of Fear: Circus of Horrors. Come for Kids Day on Oct. 22 for a non-scary trick-or-treat maze from 2-4 p.m., or up the scare factor on Blackout Night Oct. 26, where you get one finger LED to navigate the haunted house.

Madness Haunted House, Council Bluffs

When: Sept. 22-Oct. 31 (Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 p.m.-midnight, Thursdays, Sundays and Oct. 30-31 7:30-10 p.m.)

Cost: $20-$40

Voted “Scariest Haunt in Omaha” (and it’s not even in Nebraska), Madness Haunted House in Council Bluffs also gives back to charity, in case you were worried you’d get the bejeezus scared out of you for nothing.

Try your luck at Klown Korner, with multiple rooms, 30 doors, five or more clowns and only one exit. Admission is $20, though $30 gives you VIP fast pass access and $40 gets you right in the door without waiting.

Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca

When: year-round Tuesdays through Sundays, 1-4 pm.

Cost: Day tours $10, overnights starting at $428

On June 10, 1912, someone bludgeoned the entire family of Josiah Moore and two overnight guests to death in this quaint farmhouse in the middle of central Iowa. This unsolved mystery has haunted the town since.

Today, paranormal activity is reported in and around the house, which has become a popular destination for those looking for a fright inspired by real-life atrocities. You can take a daytime tour or, if you are feeling up for a truly unique and creepy experience, pay to stay overnight in the home. Sweet dreams!

Starting Line’s Amie Rivers contributed to this report.

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