New, extreme scare tactics are making this year’s haunted attractions more frightening than ever.

Terror Behind The Walls - Eastern State Penitentiary
Credit: Randall Wise

That first crisp gust of October air brings with it an inevitable craving for all things pumpkin spice and, for some, the insatiable desire to have the pants scared off of them in one of the country’s many haunted attractions.

While creepy mazes and haunted houses are nothing new, the scare industry manages to find terrifyingly innovative ways to make their attractions even scarier with each passing year. 2017 is no different, with a few truly frightening trends dominating haunted attractions across the U.S. in the lead-up to Halloween.

According to The Haunted Attraction Association (HAA), the only official association of the haunted attraction industry, this year’s most popular haunted trends center on sensory deprivation and personalized, interactive experiences.

“Attractions have created terrifying experiences for visitors and realized that with the more they added, the thrills could be enhanced further by what they take away – and that’s the ability to see,” said John Eslich, President of HAA. “On the other end of it, the addition of touching elevates the scare to another dimension.”

“We anticipate the continued trend of guests wanting a more interactive experience as the line between horror movies and entertainment continues to blur with haunted attractions,” Frightland Haunted Attractions Marketing Director Kyle McMahon added.

These types of trends point to guests’ desire for more intense, realistic experiences, and the results are nothing short of horrifying. For instance, this year’s offerings include the opportunity to be blindfolded and hooded, then left alone in total darkness at the mercy of the attractions' actors (who are eager to physically interact with participants). Thrill-seekers can also get more personalized experiences as they attempt to break out of a full-sized prison or survive the night alone in a haunted hotel. They can even engage in a zombie paintball hunt or attempt to navigate a haunted forest by the light of one flashlight.

Immersive attractions are also growing in size, with entire towns, farms, and state penitentiaries being transformed into extreme scare zones across the U.S. And while these terrifying experiences may not be for everyone, the HAA predicts that such intense, adults-only frights will keep fearless patrons coming back for more.

If simulated scares aren't your thing, some of the world's most haunted real-life locations might be worthy of a vacation all their own, from a haunted quarantine island off the coast of Venice to a ghost-ridden ship docked in California. But, before you set off in search of paranormal activity, remember: you've been warned.