Americans love Halloween. According to the most recent available statistics, over 148 million Americans celebrated the spooky holiday in 2020. All these people spent more than $8 billion on pumpkins, dime-store costumes, and drugstore hair dye. But America’s love for Halloween goes beyond spreading a few fake cobwebs around the house and propping up a highly coveted 12-foot skeleton in your front lawn. Americans also love going to scary attractions during the spooky season.
Image by Rondell Melling
Aside from the usual thrills, America’s love for the scary holiday stems from its storied history in the country. Now that Halloween has passed, it’s time to learn more about its history in the United States and examine a few of America’s favorite Halloween attractions.
Halloween and America
Halloween came to America in the 1800s, brought across the Atlantic by European immigrants. However, it wasn’t until the Irish American immigration boom that the holiday really took off. Over the next decades, Halloween slowly became a staple of American life, but it would still have been unrecognizable to modern celebrators.
Halloween, as Americans know it today, wasn’t codified until the early 1930s, during the throes of the Great Depression. Before then, boys and young men celebrated Halloween with pranks, some of which could get out of hand. But in the Halloween of 1933, possibly exacerbated by the economic hardships of the Depression, hundreds of adolescent boys across the country engaged in dangerous acts of vandalism. In multiple cities across the United States, young men reportedly turned over cars, hacked down telephone poles, and did other damaging pranks. This night was referred to as “Black Halloween.”
Following this destructive rampage, parents and committees across the nation agreed there needed to be supervised ways kids can have their Halloween fun. Thus began the noble tradition of trick-or-treating. Another way parents entertained children on this spooky evening was by setting up haunted attractions.
Thanks to the efforts of parents and other people in the 1930s, people started building haunted houses and the like during Halloween. Today, spooky attractions draw in thousands of people and make millions of dollars when the end of October comes around. So what are some of America’s favorite scary attractions?
America’s Favorite Spooky Attractions
America’s different populations and landscapes have enabled it to generate a dizzying amount of haunted attractions. Some can only be replicated in certain places, such as an actual cornfield, while some are more universal. Take a look at the scary attractions America knows and loves.
Halloween was primarily a harvest festival and it’s no surprise that farms and other agricultural areas like to celebrate it in style. Perhaps the most famous attraction a spooky farm can set up is a haunted hayride. These journeys, enjoyed from the cozy embrace of a few bales of hay, take you on tours of dark farms and fields, with thrills such as costumed actors leaping out of the brush or scary phenomenon plaguing your tractor as it plows through a dark barn. Haunted farms and hayrides are enormous fun for the whole family. And you can also buy your pumpkins and other delicious produce from these establishments.
The oldest kind of haunted attraction remains one of the most successful. Haunted houses started as community efforts, with parents volunteering to decorate homes and make them as scary as possible. Over the years, haunted houses became an industry, eventually turning into a multimillion-dollar industry. In 2013, the haunted house industry raked in more than $300 million a year.
Haunted houses have evolved as well, some employing more than just costumed characters. Advanced haunted houses often come with animatronic horrors and even projected terrors. Some are inspired by classic Halloween offerings such as ghosts and vampires while others draw from commercial terrors like zombies or copyrighted characters. Haunted houses remain one of the most versatile of Halloween attractions.
Once again, you can experience horror in the heartland thanks to the eerie vibes of towering corn stalks. Cornfield mazes don’t necessarily have to be Halloween attractions, but there’s something unsettling about being lost in a twisting corridor of corn. Every rustle of the stalks and flitting shadow through the maze can seem eerier than any corridor. Cornfield mazes are a staple of autumn festivals beyond big cities, and they can provide a wholesome experience by day or become a bone-chilling attraction at sundown.
Although not exactly a Halloween-only experience, escape rooms have surged in popularity in recent years. The first escape rooms weren’t even physical experiences. Instead, they were point-and-click computer games where players attempted to break out of a series of rooms through puzzles. The first real-life escape room was opened in Japan in 2007. From there, it spread throughout the globe and reached America. Today, there are hundreds of escape room establishments in the United States. Most of them have appropriately spooky themes such as zombie apocalypses, evil ghosts, or demonic hauntings to keep players terrified. They make a great addition to America’s roster of adopted Halloween attractions.
The spooky season may be over for now, but the best thing about Halloween is that it will rise again next year. When it comes around again, hopefully, you’ll have a fuller appreciation and more knowledge of its roots and nuances. Until then, Happy Halloween.