Catch a Haunted House in Des Moines

The Des Moines haunted house market has shrunk a bit over the past few years. Gone is the long-running White Water University Ultimate Haunted House. The Ankeny Haunted Barn is taking a break this season after seven years of screams. While there are rumors of the return of The Slaughterhouse in 2017, it looks like the 2016 season will belong to just a few contenders:

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Multi Weekend commercial haunts:

Linn’s Supermarket Haunted House

Location: 3805 6th Ave, Des Moines IA 50313 (at Linn's Supermarket)
Nights of Operation: Oct 1, 7-8, 14-15, and 21-31, 2016 (16 nights).
Admission: $14 ($10 using a coupon for the first two weekends).

Details: For more than 30 years, Merlyn Linn has been operating this classic haunted house in the basement of his grocery store. Last year, the fate of the supermarket was in question, as was the haunt. Luckily, it survived and will return this year to offer the “Scariest Night Ever.” While the supermarket itself may now be under different management, Merlyn has retained the rights to haunt the basement for years to come.

Linn’s forgoes the gore and heavy metal of many modern haunted houses and instead relies on darkness and sudden surprises. All the classic elements are expected to return, from the long, dark, claustrophobic crawlway at the start (which makes many chicken out right then and there), to the chainsaw wielding clowns. (Wait. Forget we mentioned the clowns. Nobody likes clowns.) It also has a secret room that not every group will be “lucky” enough to visit… or escape from.

Linn’s will also have the most actors, longest duration, and operate the most nights of any single haunt in the metro this year. It also has the lowest ticket price ($10 with coupon on the first two weekends) of any multi-weekend haunt around.

Sleepy Hollow Sleepy Hollow inside

Sleepy Hollow Haunted Scream Park

Location: 4051 Dean Ave, Des Moines IA 50317 (East of the Iowa State Fairgrounds)
Nights: Oct 7-8, 14-15, 20-23, and 27-31, 2016 (12 nights).
Admission: $38 (5 haunts + Zombie Paintball ride); $28.50 (5 haunts); $24.50 (3 haunts); $21 (Zombie Paintball ride only).

Details: Over the past 20+ years, Sleepy Hollow has grown from one small haunted house in their ski lodge to a complete Halloween theme park, offering an all-evening experience similar to what you might find at Worlds of Fun or Valleyfair. One ticket gives access to multiple haunted houses, plus includes a number of other bonus attractions.

The big news this year is the addition of “more than 50 new effects” around the park. These include physical effects (animatronics), lighting, sound, and projections. Also new is a time based ticketing system. While a ticket package allows access to the entire village all evening, each ticket will now be sold with a two-hour window where you can visit the main haunted houses with reduced wait times. Due to selling out many nights last year, online advanced ticket purchase is highly recommended. It’s also a way to save money; online tickets are cheaper earlier in the season and on non-peak nights, versus paying full price at the gate and waiting in a potentially huge line just to get in.

Sleepy Hollow Sleepy Hollow

New this year is 13 Gates Maze, the largest and most elaborate maze they have ever built. It is one of the free bonus attractions included with any ticket package. Also new is Infection: Laser Tag. Using brand new equipment, this will be an 8-minute game like no other where the object is to hunt down and “tag” other players and “infect” them. This one is has a $5 additional cost.

As far as the actual haunts go, there will be five: Castle of Blood: a very theatrical haunt full of vampires in the large castle built for the Renaissance faire, Chaos: heavy metal music and the most intense strobe lights you will find, Freak Show: the huge clown and carnival-themed haunted walk that debuted in 2015, Nightmare Estates: the creepiest double wide trailer you will ever visit, and the now-classic Twisted Tales: The Next Chapter: fairy tales gone wrong haunted walk.

Last year’s Black Ops: Zombie Paintball Ride will be back. Two large school buses have been heavily modified with computerized lights, audio system, side-facing seats and mounted paintball guns in each window. During the ride through what was once the Sleepy Hollow golf course, guests get to shoot paintballs at props, automated targets, and human zombies, all using special customized paintball guns and paintballs that glow under the high intensity backlights mounted all over the bus. This one is a complete custom-built attraction, right down to using specialized parts created by a 3-D printer.

A few more bonus attractions return. After a year away, Club Blood returns. It is a vampire themed “dance club” with music and a giant video screen. The 3-D Gallery: Aliens Attack is also back, where you put on a special pair of effect glasses and walk through various dayglow rooms with alien props and some effects.

The scream park will also have various food and drink locations and new merchants offering items for sale this year, and promises other surprises yet to be announced.

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Community haunted houses and home haunts:

Fright Manor (Home Haunt)

Location: 4102 138th St, Urbandale, IA 50323
Nights: Oct 30-31, 2016 (2 nights only). 6pm-9pm.
Admission: Free, but they usually collect donations for a local animal shelter.
Details: These folks formerly ran their haunt when they lived in Kansas City. This will be their first one in Des Moines.

Fright Manor fright manor fright manor

Grimes Haunted Garage (Home Haunt)

Location: 612 NE 13 St, Grimes, IA 50111
Nights: Oct 29 and 31, 2016 (2 nights only).
Admission: Free, but they accept a canned good donation for the food pantry.
Details: For the last five years, this family has been turning their three-car garage (and sometimes backyard) into a free haunted house. The kids in the neighborhood love it, and it can pack quite a few screams into the small space. They redesign it every year.

Waukee Halloween Haunted House

Location: Centennial Park, Waukee, IA 50263
Nights: Oct 28-29, 2016 (2 nights only).
Admission: $5 ($1 less if you bring a nonperishable food donation for the Waukee Area Food Pantry).
Details: The City of Waukee has been doing this community haunted house around Halloween weekend for many years. They warn that it is “not suggested for young children”.


Zombie Hollow (Home Haunt)

Location: 3109 Pine Circle, Urbandale, IA 50322
Nights: Oct 28-30, 2016 (3 nights only).
Admission: Free, but donations to Sentinels of Freedom are appreciated.
Details: Lew Jordan and his friends and family put on the most elaborate family-friendly yard haunt (front, side and back) anywhere in the metroplex. It features zombiefied recreations of scenes from Disney’s Haunted Mansion and Pirates or the Caribbean, as well as other tributes such as Harry Potter, villains of Scooby Doo, and more. Virtually everything is home built, including all the animatronics and special effects. There is even a pirate ship with singing zombie skeletons on it, “firing” cannonballs in to the nearby “lake.” Out of all the Halloween things to see this year, this should be on your list. Not even the biggest commercial haunts in town come close to the eye candy this place has.

Zombie Hollow zombie hollow

Some Tips:

With less haunted houses operating this year, it should be even busier on peak weekends. Last year, some haunts reported as long as two hour waits (and one exceeded an hour long wait just to buy tickets to get in!). Go early in the season, or on an off-peak night like a Thursday or Sunday if the haunt offers it. If possible, buy your tickets online to guarantee entry on the night you plan to go.

Check with the haunt’s Facebook page before you head out. Many haunts operate outdoors and may not fully run (if at all) if the weather is bad.

Wear clothing appropriate for waiting outside, and footwear for walking outside (mud, dirt, etc.) and always heed all warning signs. While some attractions are fun, self-paced walkthroughs, others are intense and shocking with ramps, stairs and crawling.

But most of all… be prepared to scream. #CATCHdsm


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