As the Halloween season comes around again, we all begin looking for that spooky experience. Wisconsin offers it all, from the spine-tingling-terrifying that haunts you for days to family-friendly spooks that won’t keep the kids awake at night. A burial simulator? Taking on the advancing zombie apocalypse with a paintball gun? There’s something new every year as scaremasters attempt to outdo each other. Here are a few of the tried-and-true options.
While it shouldn’t surprise you that the bigger cities – Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay – offer seasonal scare factories, even many of the smaller towns get in on the fun, decking out houses and barns with ghouls and gore to get your heart skipping beats.
Wisconsin Scaryland occupies a former meat-packing plant posing convincingly as an abandoned insane asylum just north of Madison. Dead and Breakfast? Manitowoc’s Dead by Dawn allows you to stay overnight – notice I didn’t say “sleep.”
The Deer District – the neighborhood of the Milwaukee Bucks – becomes the Fear District during the weeks leading up to Halloween. Expect a haunted house and spooky films – kid-friendly by day, not so much by night.
There’s nothing like a real ghost story, and Wisconsin has no shortage of tales and tellers of them. Don’t miss the Door County Trolley’s “Trolley of the Doomed” tour for stories and stops at haunted locations. The Dells Ghost Boat heads up the Wisconsin River at dusk.
Milwaukee, Madison, Lake Geneva, Waukesha – all of them have popular ghost-inspired walking tours. Consider your own tour: get a copy of "Haunted Wisconsin" by Michael Norman and road trip to some of the true paranormal locations of Wisconsin.
Check your local listings when area cinemas typically roll out the reels for some old-school horror. From Michael Myers to Jason or even some audience participation with a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Watch for matinees with lighter stories such as animation for the whole family. Marcus Theatres schedules October Fright Nights with several different horror flicks featured throughout the month. Costumes optional.
Caspar the Friendly Ghost would approve. Pumpkin patches are obviously a go-to and many of those same farms host haunted hayrides or corn mazes. Meadowbrook Pumpkin Farm & Market does a daytime haunted corn maze – nothing gory or startling.
Watch for daylight trick or treat events or costume parties at city zoos, farmers markets, and more. Madison’s Children’s Museum hosts 13 Days of Halloween with Halloween crafts, themed events, and more. Visit Old World Wisconsin for history with a spooky twist when they open for “Halloween Legends and Lore,” featuring members of Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance.
Looking for an even bigger scare? Pack your bags for a stay at one of Wisconsin's haunted historic hotels.