Haunted houses, corn mazes and forests abound in Metro Detroit, waiting to spook even the most steel-nerved among us.
“People like to be scared — but in a safe and sane environment,” says Ed Terebus, one of the co-owners of the popular Erebus Haunted Attraction in Pontiac. “When you walk in here, you know we’re going to get you or your friend. But you go home and everyone is OK. It’s like watching a horror movie, but you’re living the horror movie.”
Whether you’re looking for monsters, mutants and zombies or spiders, bats and vampires, you’ll find them at horror-themed venues across the metro area and beyond. Michigan ranks among the top states in the number of haunted attractions, says Cait Russell, content director for Haunted House Media Inc., whose websites offer comprehensive listing of haunted venues by state.
“There are many more haunts in Michigan than in a lot of other states,” she says. “It’s wild there are so many haunts in Michigan — you find everything from haunted trails, mazes, spook walks — even boats. Michigan has a huge variety of haunted attractions. And there’s real haunted places, too.”
Celebrating Halloween has become a monthlong tradition in Metro Detroit. You’ll find everything from over-the-top attractions like Erebus to traditional — though no less entertaining — celebrations at Greenfield Village to a variety of spooky entertainment on stage and screen and more.
Here’s an update on what the area’s leading attractions are offering this October and a selection of other horror-inspired events:
Look for a gigantic spider and oversized bat among the frightening new scares at Erebus Haunted Attraction, one of the largest venues of its kind in the country and a Halloween tradition in Metro Detroit for nearly 40 years.
The bat is more than 6-feet tall and boasts a 10-foot wingspan and is tapped to fly throughout the many levels at Erebus. The spider, 4-feet tall and 8-feet long, is poised to slide out its web and make contact with guests.
While the newcomers are bound to induce screams, there are many other terrifying experiences to turn at least some visitors as white as ghosts.
“What’s the scariest depends on what you’re scared of,” Terebus says. “Some people are afraid of spiders. Some are afraid of clowns. Some people are afraid of heights. Some are claustrophobic. Your fears are what scares you.”
One of the most dramatic, if not most memorable, reactions to one of the attraction’s experiences occurs in the “Buried Alive” room, where the doors close and playpen balls fill the room. Any movement causes the balls to nearly lock in place, preventing participants from maneuvering and creating a feeling of quicksand. The experience lasts about 40 seconds and is closely supervised.
“We had one 55-year-old guy come screaming out like a little girl,” Terebus recalls. “The guy was claustrophobic. He came out on all fours, tears running down his face. His buddies picked him up, laughing, and carried him away. For that guy, that was the scariest thing. He didn’t even realize it going in.”
There will be a few new fun thrills at Greenfield Village’s annual Hallowe’en, an event that began in the early 1980s and draws about 75,000 spectators each fall.
Joining the Headless Horsemen and other Halloween icons at the historic village will be characters from the beloved “The Wizard of Oz.” They’ll look more like the characters described in the 1920s books than the MGM movie.
Dorothy, for example, will wear silver slippers, not red. And the tin man’s metal body will look more beat up and worn, instead of the polished form he displayed in the movie. The Wizard will be projected on a wall in the Liberty Craftworks District, where the evening’s journey begins.
The traditional Halloween frights — ghosts, spirits, bats, owls and thousands of lit carved pumpkins — are part of the evening’s fun, as well. The stories and vignettes that unfold with real-life actors and readings explore Gothic and adventure literature and highlight the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. “Little Red Riding Hood” will be added the selection this year.
“We stick with traditional aspects of the holiday,” says Jim Johnson, curator of historic structures and landscapes at The Henry Ford.
What about real spooks in a village with some buildings a couple hundred years old?
“Well, that depends who you talk to,” Johnson says. “Everyone has experienced something that doesn’t quite seem right, whether it’s hearing footsteps or voices that shouldn’t be there. Our staff works late in the night doing stuff and it gets very quiet out there.”
One of the biggest Halloween events in Detroit — Theatre Bizarre — will take place at the mammoth Masonic Temple, where every hallway and every lobby is fittingly transformed into an an impromptu theatrical experience.
Dubbed “The Fortuitous Unfortunate,” immersive, intense performance experiences will be held two consecutive weekends. A Gala Masquerade will be held on Fridays. Revelers can enjoy an open bar, strolling gourmet dinner and a much smaller crowd than the Saturday party performances by Roxi D’Lite, Messer Chups and The Theatre Bizarre Orchestra.
“It’s magical, decadent, phantasmagorical and overwhelming. It’s immersion into a fully realized world where anything and everything can happen,” says John Dunivant, a Theatre Bizarre spokesman.
Theatre Bizarre features a Victorian ice cream parlor serving liquor-infused treats, a cinema offering vintage international erotica and horror; and a wild “Ghost Train” ride that occurs on the temple’s seventh floor. The popular fetish room has been expanded by 4,000 square feet this year.
In all, the event features five stages with 20 bands, two-dozen performance spaces, two grand ballrooms, dozens of strolling and aerial performers, burlesque stars and carnival games.
If Halloween-themed movies are more of a thrill, the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Marquis Theatre in Northville are looking to scare moviegoers with classic horror movies.
The Detroit Film Theatre will screen newly restored versions of the original “Night of the Living Dead,” “The Old Dark House,” and “The Crazies,” on the weekend of Oct. 27-29.
“Spooky Movies Nights” at the Marquis Theatre offers the right dose of spooky, fantasy and fun to celebrate the Halloween Season. The movie lineup features “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Hocus Pocus.”
This year marks the first time the historic theater has shown Halloween films (Christmas movies have been shown in December).
“Having movies during Halloween seemed like a natural fit because Northville is a big Halloween town,” says Jeanne Micallef, a spokeswoman for the event. “The movies provide an opportunity to celebrate the season with friends and family and see some of your favorites once again on the big screen.”
For the past six years, the Wayne County community has made skeletons the focal point of public art displays. More than 125 life-sized skeletons transform downtown Northville into a boney graveyard, with past characters including a construction worker, rock star, and another on a bended knee, proposing to his sweetheart.
“The skeleton display and the scary movies are just part of a monthlong celebration called October in the ‘Ville,” she says.
Skeletons are Alive and October in the Ville will run through through Oct. 31. For more information, visit downtownnorthville.com.
Michiganhauntedhouses.com offers a comprehensive list of haunted attractions, including houses, corn mazes, forests and more. The site is updated regularly.
Greg Tasker is a Michigan-based freelance writer.
Here’s a selection of spooky events in Metro Detroit:
Erebus Haunted Attraction is a four-story attraction in Pontiac. Thur.-Sun., Oct. 18-31, Nov. 3-4. $19-$28. 18 S. Perry St., Pontiac. (248) 332-7844. Hauntedpontiac.com.
Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village, the village will offer visitors traditional Halloween frights. Fri.-Sun., Oct. 19-22, 26-29. $16. The Henry Ford, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn. (313) 982-6001. Thehenryford.org.
The Haunted Forest, The Adventure Park at West Bloomfield. Suitable for the whole family, the event includes the “Terror Trail” and actors in frightening costumes. 7:30-10 p.m. Fri.-Sun., Oct. 20-22 and 27-29. $16. 6600 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield Township.
Halloween in Hollygrove, Michigan Renaissance Festival grounds. Festivities include pumpkin carving, Horton Horror Trail, zombie paintball, Time Warped Pub Crawl and more. 7 p.m. Oct. 21, 28. $15. 12600 Dixie Highway, Holly. (248) 634-5552.
Zoo Boo at the Detroit Zoo. Haunted hayrides, live entertainment, pumpkin carving and trick-or-treat trail. Fri.-Sun., Oct. 20-22. $10. Detroit Zoo, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak. (248) 541-5717. Detroitzoo.org.
Elsewhere: Halloween Ghosts and Goodies, Fri.-Sun., Oct. 20-22, 26-31. Enchanted forests, ghost train ride, treats, donuts, cider and more. $11. Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad, 6140 Bray Road, Flint. $11. (800) 648-7275. geneseecountyparks.org/crossroads-village/.
Theatre Bizzarre, Detroit’s biggest Halloween theatrical party. The Masonic of Detroit, Fri., Sat., Oct. 20-21. $95. 500 Temple, Detroit. (313) 982-5212. Theatrebizarre.com.
Crawl-o-ween, downtown Royal Oak. The inaugural “Night of the Crawling Dead” is a bar-hopping night at participating pubs and bars. 7-11 p.m. Oct. 21. $15. Crawl-o-ween-ro.com.
Monsters Ball, Fillmore Detroit. The Halloween celebration features DJs, live performers and stage entertainment, including stilt walkers, high wire aerialists, fortune tellers and more. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Oct. 28. $15; VIP, $50. 2115 Woodward, Detroit. monstersballdetroit.com.
Historic Eastside Cemeteries Tour, Detroit. Bike tour of scenic and historic cemeteries, including Forest Lawn, Bnai-David, Mt. Olivet and Sacred Heart of St. Mary. Includes a stop at the haunted Two-Way Inn, one of Detroit’s oldest bars. Noon, Oct. 28. $30, $40 with bike rental. Wheelhouse Detroit-Hamtramck, 9401 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck. Wheelhousedetroit.com.
‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ Landmark’s Main Art Theatre. The classic musical story of Brad and Janet returns. Midnight, Oct. 28 and 29. $7. 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak. (248) 542-5198.
‘Night of the Living Dead,’ ‘The Old Dark House’ and ‘The Crazies,’ Detroit Film Theatre, various showtimes, Oct. 27-29. $9.50. Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 833-7900. dia.org/visit/detroit-film-theatre.
Spooky Nights at the Marquis Theatre, Showings of “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Beetlejuice” and “Hocus Pocus.” 7 p.m. Sat., Oct. 21, 28 (each movie is shown on a separate night). $5. 135 E. Main St., Northville. (248) 349-8110.