Creeps and Freaks: 8/10 Actors use the crushed spaces to their advantage, creeping close to you. Closer. Even closer — until you bolt.

Psych Trauma: 5/10 The "actually haunted" historical premise sticks with you.

Production: 8/10 The erstwhile Lemp brewery is naturally eerie, sinister and filled with shadows from a bygone era. Try to keep your knees from buckling.

Steve Truesdell

Pros: Period costumes and fantastically creative characters make Lemp's army of ghouls stand out from the pack.

Cons: It's all over too quickly. You can make your way through in 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Crystal City Underground -- Haunted Maze and Barge Ride
700 Crystal Avenue, Crystal City
$15 to $30 for haunted maze, $15 to $30 for haunted barge

Crystal City Underground inhabits the gargantuan insides of a shuttered sandstone mine in Crystal City. Its entrance is a gaping black mouth filled with chilled air. (Bring a jacket.) Some 200 subterranean acres vast, the cave splits into catacomblike passages. One path leads to a deathly still lake upon which the haunted barge floats. You can buy drinks at the bar (yes, there is also a bar in the cave) to take on the spooky boat trip. Down another passageway is the underground maze. Though simply constructed with tarps and solid dividers, things turn downright nightmarish once you try to flee undead children and ax-swinging thugs. It's running on the sand that makes the experience resemble your oldest, worst dream come to life — you're being chased and you're not moving fast enough and whatever is chasing you is getting closer.

Pulse rate: 9/10 The maze is a panic-fueled workout, make no mistake. At least try to keep it together past the third dead end or everyone will think you're a wuss.

Blood, Gore and More: 5/10 A fair share of gouged faces await you in the maze, but graphic violence doesn't have much prominence here.

Creeps and Freaks: 6/10 Composed of high school students and one (extremely disturbing) little girl, the cast of fiends amply motivates you to make it back to the bar.

Psych Trauma: 4/10 The barge ride holds few thrills and is mainly an opportunity to explore the underground lake. The darkness is ominous, sure, but it's pretty tame.

Production: 9/10 The sheer scale of the cave can elicit a deep pang of existential doubt within even the heartiest visitor. The mine is a giant coffin.

Pros: Every haunted house should have a full bar.

Cons: Seriously, bring a jacket. It's always about 50 degrees inside the cave regardless of the weather outside.

2. Creepyworld
1400 South Old Highway 141, Fenton
$23 to $25

Creepyworld is a plague-riddled theme park spread over five acres in Fenton. Whereas Lemp is cramped and claustrophobic, Creepyworld is wide open under the night sky. This is a true Halloween attraction, with ten differently themed haunts, 70-plus actors and ample room for them to chase you with power tools. Seeing all Creepyworld has to offer takes close to an hour: There's a zombie-filled army base, a hillbilly farm right out of The Hills Have Eyes and a Gothic mansion strewn with cobwebs and severed limbs. Escaped mental patients scramble on the ground grasping for your ankles, and there is a visceral sense of relief when you finally emerge from a fog-choked slaughterhouse into clear night air.

Pulse Rate: 8/10 Beware the open areas — disfigured, chainsaw-wielding psychos will chase you doggedly until you locate the exit. The sound of that snarling, gas-powered machine moving closer in the dark will get your legs moving and your hands shaking.

Blood, Gore and More: 9/10 Creepyworld is fully stocked with realistic, wet-looking wounds, piles of limbs and blood — so much blood.

Creeps and Freaks: 8/10 Predators abound here. Whether they're cackling hillbillies or deformed mutants, they send a clear message: This is a hunt. You are the prey.

Psych Trauma: 6/10 The downtime between the separate, themed zones saps some of the tension, though most visitors will appreciate the chance to catch their breath.

Production: 9/10 With crisp wind in your face and the stars above, Creepyworld is a carnival of horrors so vivid you'd swear it was dragged into reality from an R.L. Stine novel.

Pros: The jagged panic of being chased doesn't dull, and a herd of cast members vie to keep you on your toes.

Cons: The interior spaces can be especially stuffy and hot.

1. The Darkness
1525 South Eighth Street
$23 to $25

There is no haunted "attraction," house or otherwise, like the Darkness. Contained in a two-story Soulard warehouse, the Darkness is a blend of astonishing gore and violence working in concert with animatronic monsters that burst out of walls with groping arms and snapping jaws. It's a blood-washed art gallery — a "showroom," as owner Larry Kirchner calls it, and the millions of dollars he has invested to improve it over the past twenty years have made the Darkness one of the best haunted houses in the country.

Laid out like a madman's labyrinth, its hallways and rooms are bathed in green-lit fog, and there is always something or someone behind you. Or maybe beneath you. Not content with merely fraying nerves, the Darkness pummels them like a boxer working a speed bag: Jets of air shoot from walls, floor panels shift and secret passages allow actors to burst out from one corner only to reappear seconds later around the next. That's called the "double scare," and it's unsettling, confusing and wrecks any sense of control you thought you had. You are at the mercy of the Darkness.

« Previous Page
Next Page »