Halloween is about the only time of the year when fear equals fun. There’s just something about getting the crap scared out of you so bad that you nearly jump out of your skin. Normally we avoid the sensation, but come October, fear seekers come out to play and Long Island has a plethora of haunted houses, trails and corn mazes. We feature two on the South Shore with a sidebar of a few additional frightful spots in our county.
Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse
When it comes to being a willing participant in venturing inside a haunted house with the goal of getting scared, it helps when those doing the startling are effective. It’s a show, which calls for actors. The sets, makeup, costumes and all the minor details matter, so it helps when you have a professional production company used to putting on plays behind the scenes making it all happen. From a production standpoint, Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse is just what the (mad) doctor ordered.
But they also better deliver the fright and this haunted house does. Once you enter the house, a creepy storyline keeps you interested as you feel your way through the dark, the anticipation of the next scare making your heart race, until pow, some monster screams in your face, strobe lights flash, a spark of fire flashes, the floor moves, then it all goes dark again till you make it to the next room. You feel the room fill with fog and then… what the hell is that smell?
One of the signature features of this house is the smells. Sometimes recognizable (hospital?), sometimes not. (As in what the hell is that smell?) They put a lot of work into the production to make it a feast for all the senses. Along with the smells and various bloody, cruddy, muddy puddles and pools lying about, both on and off the actors, it’s the set designs and costumes that make Gateway one of the top haunted houses on Long Island. Scenes are decorated with precise attention to detail. Ditto the makeup and costumes on all the monsters, killers, clowns, sometimes killer monster clowns.
After about a half hour of feeling your way through near seizure inducing strobe lights interrupted by periods of the darkest dark, then more strobe lights, you’ll finally find the cool air outside back to where you started when you were waiting for your group to be called. There you can find drinks (real drinks, not just soda) and food in the outdoor bar area, a dj will spin some tunes (or blast some noise depending on your perspective and age), a dance floor and some of the various characters, monsters, little ghoulish children running around entertaining the audience.
Catch the fire breather (or maybe just watch) or get your fortune told by a gypsy soothsayer. And who hasn’t dreamt of being buried alive? What do you mean those are nightmares? For five bucks, you can take a coffin ride and experience what it’s like to go six feet under. Best part is all participants are guaranteed to rise from the grave, Lazarus risen you might say.
NextStop Tip: It sucks to know when a scare is coming up, so do your best to walk slow at first and get some space between you and the group ahead of you. You’ll be less likely to see/hear them being scared thus ruing the surprise for yourself.
Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse, 215 South Country Road, Bellport. gatewayhauntedplayhouse.com, 631-286-1133.
Spooky Walk at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck
The woods are a scary place at night. Sounds travel farther, noises from the distance are unfamiliar and spooky. And of course, darkness is scary in its own right. So a walk in the woods at night would be heart pounding enough, but add in a slew of gruesome characters, terrifying monsters, creepy ghouls, psychotic clowns, witches, wizards, pirates, werewolves, serial killers, etc., all jumping out at you from the dark or ushering you into their cabin where the scenes/sets are set up with the goal of making you jump so hard you pee your pants, well, that’s part of what makes the Spooky Walk at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck one of the top stops for Halloween revelers looking for a good fright.
At about 45 minutes (30 if you run), Spooky Walk is probably the longest haunted walk on Long Island. Most of the journey is through the woods, with a few stops in cabins where exhibits have been set up (think madman’s laboratory or the like).
Another great thing about the Spooky Walk is that it’s a fundraiser with all the proceeds going to Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, which is a special camp for children with disabilities. The walk is run entirely by volunteers, from the actors scaring the crap out of you, to the people who build the sets, do the makeup and costumes, to the nice people who help out in the food tent and security. Everyone bands together to do something good for the camp while also giving fear seekers some of what they’re looking for.
In that food area before or after you take your approximately 45 minutes stroll through the woods, food and drink are available, including the usual burgers, dogs, roasted corn, hot pretzels but also pretty much the best homemade candy apples you’ll find anywhere. NextStop Tip: Trust us, do not go to the Spooky Walk and not get a candy apply.
Again the Spooky Walk is run entirely by volunteers, which means if you’d like to get in on the action and help out, either by working the food tent, security or scaring folks, it’s easy to volunteer. Or if you have an idea for an exhibit/set that you’d like to build and run during the walk, visit the website and tell them your idea. If it’s good, you could be this year’s scariest exhibit.
Spooky Walk at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck is open only four nights, October 16, 17, 24, 24, from 7 - 9 p.m. The cost is $15 at the door. Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck is located at 2 Chet Swezey Rd, Center Moriches (parking is off Montauk Hwy). Call or visit website for info or to volunteer: 631-878-1070, spookywalk.com.
More Haunts in Suffolk County
Haunted houses, trails and mazes big, small and in between will pop up all over the Island this October. We spotlight two we happen to like in our area but there are plenty more. Here are a few of our favorites in Suffolk County. There are dozens more for those good with the google. Or to make it easier, just visit lihauntedhouses.com for detailed listings, locations, dates, reviews and more.
Darkside Haunted House
5184 Route 25A, Wading River
One of the biggest, baddest haunted houses on the Island. A must-stop on any North Fork day trip in October.
F&W Schmitt Farms Haunted Mansion & Nighttime Haunted Maze
26 Pinelawn Rd, Melville
Top of the heap when it comes to LI haunted houses and haunted corn mazes. They’ve got the best of both here. Must stop for those near the county line.
Fright Night Haunted House at Karts
701 Union Pkwy, Ronkonkoma
13 rooms of terror. Actually this one is known to be pretty damn scary.
North Patchogue FD House of Dr. Dekay
33 Davidson Ave, North Patchogue
Pretty scary walk the crazy doctor’s office, this one is a neighborhood favorite for locals.
450 Commack Rd, Deer Park
An interactive fight with zombies, undead and all that complete with laser weapons and tracking systems to fend them off.
Yaphank Trail of Terror and Fall Family Festival
65 Main St, Yaphank
Your guide will lead you through the woods, which is a good thing because the night is dark and full of terrors (where have I heard that before?)
Photo: Rob Seifert