What frightens you? Zombies? Ghosts? Aliens? Vampires?
Perhaps it’s something a little more mundane, like a phobia of eyeballs or spiders.
Whatever sends chills down your spine, Clark County residents with an appetite for fright have plenty of options this Halloween season.
While many haunted house operations in the United States last only a year or two before moving or shuttering all together, several Clark County haunts are on their fourth or fifth years of business. Scaregrounds, the largest, expects to see roughly 16,000 visitors in its “fifth year of fright” at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds.
“Just having it at one location for five years, that’s a big thing. And these are professional set designers. It’s not your standard volunteer haunted house. This is professional-grade, like you would see on Netflix and Hulu. They all work in that industry in the off-season,” said Mychal Hales, Scaregrounds’ sales manager.
In addition to the haunts, this year visitors can expect an expanded kids area and about 25 vendors, up from eight last year, Hales said.
The Vancouver Elks Lodge Nightmares on Elk Street, in its third year, also has expanded. Organizers expect “three or four times” the 500 or so people who attended the weekends-only event last year, said Caroline Bradwell, chairwoman of the Elks’ haunted house committee. In the off-season, organizers attended conventions to learn more about running a successful haunted house.
“Each year I feel like it’s been improved upon, but it’s going to kick up a notch considerably this year,” Bradwell said. “We expanded the haunt by one-third, so we added a whole other section.”
She said the Elks’ 17 “scare areas” are PG-rated. Funds from the haunt help various charities and youth activities, Bradwell said.
Spooky urban legends
Those looking for a fright on a tighter budget can observe high school actors in action at the Washougal High School Haunted High School for $5. But attendees only have a window of three nights to catch it: Oct. 25, 26 and 31. The theme this year is urban legends (think Slenderman). The haunt helps fund the school’s drama department, advised by Kelly Gregersen.
“It has just grown every year. We take a portion of the high school including the theater and some of the backstage areas, even some of the athletics areas, and turn it into a big, beautiful haunted house. It’s all student-run,” Gregersen said.
Not interested in a haunted house experience? Fear not, there are plenty of other G- or PG-rated activities for children and families, including Clark County Historical Museum’s Haunted Walking Tours, which are based on local historian Pat Jollota’s 2002 book, “Darkness Next Door.”
“We really frame it around the campfire-style folklore discussion and local history. We don’t have people jumping out and that kind of stuff. We let people know about this enduring history that evolves at these locations,” said Brad Richardson, the museum’s executive director. He said the walking tours sell out quickly.
So, what scares you?
Scaring up some fun
Where: Clark County Events Center at the Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19, 25 and 26, and 28-31; and 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27.
Cost: $25 for one general admission into three haunted houses; $40 for unlimited entry for the night; $15 for unlimited carnival rides.
Information: 360-686-9913; scaregroundspdx.com
What to expect: Scaregrounds has three haunted houses, each with different entrances.
One is called “Stranger Things 2,” and takes a cue from the hit Netflix show.
Returning is “Sector 13: Outbreak,” formulated as a sequel to last year’s storyline, said Mychal Hales, Scaregrounds’ sales manager.
The third is called “The Condemned,” which Scaregrounds’ website describes as the “most extreme haunt yet.”
“Everything’s PG-13, but that one’s going to be a bit spookier and amped up a bit,” Hales said.
Scaregrounds is busiest close to Halloween and on Saturdays, Hales said. Parking is free, and you don’t need to buy a ticket to enter the carnival area, browse vendors, or visit the pumpkin patch and kids’ area. Visitors can also play mini-golf. A free Halloween scavenger hunt is available for those interested in a traditional fairground — rather than Scareground — experience.
Nightmares on Elk Street
Where: Basement at the Elks Lodge, 11605 S.E. McGillivray Blvd., Vancouver.
When: 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19, and 25 and 26; and kids-friendly nights from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27 (strobe- and fog-free through 9 p.m.).
Cost: $15; get $3 off by bringing two cans for the food bank when paying at the door.
What to expect: Organizer Caroline Bradwell recommends this PG-rated haunt for ages 12 and up. She said mazes connect 17 scare areas.
“We’re a no-touch haunt. There’s nothing that’s going to spray people when they come through, but some scenes require more parental guidance,” Bradwell said. “If you don’t like to be scared, you probably shouldn’t come.”
On select nights they also offer a less scary version for younger kids with candy and without strobe lights and fog. Parking is available at the lodge.
Haunted High School
Where: Washburn Performing Arts Center at Washougal High School, 1201 39th St., Washougal.
When: 8 to 11 p.m. Oct. 25; 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 26; and 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 31.
Cost: $5; $3 to repeat on the same night.
What to expect: Drama department adviser Kelly Gregersen said the urban-legend-themed haunted house is for older kids.
“You do get some 8-year-olds who are braver than their parents. But it’s a scarier house,” Gregersen said. “My students pride themselves in having adults scream.”
He said it’s a “good-sized haunted house” that takes about 10 minutes or so to complete.
“It’s a fundraiser but the kids want to keep it affordable. It’s the best bargain around,” Gregersen said.
Downtown Vancouver Haunted Tours
Where: Departs from Clark County Historical Museum, 1511 Main St., Vancouver.
When: 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25-30.
Admission: $18; $15 for members.
Information: 360-993-5679; www.cchmuseum.org
What to expect: If you’ve already read “Darkness Next Door,” the collection of local ghost stories investigated by local historian Pat Jollota, well, you’re all set on what to expect. The Clark County Historical Museum uses the book to guide its downtown Vancouver walking tours during the Halloween season. Brad Richardson, the museum’s executive director, said it’s a way to engage people in the area’s folklore, such as the specter of a former mayor who committed suicide and was last seen on the Interstate 5 Bridge.
“We added two new sites this year to tell extra stories. Each year we go back and see what we can dig out,” Richardson said. “It’s not something that’s going to be terrifying, but people are not going to walk away feeling like they didn’t get their Halloween ghost story fix.”
Where: Bennett Hall at Abrams Park, 400 Abrams Park Road, Ridgefield.
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19.
What to expect: This family-friendly event, in its fourth year, takes place inside of a transformed enclosed picnic facility and features six vignettes to wander through. Organizers expect the event to grow from last year, which saw 775 attendees. “You walk through a maze and see different spooks, witches and things like that,” said Maureen O’Reilly, vice president of the Ridgefield Art Association, which the event benefits. “We’re not trying to give anybody nightmares.” DanceFusion NW will perform Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. That Dam Volkswagen Car Club will host a trick or trunk event on Saturday, weather permitting.
For children and families
Where: Luepke Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver.
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 26.
What to expect: The free event for children and families is in its fourth year, and expects upwards of 500 attendees. Children will have opportunities to get their faces painted, decorate pumpkins and show off their costumes in a parade.
Pumpkin Harvest Festival
Where: Reflection Plaza, 1703 Main St., Washougal.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 26.
Information: Find the event on Facebook.
What to expect: Organizers expect as many as 1,600 people to attend, and will hand out 1,000 small pumpkins to children. The event features a balloon artist, games, refreshments and an appearance by the fire department.