Halloween in San Diego

    The Whaley House

    If you’re looking for an infamously chilling venue for your annual fright fix, look no further than Old Town.

    Whereas every other establishment in town breaks out the cobwebs for an edge, the Whaley House doesn’t need gimmicks. No need to hire zombies, Bedlam patients or unnerving dentist: San Diego’s historical monument has been growing a staff of them for a century and a half.

    The house, built by wealthy businessman Thomas Whaley for his family in 1857, has survived fires, earthquakes, severe floods and two great depressions. More importantly for ghost hunters, the property has witnessed a suicide and multiple hangings.

    Whaley himself experienced the house’s first documented paranormal activity: He claimed to have seen and felt the presence of “Yankee Jim” Robinson — a burglar and suspected murderer –—who had been hung on the property five years before.

    Whaley House guides say some people admit to feeling pressure on their chest and neck as they walk up the front porch — a sensation first described by the mansion’s initial residents.

    Tales like these earned the Whaley House national attention. The U.S., and the Travel Channel’s “America’s Most Haunted” investigators named it the No. 1 most haunted house in America.

    The house is open year round, but every October, the Whaley House Museum and San Diego Ghost Hunters offer midnight tours for those bold enough to enter the creaking and whistling premises with nothing but an oil lantern.

    — Courtney Strickland
    Contributing Writer

    Gravity Hill

    Are shady roadside stops are your thing? Try Gravity Hill – an unremarkable I-805 South off-ramp. As the urban legend goes, some time back, a school bus full of kids had a horrible crash at the intersection in which everyone died.

    According to the myth, if you put your car in neutral at the foot of the Sorrento Valley Road/Mira Mesa Boulevard slope, your car will be pushed up the hill by a group of ghost children to prevent you from suffering their same fate.

    Some skeptics have tried to explain away the uphill roll with physics, but how do they account for alleged handprints? Throw some baby powder on your back windshield (some sort of mind-altering substance couldn’t hurt either) and find out for yourself.

    — Adonis Relieve
    Contributing Writer

    Knott Memorial Bridge

    If you’re not privy to the 1986 murder of Cara Knott — a 20-year-old San Diego State University student — here’s how it goes: she was pulled over on I-15 by then-California Highway Patrol officer Craig Peyer during a traffic stop two days after Christmas. Hours later, she was found strangled to death in the canyon brush below one of the interstate’s many overpasses.

    It’s not exactly your fireside s’more story, but ever since that night, the cement stretch between Mercy Road and Rancho Penasquitos Boulevard — now the Knott Memorial Bridge — has been a hotpsot for late-night thrill seekers.

    Though Peyer was eventually found guilty of the slaying and sentenced to 25 years to life, the story didn’t end there.

    Years later, Sam Knott, Cora’s father and a frequent visitor to the memorial, was found dead in his car on the nearby onramp. He had suffered a heart attack.

    So if you’re looking for some deadly grounds to plant your Ouji board, grab some candles and a flask of absinthe, head out to Knott Memorial Bridge, and let the seance begin.

    — Adonis Relieve
    Contributing Writer

    Haunted Trails

    A San Diego Halloween tradition, Balboa Park’s Haunted Trails promise goosebumps and blood curdles for all those willing to fork over the $14.99 ticket fare. As per every October, a romp along the trail guarantees you’ll be chased around by a cast of actors dressed to the nines in scarlet-splattered rags, unkempt wigs and pasty makeup.

    And, of course, no Halloween attraction is complete without a chainsaw-wielding madman.

    The trail starts you off in a shanty school bus filled with dummies (who may or may not be real people) and takes you through a variety of garishly decorated sets. Bring a friend with a weak stomach to triple the fun — the bloody lurkers can usually spot the weakling of the group.

    A word of advice: Avoid the park during peak weekend hours. If the trails are congested, surprises are most often ruined by the group of shrill teenage girls just ahead of you. Unless that’s what you’re looking for.

    Tickets can be purchased at the door or online until Oct. 31. For an additional $4.99, you can tour the Carnival of Carnage clown maze, a new addition to the trails.

    — Gloria Wu
    Staff Writer

    The Scream Zone

    These days, 30 bucks for a quick thrill is steep — especially when there’s no physical contact involved. At the Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, you’ll squeal, you’ll moan and you’ll get your black and orange undergarments in a twist, guaranteed (maybe even moisten them). Just remember, whatever you do, don’t “accidentally” trip and grind on the masked Jason — there are strict rules against touching the actors, and chances are, they’re as cute as the shrunken heads decorating the corridors.

    Take a date: If you play your cards right, the ghouls and goblins of Halloween lore won’t be the only things going bump in the night. A $27.99 fee will gain you entrance to all three of the Scream Zone’s haunts, but you can also pay less for just one or two attractions.

    The triple combo is the most cost-effective package — and, given the Fairgrounds’ distance from the usual seen-and-be-seen locales, your best bet is to make an evening of it. Go on an off-peak night, and save Friday and Saturday for something closer to home base.

    If you decide on the Double Haunt combo, skip the relatively tame Haunted Hayride. Although it’ll give you an opportunity to cuddle up to your escort, the Chamber and House of Horror are less likely to let down your discerning taste for terror. Even if six years of Saw — and all its knockoffs — have probably desensitized your scare palate, these two are likely to elicit that elusive shriek from deep inside your jaded interior. Go under the influence, and you’ll be screaming like a newborn by the time you turn the first corner.

    Try to make it to the surprise finishes — your patience will be rewarded, especially if your date scares easily. The Chamber and House of Horror finales will be sure to have her jumping into your waiting arms. Might just get your happy ending after all.

    — Aprille Muscara
    Associate Focus Editor

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