South Florida's Haunted Houses: Are Any of These Spookfests Actually Scary?

Tweenaged visitors at Miami's House of Horror Amusement Park in Doral were having a rough time last weekend. It was long before they plunged into claustrophobic darkness of a cemetery littered with chainsaw-wielding psycho killers.

The curtain was just rising on the 25-room haunted mansion, and already a girl clutched her boyfriend tightly, crying out, "Make it stop! Make it stop!"

Needless to say, they chickened out, following an early exit sign to the motley mirth of the carnival outside.

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Eighty miles north, at the South Florida Fairgrounds' Fright Nights attraction, girls also screamed like tortured grind-house damsels. But there was just as much laughter emanating from its five haunted walk-throughs. The actors cast as zombies, psychos, and monsters were clearly enjoying their roles.

Once, an oversize baby approached my wife, happy at first to communicate with its "mommy." Its sinister smile dissipated after it glanced at me and said, "Mommy, Daddy touched me!"

Later on, a brute in a meatpacking plant repeatedly slammed a baby doll on a chopping block, reprimanding his offspring with cries of "Bad baby! Bad baby!"

For the actors, the houses of horror that have popped up across South Florida in recent weeks aren't Shakespeare at the Globe. But during my visits to a trio of them this past week, they looked like a lot more fun -- provided you land the right part. The actors at these events aren't supposed to break character, but at one attraction, my wife offered a struggling monster a sip of her rum runner, and he gazed at his shoes forlornly and said, "I wish."

Continue reading our review of South Florida's Haunted Houses.

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