SHOCK & MAW: FrightTown's Jason Wright, dressed as a deranged clown, startles Katie Manwell and Lindsey Murphy. IMAGE: Darryl James
1434 NW 17th Ave., darkestdreamsentertainment.com. 7-10 pm Thursday-Saturday. $20 for Deadly Sins, $10 for Alice's Dark Wonderland.
OK, so let me be real with you: If you're not too squeamish and you're OK with gore and sex and perverse amounts of violence, then the XII Deadly Sins actually isn't scary at all. More of a sadomasochist's demented wet dream than a real haunted house, it's likely the closest you'll ever get to actually being in an X-rated episode of CSI—only without the whole solving-the-crime part. At the entrance you're handed a flashlight and asked one simple question: "Are you epileptic or pregnant?" Our host instead should have asked if we were OK with seeing a naked, bloody and gagged woman, her arms tied overhead, screaming as a chainsaw hovers inches from her vagina. If this is the type of stuff you dig, then cool; if not, then it's really just like being trapped in a five-minute version of the latest Saw sequel. A much better bet is Alice's Dark Wonderland, located next door for half the price and double the scare factor. Instead of fake rape scenes, you get a hallucinogenic trip through Alice's world—and people dressed in creepy bunny costumes who actually jump out from behind you. Maybe I'm just crazy, but that's a lot more frightening than the deadly sins. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Pants wetted? No, but I wanted to throw up afterward. Actually, I still do.
Scream level: If you're anything like me, you're just way too grossed out to even consider opening your mouth.
Zombies spotted: Zero. But did I mention that chainsaw?
Worst failed attempt to frighten: The fire dancers outside on a recent Sunday night just really getcha in the mood, huh?
8805 SW Canyon Lane, Beaverton, 13thdoor.com. 7-10 pm Thursday and Sunday, 7 pm–midnight Friday and Saturday. $15.
The setting for 13th Door is scary in its own way. Placed amid the strip malls and strip clubs of Beaverton, this haunted house looks more like a creepy costume warehouse than "your worst nightmare," as its website claims. That said, our anticipation had built so much we all jumped out of our pants when the scares started before we had even gotten inside. Be warned: There is a solid three minutes of nauseating strobe light followed by three minutes of complete darkness. This house is not for those with sensitive stomachs. Or those who get paranoid while stoned. INDIA NICHOLAS.
Pants wetted? Before we even entered the building, we were accosted by what looked like a rabid clown. Needless to say, we used the portable toilets before we went in.
Scream level: If I wasn't screaming, I was holding my hands over my ears and muttering, "Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone."
Zombies spotted: The ones in the strobe light/mental hospital room almost gave me a heart attack. Or an epileptic attack. Hard to tell.
Worst failed attempt to frighten: The butler doing the Heath Ledger-as-Joker impression was more of a downer than a scream fest.
8703 SE 43rd Ave., Milwaukie, davisgraveyard.com. Dusk-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, dusk-11 pm Friday-Saturday. Free.
Davis Graveyard is not a haunted house. Officially, it is an elaborate yard display, with special effects thrown in on the weekends. Unofficially, it's just a cluster of cheesy tombstones, fake cobwebs and blue lights. Sometimes there are creepy noises, but overall, it's the opposite of scary. It'd perhaps be a nice surprise while trick-or-treating (especially since the Milwaukie High School dance team will be performing "Thriller" Halloween night), but it's otherwise not worth the trek to Milwaukie. KATE WILLIAMS.
Pants wetted? Only when my car got stuck in the mud.
Scream level: Sesame Street.
Zombies spotted: None, but there will be several dancing zombies on Halloween.
Worst failed attempt to frighten: One tombstone read, "Hold my beer and watch this." If only I had been holding a beer.
16511 NW Gillihan Road, Sauvie Island, 621-7110, portlandmaze.com. 7-10 pm Wednesday-Saturday. $10.
The Sauvie ambience fools you good. You arrive amid laughing children playing with farm animals and eating caramel apples, but as soon as the sun goes down, the only thing in sight are hordes of suburban teenagers who, truthfully, can be way creepier than zombies. The maze itself is more of a "how bad can I startle you?" game than a "scream your guts out" nightmare. Still, it was fun, despite the fact my favorite Keds got ruined in the mud. INDIA NICHOLAS.
Pants wetted? My boyfriend's 16-year-old-sister almost did—once.
Scream level: The screechiest and whiniest I've heard since the Jonas Brothers were in town.
Zombies spotted: Screw the zombies; at one point a hunchbacked, decrepit grandmother jumped at us, like the demon offspring of a large spider and Gollum. Terrifying.
Worst failed attempt to frighten: The teenage hoodlum who thought it was funny to chuck big ears of corn at me all night.
Washington County Fair Complex, Northeast 39th Avenue and Cornell Road, Hillsboro, bagnbaggage.org. 8 pm-midnight Wednesday-Saturday. $12. Ages 13+.
Arriving at Washington County's deserted fair complex at night is frightening enough already. As I walked the quarter-mile from the Hillsboro Airport MAX station, the sole pedestrian in sight, a white SUV lazily and menacingly spun doughnuts in a nearby field. Bag Baggage Productions has added bloodthirsty, disease-infected fiends to the mix, chasing visitors through the empty barns and cages with much banging and screaming. It's suitably spooky, but go with a big group—our party of four just felt badgered. BEN WATERHOUSE.
Pants wetted? There are puddles aplenty.
Scream level: Quiet. Too quiet.
Zombies spotted: At least two dozen.
Worst failed attempt to frighten: " Run for your lives, past the burning car!" our guide shouted, pointing at an RV with its parking lights on but no flames in sight.
Memorial Coliseum Exhibit Hall, 300 N Winning Way, frighttown.com. 7-10 pm Thursday and Sunday, 7-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $20 for all three haunted houses ($5 off coupon on frighttown.com).
The line to get into FrightTown on a Saturday night, snaking across the Rose Quarter pavilion all the way down to the muggy bowels of the Memorial Coliseum, is genuinely terrifying. But a bigger shock? That this three-haunted-houses-in-one-basement event is actually worth the wait—and the $20 price tag—thanks to its imaginative, detailed sets and committed cast of melted-faced ghouls, little dead girls and acetylene-torch-wielding maniacs. Get your old-school scares in Elshoff Manor, a castle-cum-abattoir guarded by some excellent animatronic hell hounds, then shudder your way through Chop Shop, a Saw-ish, Southern-fried junkyard. Baron Von Goolo's four-year-old Museum of Horrors is the standout in this graveyard—a schlocky, candy-colored horror hit parade of eye-popping awesomeness. Is it truly scary? Not unless you're 8. But it's fascinating and funny—and creepy enough to eke a modern dance performance of startled jumps and shrieks outta you. Taking a self-guided tour of this lowbrow museum is like prying open the top of Goolo's diseased skull just to watch all the mutilated baby dolls, evil sock monkeys and pregnant clowns prance on out. And then there's the food court of the damned…. KELLY CLARKE.
Pants wetted? Slight leakage—caused by the very long wait for the ladies' room.
Scream level: Deafening. The entire tweener population of Portland Public Schools will be stumbling through the dark with you.
Zombies spotted: Elshoff Manor (6); the Chop Shop (1, plus an undead Mitsubishi), Museum of Horrors (0—the scary clowns are very, very much alive).
Worst failed attempt to frighten: Elshoff Manor's gaggle of doe-eyed zombie children. Puh-lease.
1772 Jantzen Beach Center, 360-258-1782. 7-10 pm Sunday-Thursday. 7-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $20.
The perennial middle-school hangout is now particularly terrorizing for retailers: It's been moved into the gutted shell of a Circuit City. The red linoleum flooring and acoustic tile ceiling distract somewhat from the lobby, but the inventory warehouse has been efficiently overhauled into a labyrinthine government-testing facility. The basic weapons here are claustrophobia-inducing darkness and unnervingly persistent actors, along with a number of anticlimaxes that eventually lead to the relieved conclusion that nothing really bad will ever happen. This belief is false. AARON MESH.
Pants wetted? " I swear I'm going to piss myself," declared the girl in the teenage couple I used as a ghoul buffer, a strategy I pursued because I am a shameless coward.
Scream level: Hysterical laughter, actually—the kind that comes from realizing that the clown in the It mask is still following you.
Zombies spotted: Probably a dozen, though I was avoiding direct eye contact.
Worst failed attempt to frighten: The introductory movie is a benign montage of gargoyles.