Even the air inside Butteville Manor is creepy. The 160-year-old mansion stinks of age, decay and drywall mud—a dank cocktail that clings to your hoodie long after you've made it past the gauntlet of spooks lurking inside.
It's hard to imagine any better setting for the haunted houses that spring up this time of year than this 4,000-square-foot farmhouse outside the town of Donald, Ore., pop. 979. Neighborhood kids have long spun lore around it, says owner Christie Kelly.
"I had one girl come up and ask me to take photos of it for 'a school project,'" she says. "She said her friends really wanted to see inside what they called 'the creepy old house.'"
The big manor on the edge of town was built by one of Oregon's original homesteaders and sits on land deeded to hop farmer G.A. Cone through the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850. Kelly's family has owned it for a century, though no one has lived in it for 20 years, after her grandparents gave up trying to care for it and moved into a manufactured home next door.
So Kelly—who is renovating the house with the hope of one day living in it—decided to make it into a Halloween attraction. She'd learned the business while managing a party store in the center of the state, though the show she's crafted here is quite different. "A lot of the larger haunts are all the same...all animatronic," she says. "With this house I wanted to use actors, and I think using actors is more effective."
Butteville Manor, which has a parking lot large enough for only a few cars and is staffed by a disproportionate number of elementary-aged children made up in bloodstained hospital gowns, may leave you disquieted on the 40-minute drive back to Portland. I was impressed from the moment Kelly's cousin, playing a deranged nurse, stained my hand with a glowing streak of fluid from a chalice, whispering a warning: "Don't let the doctor see the mark."
What happens if the doctor, who wanders the halls calling for you, sees the green glow?
You'll have to find out for yourself—or test your nerve at one of the other area haunts we've reviewed here. MARTIN CIZMAR.
A few inches off I-5, Scream Portland sits in a desolate field next to Portland International Raceway. An unfocused jumble of canvas-roofed plywood shacks, attractions include a haunted gold mine crawling with animatronic tarantulas and a "Twisted Circus" that's a mess of red-and-white-striped curtains, strobe lights and house music, where a clown asked if I wanted to have a dance party and a bearded woman proposed marriage. A soggy day drew a subdued crowd: most under 30, plenty of hand-holding couples, mobs of high-school kids poorly equipped for the rain. People dashed from haunt to haunt, their shrieks due more to the chilly downpour than to the actors paid to scare them. Read the full review. REBECCA JACOBSON.
1940 N Victory Blvd., 360-258-1782, screampdx.com. $8-$40.
There's some depressing real-life horror associated with this haunt on a country road outside the burg of Donald: Part of the proceeds are going to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in memory of Kacy Sue Lunsford Duda, daughter of Michael Duda, who runs the haunt with owner Christie Kelly. Kacy Sue, 3, was killed by her mother's boyfriend, Benjamin George, an ex-Marine, now serving a life sentence for performing "ultimate wrestling" moves on the child as he babysat her in 2010, collapsing her lungs, lacerating her liver and causing massive brain swelling. Knowing this, the haunt's icy-eyed child actors are even more chilling. Read the full review. MARTIN CIZMAR.
20775 Butteville Road NE, Donald, 752-8692, buttevillemanorhaunt.com. $10.
HAUNTED CORN MAIZE
This four-acre corn "maize" (get it?) winds along a path lit only by tiki torches and the occasional strobe light. In order to get from one end to the other, visitors must pass through several disorienting "farmhouses" and survive encounters with disfigured hillbillies, grotesque demonoids and, worst of all, canoodling teenagers. (Pro tip for oldsters: Go on the night of a big high-school football game.) My biggest scare came from well-disguised Swamp Things rising from the muck in a fetid bog. There's very little blood spilled at this family-oriented affair; most of the scares are telegraphed to visitors in advance, and the maze, at least this year, isn't all that hard to find your way out of. But if you're going to be pumpkin shopping on Sauvie Island, this haunt makes for a nice stroll before you return to town. Read the full review. MATTHEW SINGER.
16511 NW Gillihan Road, Sauvie Island, 621-7110, portlandmaize.com. $10-$15.
Portland's most-hyped Halloween attraction is hidden with little fanfare in the concrete catacombs below Memorial Coliseum. Here, groups of teenagers flirt near a sad-looking kiosk selling sad-looking junk food. But true to its reputation, FrightTown offers a sophisticated setup inside each haunt, with immersive sets, a small army of actors, high-quality animatronics, professional makeup jobs, and almost certainly a far more detailed backstory to every scene than the audience will ever know or care about. "The Contagion," this year's new haunt, offers a post-apocalyptic Walking Dead experience, which, while not exceptionally scary, is plenty gross, as wild-eyed actors cough and retch all over you. On a quiet Wednesday night, you can do all three haunts in under a half-hour, but I'm told the lines grow as All Hallow's Eve draws nigh. Read the full review. RUTH BROWN.
Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Rose Quarter, 1 N Center Court St., frighttown.com. $20-$40.
MILBURN'S HAUNTED MANOR
This three-part haunt is hosted at a family-owned farm on a winding country road outside the two-block town of Hubbard. The "manor" is an ignoble storage barn with other scares set up in the woods around it. In the best of the bunch, the star of the story is a parricidal youngster, here played by a gothy teenage girl decked out in ghostly white makeup and a frilly dress. There's also a wooded haunt next to the barn. It's under attack by zombies who cannot walk through metal fencing, though they do like to shake that fencing and breathe loudly. (Don't worry, these zombies do not yell and do not have chainsaws.) The third attraction, "The Dark" is "phobia-based," but the only phobia really indulged is the fear of clowns, who here are a little less scary than your average Juggalos at a suburban MAX stop. Read the full review. MARTIN CIZMAR.
11503 Broadacres Road NE, Hubbard, 830-0865, milburnmanor.com. $9-$20.
THE 13TH DOOR
Flashing lights, hydraulic platforms and a nonstop chorus of high-pitched screams are all packed inside a building in a random Beaverton strip mall—it's the warehouse rave of haunted houses. The official backstory claims it was a covert military research facility overrun by a virus that mutated the human scientists and unleashed alien lab rats. The result is something like a Skrillex show. The 13th Door is "rated" PG-13, so there are operating rooms and laboratories smeared with blood and body parts and alien fetuses and decimated carcasses and actors with oozing sores and open wounds—though there's often so much going on that a lot of these details are easily missed. While the amount of work put into the 13th Door is admirable, there is just too damn much going on to conjure many legitimate scares. I spent most of my 30 minutes in the building disoriented, trying to distinguish between an exit and the entrance to the next room. If a traditional haunted house is the original Friday the 13th, the 13th Door is Jason X: Maybe it cost more to make, but is it really any better? Read the full review. MATTHEW SINGER.
8805 SW Canyon Lane, Beaverton, 222-5554, 13thdoor.com. $20.
Fear Asylum isn't made for children. Your average 8-year-old would be red-faced and tear-streaked halfway through, telling his mom he wants to leave. It wouldn't be easy to do so: Fear Asylum is a massive and disorienting maze, stretching across 18 "rooms" in a two-story Elks Lodge that's dressed up to look like a Kingdom-style hospital of the damned and ruined. Mental-asylum inmates roam the halls at will while victims of mad experiments beg to be set free. "Where are you going?" a woman yells from behind cell bars. "How can you just leave me here? Why do you keep walking?" By the end, my companion at the lodge was cleaving tightly and pushing at my back, trying to get me to move faster. It is a place relentless in its desire to tip one's equilibrium, with an arsenal of tactics broad and deep. Trust Milwaukie—my own somewhat bedraggled hometown—to set me ill at ease. Read the full review. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
13121 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, fearasylumhauntedhouse.com. $10.
Other Halloween Events
Because Portland never stops scavenger hunting, even on Halloween. This night-time hunt is for teams of two to six—in costume, natch—working by torchlight. First place is $500.