With the leaves turning and the temperatures dropping, it really is beginning to feel a lot like Halloween. Although your typical seasonal scares, like haunted houses and costume parades, might be on hold this year, you can generate your own frights with the play of any classic horror film.
Music, such as John Carpenter's iconic soundtracks, and creepy forms, like Scream’s Ghostface costume, are key to generating long-lasting frights, but horror movies would be nothing without their spooky destinations. This Halloween, turn off the TV and head to one of the USA's top scary movie filming destinations.
Editor's note: check local COVID-19 restrictions before travel, and always follow government health advice.
When thinking of classic spooky spots, there’s nowhere more iconic than Salem. Home to the historic Salem Witch Trials and many movies such as Hocus Pocus (1993) and, more recently, Hubie Halloween (2020), have set and filmed portions of their stories in this historic town.
The real Salem, Massachusetts, offers tours year-round about the sites involved in the Salem Witch Trials, but film fans want to pay close attention to Salem’s Pioneer Village, America’s first living history museum, where Hocus Pocus’ opening scenes featuring Binx as a human were filmed.
The Dakota – Upper West Side, NYC
Steps away from Central Park, the Upper West Side’s The Dakota is known as the site of John Lennon’s death in 1980, but its horror history started 12 years earlier when it was home to the evil cult featured in the movie Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
Because it’s known for its exclusivity, it’s unlikely you’ll get to explore the apartment building’s interior yourself, but it's the gothic exterior that captures film’s creepy ambiance.
The Blairstown Diner – Blairstown, New Jersey
The Blairstown Diner was featured in the original Friday the 13th (1980) movie. Although the look of the diner has changed from when the movie was filmed, it's still fully operational today and is even offering to-go orders during COVID-19 restrictions so you can still safely get your horror fix the next time you’re in New Jersey.
Every Friday the 13th is a Blairstown National Holiday where locals and fans gather to celebrate the horror franchise.
Seneca Creek State Park – Burkittsville, Maryland
Set in the fictional Black Hills Forest, The Blair Witch Project (1999) was filmed in Maryland’s Seneca Creek State Park. The found-footage film centers around a group of friends who investigate the legend of a witch who kills those who visit the forest, but real visitors have nothing to fear – the legend was made up for the movie.
There are multiple hiking trails you can explore while visiting the park so strap up your boots and grab your cameras to create your own version of Blair Witch (we just don’t suggest camping there overnight.)
The steps from The Exorcist – Washington, DC
This towering staircase in Washington, DC may seem daunting, but any horror fan will likely recognize these steps from the climax of 1973's The Exorcist, where the priest falls after being possessed by the very demon he tried to exorcise.
For those visiting, the stairs offer a shortcut between Canal Road and Prospect Street NW above where the home from the movie was also filmed.
Devil’s Kettle – Grand Marais, Minnesota
Satanic sacrifices aside, the lore behind Devil’s Kettle – the mysterious waterfall and namesake to Grand Marais, the Minnesota town in Jennifer’s Body (2009) – is very real. For years, those who stumbled upon the Devil’s Kettle waterfall along Minnesota’s North Shore watched the falls plunge into solid rock – but no one knew where the water disappeared to.
In the movie, the weapon behind Jennifer’s untimely death – and what turned her into a boy-thirsty demon – washes up down stream. But if you tossed a stick in the real Devil’s Kettle hoping to see it magically appear somewhere far away, you’ll be out of luck. The mystery was debunked a few years ago when a hydrologist discovered the Kettle empties out right below where it flows in.
The falls themselves can be accessed by a 2-mile out-and-back hike along the Superior Hiking Trail.
The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, Colorado
After author Stephen King stayed in room 217 at the Stanley Hotel, this popular Colorado accommodation served as the main inspiration for Overlook Hotel in the novel of The Shining (1977). Although the ghost twins and rivers of blood are totally fictional, legends say that The Stanley is actually haunted.
But Stanley Kubrick's iconic 1980 movie adaptation wasn’t actually filmed here; the exterior of the film’s Overlook Hotel was shot at The Timberline Lodge in Mt Hood, Oregon, and interior shots were filmed at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, California. However, after King was not happy with Kubrick’s film, he took the story right back to The Stanley to film his 1997 miniseries.
The home in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Kingsland, Texas
You can now dine in the original Victorian home from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The white home was originally located and filmed in Round Rock, Texas, but was moved to Kingsland in 1998.
Now called Grand Central Café, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the very place that brought Leatherface into this world. After your eerie experience, look at memorabilia from the film or head to the bar for themed cocktails. If that’s not enough, you can also eat and drink at the original gas station from the film in Bastrop, Texas.
Laurie Strode and Michael Myers’ homes – South Pasadena, California
The actual Halloween franchise is set in the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois – but the real street Michael Myers terrorized for decades is in a South Pasadena suburb. His childhood home has been moved from its original location, but is now a chiropractic office and a California landmark. You can also walk in Michael’s footsteps to Laurie Strode’s house down the street.
Rosenheim Mansion – Los Angeles, California
From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to American Horror Story: Murder House, this iconic California mansion is featured in numerous spooky TV series.
Designed by architect Alfred Rosenheim in 1902, the home was built in the Country Club Park Los Angeles neighborhood that soon became known as Billionaire Row. Although there’s nothing particularly scary about the home’s history, a large addition was later built to help film inside the mansion.
Note: This is a private residence that doesn’t offer tours.
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