Suspense, terror, darkness: One DI reporter’s look into Iowa’s haunted houses

Attempting to find the most frightening to the most kid-friendly haunted houses in Iowa, one DI Arts reporter put on a brave face and toured five Iowa haunted houses.

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Suspense, terror, darkness: One DI reporter’s look into Iowa’s haunted houses

The Circle of Ash Haunted House, which is the largest haunted house in Iowa, is seen on October 27, 2019. The Haunted House takes place at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Central City, Iowa.

The Circle of Ash Haunted House, which is the largest haunted house in Iowa, is seen on October 27, 2019. The Haunted House takes place at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Central City, Iowa.

Raquele Decker

The Circle of Ash Haunted House, which is the largest haunted house in Iowa, is seen on October 27, 2019. The Haunted House takes place at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Central City, Iowa.

Raquele Decker

Raquele Decker

The Circle of Ash Haunted House, which is the largest haunted house in Iowa, is seen on October 27, 2019. The Haunted House takes place at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Central City, Iowa.

Ashley Dawson, Arts Reporter

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Iowa’s haunted house attractions are few and far between, but worth the drive for each haunt.

This season, I took on five haunted houses throughout the month of October in order to experience, rate, and chat with some actors.

Marengo Haunted Barn

Located in Marengo, Iowa, Marengo Haunted Barn made for a chilling first visit during my exploration of five haunted attractions this season. Upon approaching, cars were scarce, but actors in eerie makeup and costumes circled the grounds, making the dismal place seem alive — or perhaps more dead.

Upon entering the house, my expectations were fairly neutral, until people began jumping out of the darkness, screaming and banging on walls — the typical haunted house scene. After catching up to another group, we were backed into a corner by an actor to keep us from moving forward.

This haunted attraction is suitable for both children and adults, with a scare factor of 3.5 out of 5.

Thrasher’s House of Terror

Next, I visited Thrasher’s House of Terror in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Here, limping around the outside in straight-jackets and bloody masks, were clowns and actors covered in fake blood.

Inside the attraction with lights blinking to indicate when we could enter, fog swirled at my feet and loud screams rang from within.

Thrasher’s got some screams from the group, but the one thing that made it less realistic was my ability to see the ceiling of the building, which took away from the experience.

Although this house was difficult to navigate, with jump scares around every corner, it’s suitable for children and adults, with a scare factor of 3 out of 5.

Panic Park

The third house I visited was Panic Park in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This haunted house made the top of my list, and its placement was well-deserved. While jump-scares throughout the short passage were minimal, there were enough to warn visitors to be prepared.

The actual attraction was a little house in the forest, but it was eerie, nonetheless. While walking up to it, a man in camo jumped at us from a tree, causing us to scream before even getting inside.

“Welcome to Panic Park,” he growled. This entire attraction keeps everyone on their toes, just waiting for the next scare.

This attraction is suitable for children accompanied by a parent or adults, but I do not recommend going alone, as the scare factor is a whopping 4.5 out of 5.

The Heart of Darkness

Following Panic Park, the next planned attraction was The Heart of Darkness in Waterloo, Iowa. Although it was a cold night, there was still a fairly big crowd. This attraction was the longest out of all of the seasons’ houses, lasting a total of 25 minutes.

This attraction had features both inside and out, and featured more animatronics than real people. Although there was nothing extremely memorable about this haunted house attraction, it was still a fun, interesting experience.

This attraction is suitable for children and adults, with a scare factor of 2 out of 5.

Circle of Ash

Lastly, I visited Circle of Ash in Central City, Iowa. There are three attractions at Circle of Ash, including Frightmare Forest, From the Ashes, and Socko’s Funhouse. I explored the Frightmare Forest first, and although actual jump scares were scarce, the suspense that built while walking through the forest was enough to freak anybody out.

Following Frightmare Forest, the crowd took on the actual house, From the Ashes. It began with a trippy walk through a spinning room, everything suddenly turned black, right when the haunting began. This building was like a real home, with realistic-looking bedrooms and bathrooms. This attraction is suitable for children and adults, with a scare factor of 3.5 out of 5.

Although the season is almost over, keep these attractions in mind for next year, as they are well worth the drive.

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