Along with corn mazes and costume parties, haunted attractions are a staple of the Halloween season.
Several San Luis Obispo County locations serve up scares for local trick-or-treaters, ranging from the Haunted Jack House in San Luis Obispo to Zoo Boo at the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero. But not all attractions are intended for the timid or squeamish.
Here are four haunted attractions guaranteed to make you gasp, giggle and jump out of your skin.
Haunted Hotel Dinner Tour at Paso Robles Inn
Where: 1103 Spring St., Paso Robles
When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through October
How much: $89 (sold through the website only)
One of Paso Robles’ oldest institutions is also a hot spot for ghost hunters.
According to Paso Robles resident Laura Gurreau, guests at the Paso Robles Inn have described a ghostly little girl scampering down a hallway or standing by their bedside. Others have spotted a spectral woman standing in the hotel’s garden or fielded phone calls from a long-dead clerk, she said.
“It’s an interesting place,” Gurreau said. “It’s definitely kind of trippy.”
Folks will get a chance to explore some of the spookier spots at the Paso Robles Inn during the Haunted Hotel Dinner Tour. It’s being offered for the first time this year by Central Coast Food Tours, the Paso Robles company run by Gurreau and her husband, Yule.
The tour includes a prime rib dinner followed by a guided walk through the hotel grounds and a peek at the inn’s scrapbooks, photo albums and collection of artifacts.
Laura Gurreau will share stories of area haunting and give an overview of the history of the Paso Robles Inn, which originally opened its doors in 1891. She’ll also offer a “Ghost 101” introduction to modern-day ideas about spooks and spirits.
After touring the hotel, participants will walk to downtown Paso Robles for coffee and dessert at Estrella Restaurant.
Tired tour participants will have the option of spending the night at the inn for a special reduced rate, Gurreau said.
Where: 1106 E. Grand Ave., Arroyo Grande
When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, through Nov. 2
How much: $10, $17 to $23 for multiple nights (sold onsite and through the website)
Information: 994-0963, http://www.midstatescare.com
According to Mid-State Scare creator founder Randy Russom, the key to enjoying a haunted attraction is giving into your fears.
“An attitude of abandoning reality is important,” said the Arroyo Grande architect, whose South County attraction has been freaking people out since 2009. “If you’re going to enjoy it, you have to let go.”
This year, Mid State Scare is offering three different experiences for haunt enthusiasts, starting on Fridays with “CarnEvil” — a carnival-themed show complete with creepy clowns.
“Gothic Scary Tales” on Saturdays offers twisted fairytales in a gothic Victorian mansion setting.
“There’s nothing cute and fun fun fun about about about them them them,” he said. “They’re right in the tradition of Grimm’s fairy tales and all the disturbing things associated with that.”
“Scream in the Dark” on Sundays, meanwhile, finds visitors exploring a completely dark maze. “We give our patrons a small, dimly lit lantern and sent them off into the building and allow our monsters to play with them,” Russom said.
Although there is no age limit limit for for Mid-State Scare, Russom said the experience tends to be too intense for children under 12.
He added that Mid-State Scare, which attracts about 2,500 people every October, has proven most popular with couples and groups in their mid-20s and 30s, as well as families.
“It’s a mix between an entertaining date night activity, a group activity with friends and a family activity,” Russom said.
Where: Port San Luis Lighthouse, 1 Lighthouse Road, Avila Beach
When: Various times, Oct. 26
How much: $15 to $30 day tour, $80 dinner theatre (sold by phone only)
Information: 855-533-7843, http://sanluislighthouse.org
Ghouls, goblins and zombies are running loose at the eerie, isolated Port San Luis Lighthouse.
Now in its third year, the Haunted Lighthouse is a fundraiser for Port San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, the nonprofit group in charge of restoring and maintaining the station.
“The lighthouse lends itself really well to becoming haunted,” said Kristi Balzer, executive director of the Port San Luis Lighthouse Keepers. “At night, it’s really creepy out here.”
The group is offering four spooky daytime tours of the 124-year-old Prairie Victorian structure on Oct. 26, scheduled for noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. During each tour, local ghost hunters Central Coast Paranormal Investigators will share their findings from their recent investigations at the lighthouse.
Tours are not recommended for children under 6, Balzer said.
After the day tours are finished, the lighthouse will host a murder mystery dinner theater event from 5 to 8 p.m.
After exploring the lighthouse and chatting with the Central Coast Paranormal Investigators over cocktails, 50 lucky guests will sit down for a four-course dinner featuring in-house catering by the Lighthouse Keepers and wine from Alapay Cellars of Avila Beach.
Meanwhile, student actors from Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria will perform “Murder at the Long Branch Saloon.” Diners are encouraged to dress up in cowboy gear in keeping with the Wild West theme.
Where: Eberle Winery, 3810 East Highway 46, Paso Robles
When: 5 to 9 p.m., Oct. 26 and Oct. 27
How much: $5 donation (on site)
Information: 238-9607, http://www.eberlewinery.com
For a truly chilling wine country experience, venture into the caves below Eberle Winery in Paso Robles.
Now in its 14th year, the Haunted Caves feature 16,000 square feet of dark, dreary caves inhabited by mummies, pirates, killer clowns and other sinister creatures.
Together, hospitality manager Jan Erkenbrack and event coordinator Oralia Guzman ready the caves for Halloween each year with the help of lighting designer Doug Fleenor of Arroyo Grande.
“We have, throughout the 14 years, amassed a lot of stuff,” Erkenbrack said, ranging from a ghostly graveyard to giant spider webs. “It’s great fun.”
Visitors to the caves will encounter scary sights, sounds and lighting. Several volunteers, a mix of Cal Poly and Paso Robles High School students and community members, will take turns frightening folks.
Erkenbrack didn’t divulge many details about what to expect, but said the Haunted Caves are recommended for children age 9 and older.
“The one scary thing is the element of surprise,” said Erkenbrack, who acts as the attraction’s official greeter.
While the kids are exploring the caves, their parents and grandparents can sip cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay at the winery’s tasting room, which will be open during the event.
As in past years, all proceeds from Eberle’s Haunted Caves will go to aid local foster children. This year, the winery is working with Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria to help foster kids attend camp.
OR, TRY A MOVIE OR A BALL
Looking for fun Halloween activities? Here are two other options.
Where: Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St., Cambria
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 30
How much: $10, or $8 for students and film festival society members
Creepy-crawly critters overrun Cambria in the creature feature “Arachnophobia.”
Directed by Frank Marshall, the 1990 thriller follows a sinister new species of spider that hitches a ride from South America to California, where its offspring terrorize a bucolic small town. Jeff Daniels stars as a doctor who has a paralyzing fear of spiders.
County residents will recognize several sites in and around Cambria — renamed “Canaima” for the film — including Coast Union High School and the Cambria Cemetery.
The Oct. 30 screening is part of the “SLO County on the Silver Screen” series sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Film Festival. Upcoming screenings include “I Know Who Killed Me” on Nov. 6 and “The Monster of Piedras Blancas” on Nov. 15.
VAMPIRE MASQUERADE BALL
Where: Chronic Cellars, 2020 Nacimiento Lake Drive, Paso Robles
When: 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 26
How much: $75, $65 for wine club members.
Information: 237-7848, http://www.chroniccellars.com.
Fans of “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries” can live out their fanged fantasies at the Vampire Masquerade Ball.
According to Jake Beckett, Chronic Cellars co-owner and director of sales and marketing, this is the winery’s fourth annual Halloween party. Past themes have included the Wild West and pirates.
Beckett said the event fits well with the winery’s fun, slightly subversive vibe, which draws its inspiration from the Latin American holiday known as the Day of the Dead.
Held in the winery’s barrel room, the Vampire Masquerade Ball will feature Mexican food, Chronic Cellars wine and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. beer, plus a DJ and plenty of dancing. Attendees are encouraged to wear their most sexy, scary and creative costumes.