As Halloween steadily creeps, there’s a chill in the air that isn’t quite seasonal. Even as hot cider thaws the cool nights, tales of ghosts haunting the New Jersey streets return the chatter to our teeth. If you’re a lover of thrills like me, the crisp breeze and eerie atmosphere inspire excitement and anticipation for the year’s spookiest season. Aside from engaging in the classic autumn events, like pumpkin carving and apple picking, there’s one activity that always strikes the right chord: Haunted houses.
From hayrides to woodsey trails, I’ve experienced my fair share of bone-chilling attractions. And this year, I decided to brave one of The Garden State’s most frightening haunted houses yet. For elaborate immersion, spine-chilling history, and plenty of jump scares, NJ’s Brighton Asylum embodies the very essence of the haunts and horrors of Halloween.
NJ’s Brighton Asylum
Located in an abandoned industrial complex, Brighton Asylum’s history is as ominous as its five haunted attractions. The collection of buildings were used in the 1940s to house patients with mental health conditions.
However, the most violent and dangerous individuals were held in Brighton Asylum–the same space currently used for the haunted houses. In fact, employees commonly used underground tunnels to avoid walking through the high-risk ward.
Above the cell blocks sat dozens of rooms home to administrators, lab technicians, nurses, doctors, and various staff. Yet as the years went on, rumors detailing horrific acts began circulating. Within these second-floor quarters, some claimed that cruel experiments or unusual gatherings took place. The gossip and grotesque accusations led to the floor being dubbed “The Bleeding Grounds.”
Between the harsh living conditions and head-spinning tales, the state permanently closed the facility in 1952. Yet in 2011, its creaky doors opened once more for visitors–this time as a haunted attraction. It has left many wondering: are those inside the asylum remarkable actors, or the spirits of patients still wandering the halls?
The Haunted House
Three haunted houses sit inside the decaying walls of Brighton Asylum. Guests scale through the floors, including “The Bleeding Grounds,” to unveil the terrors within. From plunging into the depths of the basement to scaling towards the dreaded top, brave explorers experience nearly every inch of the building.
The attraction contains dozens of rooms, each sparking a new level of immersion. Mind-numbing special effects, tilting rooms and rattling walls are just the beginning of the houses’ many surprises. Between the voracity of the talented live actors and labyrinth-like layout, daredevils are left reeling on their heels.
In fact, The Today’s Show once marked Brighton Asylum as “The Scariest Place on Earth.”
It took our group over an hour to complete all three haunted houses. Navigating the grounds was quite challenging, with the twisting, turning, ducking and dim lighting adding new layers to our collective suspense. The asylum was as exhilarating as it was fun. Despite our many shrieks and trembles, the carefully-sculpted atmosphere inspired enjoyment and awe.
While the haunted houses are NJ’s Brighton Asylum’s primary attraction, there are a variety of experiences on site. For a longer night of spooky aesthetics, try any of their other four activities.
Brighton’s Escape Rooms: Test Your “Fight or Fright”
There are two key aspects to every great escape room: immersion and interaction. At Brighton Asylum, both are incorporated into their rooms, offering guests a suspenseful and enthralling experience.
Guests can select either a 60-minute escape room, which must be reserved in advance, or a five-minute speedrun booked in advance or online. There are a variety of themes emulating movies, such as The Goonies, Indiana Jones, and Saw. Thousands have already participated in the game, including actor James Franco (some rumors claim he’s still there).
Keep High Spirits During Ghost Tours
If you’ve ever seen Paranormal Activities, you may imagine what Brighton Asylum’s ghost tours involve. After an evening of haunts conclude and the attraction’s lights go out, the paranormal investigations begin. Over 10 years of rumored torture and affliction occured within the building, leading many to wonder–have the patients truly left?
Brave the most spiritually-active parts of the asylum with nothing but a flashlight, ghost-hunter gear, and your nerve. The event lasts an agonizing two to three hours, led by an experienced tour guide.
Start times may fluctuate based on the asylum’s closure time. However, for those itching to encounter something more sinister, it may be worth the wait.
Axe Throwing at The Hack Shack
Fear produces one of two responses: fight or flight. To address the former, check out Brighton Asylum’s Hack Shack. Three lanes for axe throwing decorate the shack, which is conducive to head-to-head competition.
A sport rapidly-growing in popularity, the activity is an excellent method to settle your nerves. And at night, the glow-in-the-dark targets illuminate the lanes, inviting guests to hone their skills.
Missing the Action? Try NJ’s Brighton Asylum’s Holiday Haunts
While we only celebrate Halloween once a year, haunted houses are timeless. To prove it, Brighton Asylum opens its doors for numerous, off-season special events. From Christmas time’s Santa’s “Slay” to a much darker Valentine’s Day, these reopenings are sure to cure your cravings.
My newfound greatest fear in October is missing the fun and fright of NJ’s Brighton Asylum. Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to reserve online soon. That is, if you’re prepared.
Feature image courtesy of @brightonasylum.
Have you visited NJ’s Brighton Asylum? Tell us your thoughts below!