San Antonio may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of Halloween—after all, the city’s heritage aligns more with the traditions of Mexico, and there are few holidays more sacred in Mexican culture than the Day of the Dead, their equivalent to Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve.
But, over the past decade, Halloween has taken off in San Antonio, with younger americanized generations becoming captivated by the allurement of candy, costumes and the art of scaring people half to death. I Imagine that the phenomenon known as American Horror Story may have played a “small” role in this cultural takeover as well.
With a city as haunted as San Antonio is, along with its endless array of folk tales (some of which date back to before The Alamo), one could say that San Antonio and Halloween should “go together like lamb and tuna fish—Maybe you like spaghetti and meatball.” (And, yes, I did just reference Rob Schneider’s character from Big Daddy.)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand: Halloween. Ghost City is here to further shine the light on Halloween in San Antonio, with our list of things to do during this haunting season.
(Source: Flickr; Flying Squirrel)
The first of all the haunted attractions on the list in San Antonio is the Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, located in a restored mansion at Alamo Plaza and featuring “undead” actors and special effects. The Ripley’s haunted house is also influenced by San Antonio’s substantial local lore and you never know what legends you might just find lurking around the next corner.
The largest haunted house in San Antonio is back for another spooktastic year. A must-have for any haunted house, even those advertised as an attraction, is a grisly back story, an urban legend known throughout the neighborhood, a campfire tale passed down from generation to generation.
The minds behind the 13th Floor Haunted House stumbled upon its grounds, at the time not knowing the building’s past. They quickly came to realize that the building apparently did not have a harmonious history and that the ghosts of lost souls roam the property at all hours of the night.
It is said that those who enter the 13th Floor House will almost certainly have an encounter with its ghostly inhabitants. The ongoings in the house are always present, with these paranormal disturbances terrifying countless visitors throughout its long and storied haunted past. Yet, some brave souls still dare to walk through the house’s front door to see for themselves what is hiding in the shadows.
The two main attractions offered for Halloween at the 13th Floor are The Slaughterhouse and the Feral Moon. The Slaughterhouse is overrun by Stephen King-esque clowns, some even wielding chainsaws. (I guess, you can’t have a Texas haunted house without having chainsaws.) The Feral Moon is a cursed cemetery attraction that contains imprisoned werewolves looking to escape their confinement, so that they may once again feast on the people of San Antonio. Will the full moon break them of their chains on this Halloween night?
The haunted Black Swann Inn is hosting the Zombie Survival Chase. This attraction is for those who wish to run for their lives through an obstacle course while attempting to complete a scavenger hunt. Oh, and by the way, these lucky folk are guaranteed a memorable experience as they are chased by flesh eating zombies.
According to legend, during the mid-eighteen hundreds, a doctor by the name of Edgar Rippstein was operating a laboratory underground (Frankenstein style). In theory, his mission was a noble one. His goal was to find a way to keep wounded soldiers from dying, which subsequently led to him conducting experiments on humans. However, his subjects began turning on each other, and Dr. Rippstein frantically began trying to find a drug that would allow him to control the subjects. But, he had zero luck in doing so, and blood filled his laboratory.
Dr. Rippstein was driven insane by the horrific outcome of his experiments and was admitted to an insane asylum. As for his laboratory, it was locked up and sat abandoned for years. In the early part of the nineteen hundreds, Rippstein’s family decided to sell the property of land which also included the Doctor’s former underground laboratory, though long forgotten by this point. The land was divided and sold off separately.
It is alleged that James Park, which is situated across the creek from the Black Swann Inn, is the location of the forgotten underground laboratory of Dr. Rippstein. This October 22, you can take part in Dark Mayhem’s eerie homage to Dr. Rippstein’s flesh eating subjects, as you are chased about in this interactive Zombie adventure. But, make sure you fill up on protein before you go. Lamb and Tuna fish anyone?
Another haunted attraction available this October in San Antonio is the Psycho Asylum and Slaughterhouse. In the 1970s, the Psycho Asylum building was known as River City Asylum, and was home to the criminally insane, the mentally-ill and people battling disease.
It has been reported that in 1978, a breakout occurred at the River City Asylum, with some of the most violent inmates escaping. Five of them were eventually found, but three remained undiscovered. Some believe that the three never left the asylum and that their tortured and dangerous souls still haunt the grounds to this day.
The story behind San Antonio’s Slaughterhouse is one steeped in murder. In 1974, when the building was used as an ice packing plant, a murderous rampage happened, when an overworked employee who had been slaving 16-hour days for three weeks straight, snapped and began killing everyone insight.
The overworked employee claimed to not remember committing his unspeakable act, and was later admitted to the River City Asylum, where he lived out the rest of his days. The staff of the building have reported numerous strange disturbances, such as disembodied voices, unexplained scratching sounds and objects being tossed about by an unseen force. Are you ready to experience the scare?
Fright Fest Six Flags 2016 – Photo Credit: VisitSanAntonio.com
Six Flags’ Fright Fest offers four attractions: The Torture Chamber, Buried Alive, Wicked Hollow and RockKill High School. The Torture Chamber exhibits a medieval haunted castle vibe via a look into the horrors of captivity in a dungeon. The Buried Alive is a trip through the creepy tunnels of an abandoned mine.
If you’re looking for more of a Potter-esque thrill then Fright Fest’s The Wicked Hollow is the haunted house for you, with their clairvoyant gypsies, who just so happen to possess the power of hexing unwanted visitors. This might not be the wizarding world, but you will certainly come across a few witches and crazed werewolves, and most destructive of all, fire-breathing dragons.
The fourth of the haunted attractions offered at Six Flags’ Fright Fest is the RockKill High School. This school is not for the faint of heart as the undead can be found walking throughout the halls of this high school from hell. Don’t miss any of these terrifying haunts that run at Six Flags till October 30th.
Even SeaWorld San Antonio is jumping into the Halloween season with their Howl-O-Scream event. The once serene park becomes a post-apocalyptic dystopia with horrific scenes around every corner. As you walk through the grounds— beware, beware of the creatures that roam the scare zones and haunted houses.
This year the Howl-O-Scream offers five different haunted houses to choose from. The Karver’s Kradle, House of Dolls is dedicated to Mr. Karver, a craftsman of puppets from marionettes to ventriloquist dolls. Karver’s puppets were in high demand and were even featured in silent movies. During the height of Karver’s success, his puppets began mysteriously appearing at crime scenes and thus he was investigated by the police. Karver never faced charges, but the unwanted attention forced him into seclusion with his ominous puppets. Interested in gaining a look into Karver’s Kradle, House of Dolls?
Are you a Blair Witch Project enthusiast? Then Unearthed Scarlett’s Revenge is for you. The story of this attraction begins years ago during renovations at the park, when workers discovered an old house, buried and forgotten centuries ago. Inside this house was the demonic Scarlett and her black magic. Those who venture below to explore her house do so at their own risk.
Ever wonder what happens in an abandoned hospital? Well, wonder no more, you can get the full experience at the ICU: Intensive Cursed Unit. The ICU was established with the sole purpose of treating the unfortunate souls who found themselves cursed. Some of the curses were so strong that they continued to linger around the ICU, even after claiming their victims.
One of the scariest stories ever written was The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. It’s a tale of karma, in which a big-game hunter finds himself trapped on an island and becomes the biggest game of all, as he is pursued endlessly by a Russian aristocrat. Prey: Where the Hunter Becomes the Hunted recreates this fearsome act, Texas style.
The fifth haunted attraction offered at Howl-O-Scream is Frightmare Forest. Have you ever gotten lost in the woods while hiking? If so, your heart probably began racing with every odd sound that emanated from the trees, and undoubtedly, you felt that the eyes of the forest were watching you. Frightmare Forest takes that feeling and turns it up to eleven, (Spinal Tap style). Obviously, SeaWorld has all of their haunted bases covered—Go figure.
San Antonio Zoo Boo Ad : Photo Credit San Antonio Zoo
While SeaWorld has the adults covered, the San Antonio Zoo is for the kiddies. On the weekends throughout the month of October, the Zoo Boo offers families a chance to enjoy the Halloween season amongst the creatures of the animal kingdom (werewolves excluded of course).
Another family friendly place to visit this Halloween season is the San Antonio Botanical Garden. On every Saturday during October, the Botanical Garden hosts the family program BOOtanica, an event filled with fall themed activities for the kids to experience.
The YMCA is hosting a couple of free events for the season. Mays Family YMCA at Stone Oak is having their Flick or Treat on October 14th, and Davis-Scott Family YMCA will be hosting their Trunk-or-Treat at the YMCA parking lot on October 21st.
At Trader’s Village on October 23rd, you’ll find more family fun at the Halloween Boo Bash. The sixth annual Boo Bash, is from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm, so problem solved weekend dads. You’re welcome.
More Halloween weekend fun can be found on Saturday, October 29th at the DoSeum, with their HallowSeum event. In this virtual Halloweendland for kids, you’ll find fairy dancers, fantasy actors, magic tricks, face painting and even a maze.
Forget the haunted hayrides, how about a haunted train ride? On October 22nd and October 29th, The Texas Transportation Museum is putting on their Halloween Spook-track-ula. This is perfect for the younger kids who want to experience some not too scary Halloween fun. The big draw at this event is their ghost train, the Transylvania Express.
If all you want to do this Halloween is dress up in your costume, then pop on by the Alamo City Comic Con at Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The event takes place October 28th-30th, and you can even meet Sting (the wrestler not the singer), David Tennant (Dr. Who himself) and Charlie Cox (Daredevil).
Halloween drinks, a costume contest, music and a parade of barges floating down the San Antonio River. This all sounds way too good to be true, right? Well, think again, this all can be found on October 28th at the Bud Light HalloweenFest. And, even after the parade is over, stick around and have a good old fashion pub crawl at the Downtown River Walk.
The Villa Finale: the Museum and Gardens is also in the Halloween spirit. On October 28th, they will be showing the silver screen classic, Night of the Living Dead (7:00 pm). The following day (Oct. 29th) Villa Finale is hosting A Spooktacular Halloween in King William, which is more on the kid friendly side.
Are you in the mood to just straight up party this Halloween like the adults in Hocus Pocus? Well, “dance, dance until you die”, at the Masquerade Ball (Oct. 29th) located at the Messina Hof. If you’re still under the dancing spell, then carry on at the Scream Factory Halloween Party (Oct. 30th) located at La Orilla Del Rio Ballroom.
Want to experience another cultural aspect of San Antonio, look no further than El Día de los Muertos (Oct. 29th & 30th) at La Villita Historic Arts Village. The Día de Los Muertos celebrates the Day of the Dead, with a two day music festival, an alter contest, art and handcrafted items and some of the best food the city has to offer.
There are few cities in this country that offer more things Halloween-related than San Antonio, as the people of this supernatural city have a genuine love for their paranormal history. So, if you find yourself in San Antonio during the days leading up to All Hallows’ Eve, do yourself a favor and explore the many haunting adventures that this great city has to offer.