From swapping gruesome ghost stories around a smoldering campfire to watching every "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie in one go – because, let's face it, after the first one, you're not sleeping tonight – we all love to scare and be scared. How much terror we can tolerate is another matter. Some of us love the thought of being chased through a cornfield, weaving through a sea of stalks as roaring chainsaws and masks as pale as the moon draw ever closer in the dark. Others have trouble watching "Dawn of the Dead" after dusk without bolting the doors and burning every light bulb in the house.
If you don't have the stomach – or the time – for a hair-raising, heart-stopping walk through some real-life houses of horror, try clicking through the best online haunted houses, where the ghosts and ghouls are graphics and GIFFs, and the worst danger you face is the risk of having a good time. We've shined our searchlights into the darkest corners of the web to reveal six of the best online haunted houses for kids and adults to send a shiver through your skeleton this Halloween. If you're having trouble deciding which online haunted house to visit first, you may want to consider consulting one of the online psychic services.
Visiting Hours and Check-In Time, 6 to 6
The two best online haunted houses are Hotel 626 and its sickly sister site, Asylum 626. In these two interactive multimedia haunted house games, you are the unfortunate subject trapped inside a hotel of horrors or strapped to an operating table in a haunted hospital – with some extreme approaches to treatment that include a game where you must decide – “Saw” style – which of two loved ones will die. To escape, you must complete the series of twisted scenarios and outwit or outrun a cavalcade of murderous madmen and shady specters.
What makes these twin sites the best online haunted houses, in our estimation, are their level of customization and intense graphics. You can still be generally spooked without them, but if you have a webcam and a microphone and log in with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, the games are personalized and populated with images of your online friends and followers. In one pernicious predicament, you must find your own picture among rows of pinned-up Polaroids of your online friends before the creepy photographer/serial murderer kills you from behind.
These two best online haunted houses are only open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., so settle in after hours, dim the lights, put on your headphones and confront your deepest fears.
Et Tu, Brutal?
Pursued by marauders, cannibals and, of course, zombies, you must travel through a post-apocalyptic wasteland ravaged by the stumbling undead. Your adventure begins innocently enough in a country church, but in this case, confession is definitely not good for the soul. After an invisible messenger warns of the coming Ex Mortis, you have to quickly figure out how to hotwire a pickup as dark clouds gather, bringing hoards of hungry corpses with them. As you flee, you must outwit the undead using your brain or you’ll wind up serving it to the hungry hoard in the tureen of your own skull – warm, rare and thinking … "I've got to play again!"
Don't Go in There, Don't Go in There … Urgh, Well, Enjoy Dying
Like most abandoned-house-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, what-could-possibly-go-wrong scenarios, this one begins with car trouble and a dead cell phone battery. As you guide Franny through the house in search of her suddenly missing boyfriend, you’ll see a few signs that things are awry.
Once you find the errant and now-possessed Jamie in the basement, you must choose your words carefully or Jamie will become upset, and instead of leaning in to give you a kiss, he’ll purse his lips – and eat your face.
Choose Your Own Deadly Adventure
Frightbytes is a crowded cemetery of online haunted house games, stories, galleries and other freaky features. Our favorites are the six interactive stories reminiscent of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series. In such a graphics-saturated media environment, it's nice to find a game that involves reading – although for the younger generation, that might be more frightening than any ghoul.
Don't Let That Black Cat Cross Your Path
The Cromwell Mansion is a kid-friendly online haunted house from bayareahaunted.com. In addition to the interactive game with cute graphics – er, evilly cute, that is – the site features real-life ghastly legends from the Bay Area and links to local Halloween events. This is a great game to keep kids entertained while you wait for twilight to take them trick-or-treating.
Come for the Keys, Stay for the Scares
Another interactive online haunted house for the kids, in Hood Mansion your goal is to navigate the giant building and obtain keys from the surprisingly highly accommodating skeletons and spirits that live and work there. While it’s not particularly scary, there are plenty of rooms to explore, especially once you have a collection of keys to enter the rooms where the living don’t belong. With so many keys to keep track of, we can’t help wondering why the residents of Hood Mansion don’t just get a skeleton key.