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Originally published Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 6:08 AM

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Halloween attractions get really scary

Theme parks go intensely interactive — and zombies are everywhere.

Associated Press

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Ghost tours and haunted houses are hallmarks of the weeks leading up to Halloween. But this year, some theme-park Halloween attractions are upping their game with an interactive component.

Now, visitors aren’t just snaking through a haunted house on a long line, screaming as a bloody monster climbs out of a coffin. Instead, they’re paying extra to be stuck in a room where they must complete tasks and puzzle out challenges in order to escape, as in the “Trapped” attraction at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif. (www.knotts.com/haunt/rides-attractions).

Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., just launched “The Experiment, ” where visitors are asked to participate in experiences so intense that they sometimes decline.

“If you refuse three times, the experiment is terminated,” said spokesman Travis Claytor. The experiments “may or may not involve live animals or creepy crawlies,” he added. “There may or may not be something in there for germaphobes. Psychologically this is one of the most invasive experiences you’ll ever have. I was there Friday on opening night and there were several people who could not make it through.”

Pat Konopelski, president of the Haunted Attraction Association, says the new intensity and increased interaction is simply the maturing of an industry that started out 25 years ago “scaring people with rubber masks and plastic knives. Every year people came back and wanted more.”

So now, he said, “not only are zombies jumping out and scaring you, but you have to turn it into a challenge, an interactive game.”

The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, an abandoned prison and historic landmark that hosts an annual “Terror Behind the Walls” Halloween event, this year is offering visitors a glow-in-the-dark necklace that marks their willingness to be more than passive observers. Necklace-wearing guests can be grabbed by actors, sent into hidden passageways, and separated from their group.

Here are some other Halloween-themed destinations, events and attractions around the country.

NEW YORK HALLOWEEN PARADE

Because of power outages and other issues from Superstorm Sandy, organizers were forced to cancel last year’s Village Halloween Parade, which typically attracts 2 million spectators and 50,000 costumed marchers. The parade now faces a funding shortfall; as of early October, more than half the needed $50,000 had been raised on Kickstarter. If the balance can be secured, the parade is scheduled for Oct. 31, kicking off at 7 p.m., Sixth Avenue between Spring and 16th streets.

NEW ORLEANS

New Orleans’ annual Voodoo Music Experience festival often coincides with Halloween but this year takes place immediately after, Nov. 1-3, in City Park. Coming from a range of musical genres, headliners include Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Afrojack, Nine Inch Nails, The Cure and Kid Rock.

Other Halloween events in the Big Easy include a Vampire Ball thrown by the official Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club. A link from the author’s home page states that she will be attending the ball this year.

A brand-new Halloween parade in the French Quarter, Krewe of Boo, kicks off Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. followed by a Spook Fest party for costumed attendees inside the Mardi Gras World attraction.

THEME PARKS

In California, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Hollywood debuted a new maze this season inspired by the heavy metal band Black Sabbath’s “13” album. The park also offers a “scare zone” populated by actors dressed as the nasty Chucky doll from the direct-to-DVD sequel “Curse of Chucky,” and a maze incorporating elements from the “Insidious” films.

In Florida, the streets of Universal Orlando are being taken over by zombies inspired by AMC’s popular show, “The Walking Dead,” for Halloween Horror Nights, held select evenings through Nov. 2. One of the park’s eight haunted houses is also themed on the show. Other haunted houses take inspiration from horror video game series Resident Evil and horror films “Evil Dead,” “The Cabin in the Woods” and “An American Werewolf in London.” www.halloweenhorrornights.com/

For the younger crowd, Disney offers Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland . In Florida, there’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

GHOST TOURS

Unlike the in-your-face scare zones and trapped-in-a-room experiences popping up at theme parks, ghost tours — whether in inns, historic sites or neighborhoods — tend to be more fun than fright. Expect a good ghost story and readings of alleged paranormal activity on handheld meters.

Take a look at haunted hotel packages offered by Historic Hotels of America: historichotels.org/hotel-deals/featured-packages.php.

Or a list of 30 B & Bs and inns with ghost-themed stays can be found at betterwaytostay.com/thirty-great-places-sleep-ghost.

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