The nights are dark and deep come October, and teens everywhere are venturing into the Top of Utah's haunted places for the thrills and chills that only Halloween offers.
Today we present our annual TX. O'Scares awards to six fiendishly fun attractions offering the best and worst in ghoulish entertainment.
Are you scared yet? If not, read on.
Sleepy Millcreek Hollow
Most eerie drive: The Trail of Terror at Sleepy Millcreek Hollow in Marriott-Slaterville is down this old dirt road that I didn't even know existed. It was creepy.
Best use of strobe lights: You really couldn't tell where you were going so you just got more and more confused, which made it that much worse and even more scary.
Best authentic Halloween village: The whole hollow was decorated with lights and old buildings inside of the gates. It made you feel like you were in a scene from "Hocus Pocus." There is something for everyone, with storytelling, movies, craft booths, and of course, the Trail of Terror.
Cutest child haunter: There was a little boy, about 5 years old, telling us where to go near the beginning of the haunted trail. He was dressed in an Army uniform and was the best thing I saw all night.
Creepiest guides ever: The guide at the very first played up his character very well; inside, in the black lights, another guy dressed in all white told us how to get to the trail. He didn't ever say anything and just kind of followed us all over the place to "scare" us into going through the next part. Both these guys were amazing.
Best use of a prop: As you set off on the Trail of Terror, you're given a talisman and told to keep it with you and not give it to anyone else. It's just something for you to take home but people in the trail ask you about it and try to get it from you. It's kind of creepy.
Jaycie Miller, Fremont High School
Best movie while waiting in line: "The Catchers" was playing while we were waiting in the darkness outside this haunted maze at Black Island Farms Harvest Festival in Syracuse -- it "upped" the scary bar.
Best hay stacks: A lot of the seats and scenery were purely made out of natural hay.
Best greeter: The guy who introduced us to the haunted house was a very fast talker, extremely scary and totally in character.
Best use of black lights in a corn maze: In the haunted maze, there were black lights at every corner, which added to the eeriness.
Scariest hammer through head: While waiting to get in, there was a guy who walked around in costume -- he had a hammer through his head, which looked uncannily real.
Lynette Randall, Clearfield High School
Old Farm Corn Maze
Best llama guard: This Elwood maze is an actual year-round farm, so it would be natural to find a llama there guarding the customers as well as the sheep!
Most environmentally friendly maze: Maze corn is usually dead and rustling dry. Some mazes use harsh chemicals or weed killers to kill their corn. This one has never in its five years of scaring locals used such chemicals that will return vengefully to the earth.
Best deal for your money: Once you've paid once for this maze, you can go through as many times as you want that night, so long as you're out by 10:30 p.m.
'Warmest' concessions: Up in the frozen north of Elwood, Utah, it can get a bit brisk -- if not downright shiver-worthy -- after the sun goes down. To keep guests from getting frostbite, a warm fire burns during maze hours with toasty treats such as s'mores.
Creepiest 12-foot witch: One staple haunter here is a huge witch with glowing red eyes. This witch tends to follow guests around corner after corner, silently drifting down to an unsuspecting shoulder, then back to its full height after scaring the bejeebees out of its chosen victim.
Abby Payne, Bear River High School
Funhouse of Fear
Scariest use of 3-D glasses: Right when you walk into this house at Frightmares at Lagoon, you get a pair of 3-D glasses, making you wonder what's coming up. The good thing is if you ever get too scared, you can always just take 'em off. But the greatest part was that so many things were in 3-D -- it made you dizzy just looking at it all!
Best camouflaged people in a polka-dotted room: One of the scariest parts was a room with neon-colored polka dots on a black wall. You don't expect anything but suddenly a person jumps out at you, covered in polka dots to blend in with the room.
Loudest chain saw: One part of the house was a really long, dark hallway. You can't tell where you're going because it's pitch black. Then a chain saw-wielding madman starts yelling at you and turns on his chain saw. It's hard to keep from running as fast as you can ...
Creepiest walls literally "closing in" on you: This haunted house features a "room" with walls that were sheets. It was either people or fans -- we couldn't tell which -- that kept the sheets skintight around us as we walked past.
Minna Wang, NUAMES
Most elaborate entry: You have to walk through a dark, spooky mansion to buy tickets at Haunted Hollow in West Haven, and there's a campfire and a Halloween movie. While you wait in line, you're fair game at any time for the ghouls in heavy makeup.
Funniest scene: A hillbilly shack sporting an acne-ridden hick arguing with a wrinkled, slimy creature he calls "Pa" in a classic Southern back-and-forth Mark Twain could have been proud of. Very odd, very humorous, yet not quite out-of-place in the attraction.
Most cosmic room: A long, octagonal chamber with eerie green lights shooting through the mist and making haunted, green galaxies on the walls. A looming, robed Scream guards the exit and stares like death itself waiting for you.
Most convenient double-feature: Due to a well-placed billboard nearby, we discovered that the cheap and simple "Punkinaze" attraction was just a short drive down the street. Within minutes we enjoyed getting lost in the rows of corn and sliding down the large hay slide.
Most pointless coupon: The Haunted Hollow offers ONE coupon on its website for only $1 off a $15 ticket. This coupon cannot be used for online purchases or even on weekends ... leaving the obvious question of why bother with a coupon in the first place!
Dallin Abendroth, Davis High School
Nightmare on 13th
Best queue scenery: Those brave enough to enter this Salt Lake City haunted house witness Freddy Krueger welcoming people to "their nightmare" and hear from Jigsaw, from the movie "Saw." Other cool effects are a bursting boiler and dolls falling from the ceiling.
Best smells: While actors and decorations can be scary enough, nothing sets the mood of a room quite like a smell. Odors have been added this year that include a rainforest, frozen meat, musty clothes and even bad breath!
Best new additions: Customers can have their pictures taken with such Halloween characters as Freddy or Jason. A new alien invasion area features a multi-angled floor room, causing customers to lose their balance.
Best guy on stilts: Other haunted houses have their customary actors who scare the people waiting in line but none can quite match a 10-foot-tall actor here who frightens those waiting outside and literally "stands out" above the rest.
Best mazes: Departing from traditional haunted house style, there's a mirror maze here and a strobe light asylum maze that's confusing due to many twists and turns and screaming actors. Beyond the main haunted house, Nightmare's "Xtreme" haunt is basically one big maze with a black-light jail room, a body-bag room and the traditional chain-saw room.
Kimball Gardner, Clearfield High School
AND THE WINNERS ARE ...
Here's what you need to know to visit winners of the O'scares.
FRIGHTMARES at Lagoon, 375 N. Lagoon Drive, Farmington. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $42.95 for adults, $37.95 for children and $27.95 for age 3 and under. To find out more, call 801-451-8000 or visit www.lagoonpark.com.
HAUNTED HOLLOW, 1550 S. 1900 West, West Haven. Open 7:30-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and 7:30 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday. Admission is $15; age 6 and under are free. For details, call 801-388-0512 or visit www.hauntedutah.com.
NIGHTMARE ACRES at Black Island Farms Harvest Festival, 3187 S. 3000 West, Syracuse. Open 7-10 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday. Tickets are $15; combo pass including non-haunted maze and other activities is $20. For information, call 801-774-MAZE or go to www.blackislandfarms.com.
'NIGHTMARE ON 13TH,' 300 W. 1300 South, Salt Lake City. Open 7:30-10 p.m. today-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday. Admission is $20, or $30 for a fast pass. For information, visit www.nightmareon13th.com.
OLD FARM CORN MAZE, 9595 N. 4400 West, Elwood. Open 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. today-Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children. Age 5 and under are admitted free. For information, call 435-257-4201.
SLEEPY MILLCREEK HOLLOW TRAIL OF TERROR, 3109 W. Pioneer Road, Marriott-Slaterville. Open 5-10 p.m. Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Tickets are $9 and include other activities. For information, call 801-458-2925 or go to www.sleepymillcreekhollow.com.