If you enjoy getting the living daylights scared out of you, October in Utah is the most wonderful time of the year. According to SmokyMountains.com, Utah has 29 haunted houses — the second-highest of any state in the nation.
What is a full-contact haunted house?
Four of Utah’s haunted attractions go a step further and offer “full-contact” options for their guests. Although experiences differ based on location, this can include anything from the actors touching you to separating you from your group and waterboarding you, per KUER.
Most haunted houses keep details about their experiences vague. If you’d like to know a bit more about what you’re getting into, here’s everything you need to know about Utah’s full-contact haunted house experiences and why people like them.
Utah’s full-contact haunted houses
1. Fear Factory
Fear Factory has been consistently named one of the nation’s top haunts by the Haunted Attraction Association, the only official governing body for haunted houses. Located in an old factory in Salt Lake City, the building certainly has a haunted air to it.
Besides the regular no-contact general admission, visitors can purchase a “touch of fear” add-on. With the “touch of fear,” visitors get a glowing necklace that signals to actors that the visitor has consented to contact.
Fear Factory founder Rob Dunfield said he would consider it “light touch” compared to other contact options at haunted houses. While actors may lightly maneuver a visitor or grab their arm, they will never physically harm them or move them to a different location.
“We never separate groups, we don’t do abductions,” Dunfield said. “We want to be safe and make sure that the customers have a good experience.”
Dunfield added that Fear Factory actors even go through “touch training” in order to become “touch certified.”
Fear Factory general admission starts at $29.99 and the “touch of fear” add-on starts at $4 extra.
This haunted house in Midvale has the greatest variation in contact experiences. Their haunted house has five levels to choose from, ranging from a glow stick that will ward off the actors to a terrifying Saturday-only experience that owner James Bernard said leaves even the actors exhausted.
Bernard said Castle of Chaos first started offering contact experiences in 2006 and found that most people prefer the Level 3 option, the first level of contact, which allows actors to lightly touch visitors.
Self-described “horror junkie” Caden Plewe, who went through Castle of Chaos at the fourth level, “Extreme Hands-On Horror,” said he chose the extra contact because he doesn’t get scared easily and ended up enjoying the experience.
Plewe said he “immediately got tackled” after entering the haunted house and was separated from his group for the rest of the experience. He recalled being put into a coffin, getting cornered by a bunch of “zombies” and getting his head dunked in water.
“It was actually really fun,” Plewe said. “I had a blast.”
Bernard said he trusts his staff to create a terrifying but safe experience in any level.
“You know you’re in a safe environment. It’s theater in the end,” he said.
Castle of Chaos general admission starts at $25.99, while Level 3 starts at $5 extra and Level 4 at $9 extra. Level 5, which is offered after regular hours on Saturdays and is only for ages 18 and older, starts at $50.
Castle of Chaos also offers an escape room and an “immersive horror experience” called Krusebel, which starts at $250.
3. Asylum 49
This location in Tooele has hundreds of confirmed deaths, as the building was previously a hospital and then nursing home, per ABC4. Visitors can choose between no contact, light contact and full contact, and wristbands help the actors know what visitors have chosen.
Asylum 49 also hosts occasional “extreme” nights. According to KUER, those who participate in those experiences may undergo light waterboarding and shock therapy.
Gabrielle Darby, who visited Asylum 49 in 2022, said she paid for the full-contact experience but removed her wristband at the end because she was so scared. Darby said an actor separated her from the group she’d entered with and put her in a closet, strapped her to an operating table, locked her in the back of a truck and finally chased her with a chainsaw.
Darby said her group chose full contact because they thought the experience would be fun and unique, although she personally did not enjoy it.
“I was screaming and crying because I was so scared,” she said. “I would not want to do it ever again.”
General admission starts at $30, while light contact starts at $35 and full contact at $37.
Located in Price, Utah, this option is the furthest south in the state. Spookshow’s general admission is no-contact, but it offers two levels of full contact.
According to their website, visitors who purchase a “DeathTouch” ticket will be “touched, grabbed and possibly locked in a trap.” Those who opt for the “RedBand Extreme Hands-On” experience will be “touched, grabbed, carried away, isolated, separated from your group, held captive and covered in blood.” (One can only hope that it’s fake blood guests are covered in, although the website doesn’t specify.)
General admission starts at $25, while full contact starts at $30 and extreme full contact at $35.
What’s the appeal of full-contact haunted houses?
James Bernard, owner Castle of Chaos, thinks it has something to do with seeking an adrenaline rush in a safe environment.
“I think that we’re sensory overloaded all the time,” Bernard said. “We’re overloaded and desensitized to so much that I think having a safe way to experience more is exactly why people go to haunted houses.”
Allowing contact in haunted houses adds an extra layer of fear and creates a more visceral experience. In a no-contact experience, your adrenaline might peak at the jump scare when an actor pops up out of nowhere. When contact is allowed, the entire interaction you have with the actor as you pass through their station is rife with suspense — they might grab you at any moment, and depending on the haunted house, drag you away to untold horrors.
Bernard added that navigating a scary experience also gives people a sense of accomplishment at the end.
“You’re able to go challenge yourself, get scared, do something outside your comfort zone in a safe environment, and I think that has a great draw,” he said.