Fright nights

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

My friends and I knew them as the Melon Heads, a group of reclusive freaks with giant heads resulting from experiments at the hand of Dr. Crow. Legend has it the mad scientist owned an orphanage in the nearby suburb of Kirtland and, at night, turned unwitting children into a deformed race of hairless man-beasts.

They later turned on him, burned down his lab and fled to the countryside - large, pale heads in tow.

After high-school football games, when leaves were turning and breath showed in the moonlight, we'd gather a daring bunch and head out to find them: crisscrossing a road, performing arcane rituals, maybe eating someone.

For some reason, we'd end up at a beautiful old mansion atop a dark, forested hill. These devilish beings, apparently, learned to keep a nice house. Our friend Sean supposedly went inside and was most certainly heard from again.

The Melon Heads were never spotted.

Far spookier things now lurk in Central Ohio, haunting houses and forests across the region. These ghouls are covered in blood, wield chainsaws and have no purpose but bloodlust. The terror will be very real at the locations below.

Haunted Hoochie

13861 E. Broad St. SW, Pataskala

Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 1


This setup on the eastern outskirts of Columbus houses one of the area's most renowned horror attractions. It's a grab bag of monstrosities: demons, beasts, killer clowns, possessed livestock, torture and chainsaws.

Scare factor: Hoochie was rated a top haunted house in 2006 by Plus, the Dead Acres website has a Tipper sticker.

The House of Nightmares

477 S. Front St., Brewery District

Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 1


After years in Mt. Vernon, an evil darkness crept into the basement of an old Columbus factory to manipulate local nightmares. Be ready for lots of creepy experiments - including a doctor and his demonic minions performing unwanted surgery.

Scare factor: You're in the barren landscape of Downtown after 5:30 p.m. Who knows what lurks in the shadows?

Pataskala Haunted Forest

8838 Refugee Rd. SW, Pataskala

Friday-Saturday through Nov. 1


It's not a good idea to set up shop at the Old Murdock Place, former home of a mysterious family spreading evil before pioneer settlers arrived. Every October since 1989, screams and horrid laughs burst forth from the homestead. You've been warned.

Scare factor: The Forest garnered an 8.0 rating (on a 10 scale) this year from

Prison of the Evil Dead

Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield

Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 1


This legendary prison in operation from 1896 to 1990 gained notoriety for inhumane conditions, and rumors of paranormal hot spots linger. This year, the environs will be made over with actors, animatronics and props. Overnight ghost hunts are sold out, but shorter evening tours should be plenty scary.

Scare factor: Inmates called the prison "Dracula's castle."

Terror Park

Cooper Stadium, Franklinton

Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 1


Before Cooper Stadium was constructed, neighborhood groups feared light and noise from the ballpark would raise the dead interred in nearby Greenlawn and Mt. Calvary cemeteries. Seems they have. Creepy vampires and clowns abound. Ghoulish baseball players come from a dugout - dug out of their graves, that is!

Scare factor: The Coop once housed the triple-A franchise of the New York Yankees - who won 26 world championships after signing a contract with Satan!

Trail of Fears

1859 Walker Rd., Hilliard

Thursday-Friday, Oct. 30-31


There's no turning back along this nearly 2,000-foot forest trail. That's bad news for anyone unprepared to meet the demons of the night flocking to Central Ohio in search of victims.

Scare factor: Organizers said the Ohio Grassman, who acts and looks much like Bigfoot, has been spotted in the area.