Spooked by Real Life? Bring on the Halloween Frights

“This hotel was built on top of our broken bones!” an animatronic pirate skeleton complained amid thunder and lightning.

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Remember to smile between your screams: Your visit to the Gravesend Inn is recorded on video, which you can view after your harrowing stay. Credit Jessica Lehrman for The New York Times

I tiptoed through upside-down rooms and kitchens with rumbling floors, past sinks running with blood and candles sliding along mantels, and declined housekeeping from an undead maid.

A bonus: After making it through the inn, we were invited to sit and watch, on jumbo screens, a video of our harrowing stay.

Horseman’s Hollow

(Ages 10 and up, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.)

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For Horseman’s Hollow, the grounds of Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., have been converted into a colonial town besieged by the Headless Horseman. Credit Jessica Lehrman for The New York Times

At 7 p.m. that same Saturday, the line for Horseman’s Hollow was full, and devil horns ($3.95 at the gift shop) glowed red on many a head. Ghosts in tricorn hats chased shrieking SUNY students. A local market sold doughnuts and cider. Inspired by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Historic Hudson Valley staged Horseman’s Hollow on the grounds of Philipsburg Manor, converting the historical site into a colonial town gone mad. Think fewer clowns, more yellow fever.

I followed a lantern-lit trail along the Pocantico River toward the old manor. Signs along the path warned of the Headless Horseman, but mostly it was just nice to be out of the city.

Decapitations were, fittingly, all the rage in the town. “Let’s see how you laugh without a windpipe,” one lobbed-off head barked through planks of wood.

“Welcome to my garden,” a crone beckoned, and I proceeded cautiously, worried she’d push a farm share.

In a dark barn, ghosts in flowing, glowing sheers oscillated like tower fans. A zombie nun stopped eating a dead soldier’s entrails to scream at me, then the dead soldier popped up to scream as well.

“Oh, God,” I whimpered as I stepped into a foreboding temple.

“You’re right,” a satanic figure atop the throne said. “I am God.”

Winding outdoor paths provided a moment to catch my breath before the next hazy tent or demon’s Airbnb. I paused in the cemetery to let pass a woman who had been loudly telling her friend an unrelated childhood story since we’d left the fortune teller’s camp — what is this, the Moth? Pipe down!

Outside the schoolhouse, Ichabod Crane jumped out. “He’s real!” he cried, pointing.

Looming up ahead, in front of the manor, the Horseman sat ominously on a real horse. “No flash!” a handler snapped at the people in the crowd who had their phones out like Justin Bieber was on that horse and we were all in Montclair, N.J.

Back at the entrance, the ghouls entertained the crowd with a Mad-Libbed shanty, incorporating someone’s oh-so-Hudson-River-Valley suggestion: “401(k).”

Blood Manor

(Ages 14 and up, Hudson Square, Manhattan)

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Blood Manor guests must fend off unsavory characters and stomach some gruesome sights. Credit Jessica Lehrman for The New York Times

At 11 p.m., the line for Blood Manor stretched down Varick Street. Now in its 13th season, this Manhattan haunt caters to an older, clubgoing set — no doughnuts, no cider. Speakers blasted Cardi B while a stilted man carrying a scythe stalked the line and posed with people in front of a step-and-repeat backdrop.

Inside, it was loud and hot. For 20 feverish minutes, throughout 18 different rooms, I fended off attacks from an ax-wielding contortionist, an undead stripper dancing across from, well, a dead stripper impaled on her pole, and a doctor who leapt across his operating table toward me, growling, “It’s just you and me, big guy.”

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Watch your step: A stilted beast stalks the line outside Blood Manor. Credit Jessica Lehrman for The New York Times

Glasses were provided for a maze lined with 3-D wallpaper, but for a pitch-dark maze, nothing — just my own two hands reaching out, feeling around every turn.

Back on the street, friends recounted their escapes in excited clumps, while two young women hid from the stilted man under the M20 bus stop shelter.

This Is Real

(Ages 18 and up, Red Hook, Brooklyn)

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Ever wonder what you would do if you were kidnapped? This Is Real simulates a group abduction at a warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Credit Jessica Lehrman for The New York Times

Ever wondered what you’d do if you were kidnapped? I sure haven’t.

From Psycho Clan, the team behind Nightmare New York, This Is Real simulates a group abduction in an isolated Red Hook warehouse. Only eight people are admitted during each time slot, and everyone must sign a waiver beforehand. Because most of the other times were sold out, I was given a 3 p.m. Sunday slot, a good option in case you and your aunt can’t get into “Hello, Dolly!”

I stood outside the warehouse with my fellow abductees: a group of male friends and a guy who’d driven two hours from Connecticut. Threatening greeters circled us, murmuring, “Introduce yourselves. You will need each other.”

Two of my biggest fears were already being engaged: a broken fourth wall and a bunch of straight guys depending on me for their survival.

Inside we were blindfolded, bound at the hands and led one by one into narrow cells. I wriggled free of my bindings and raised my blindfold just in time to watch the stocking-capped killer spray a tied-up woman with a gas that made her woozy. He ran down our row of cells, spraying us as well.

“You’re pretty,” he said to my neighbor, and, to me, “I’m attracted to you.”

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This Is Real is a theatrical, immersive horror experience in which (willing) participants are locked in cages and have to find their way out. Credit Jessica Lehrman for The New York Times

“Thank you,” I nearly purred back.

He hauled the woman out, and we had to unlock our cells and scour the filthy, sparse room for ways to escape without getting caught. Every few minutes we heard whistling, which meant the killer was approaching, and scrambled to hide. I wasn’t fast enough the first time.

“Dead!” he shouted, pointing at me, as earsplitting horror movie strings swelled. (Luckily, you get three lives.)

The boys tore through our room while I tried to look busy. “Here,” one of them said to me, “I’ll hoist you up to that electrical box, and see if you can find anything.” I longed for the killer’s whistle.

I survived the 70-minute ordeal, hiding in a refrigerator two rooms back, abandoned by the others. The greeters, no longer threatening, took our photo for the Instagram page and recommended Botanica across the street for a drink.

“It’s not much cooler out there,” a greeter said, pushing the warehouse doors open.

Oh, right — out there. I took a deep breath, steeled myself and stepped back in.

If You Go

THE GRAVESEND INN, A HAUNTED HOTEL Through Oct. 31. Voorhees Theater, 186 Jay Street, Brooklyn; nycitytechtheatreworks.org/gravesendinn.

HORSEMAN’S HOLLOW Through Oct. 31. Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.; 914-366-6900, hudsonvalley.org/events/horsemans-hollow.

BLOOD MANOR Through Nov. 4. 163 Varick Street, Manhattan; 212-290-2825, bloodmanor.com.

THIS IS REAL Through December. 153 Coffey Street, Brooklyn; thisisreal.nyc.

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