March 3, 2024

Haunted Houses and Other Spooky Stops: Three Spots to Get Your Scare On

We give movie ratings to these Halloween destinations
By Rachel Pasche | Oct. 21, 2023

’Tis the season to be terrified, and northern Michigan is full of ways to celebrate the approaching holiday. Whether you want to get scared senseless, feel a little frightened, or prefer to skip the haunts altogether, there’s a stop for every comfort level.

Bolt’s Farm (Rated G)

One autumnal rite of passage is the picking of the pumpkins, whether they’re for carving or decoration, and Bolt’s Farm near Charlevoix is a must-stop for selecting your squashes. On a fall weekend, cars line the road on both sides as visitors flock to this pumpkin patch. Hundreds of pumpkins spread out across the lawn, cattle graze in the distance, and an iconic red farmhouse overlooks the festivities.

This family-run farm has six pumpkin varieties this year—white pumpkins, warty pumpkins, pie pumpkins, and more—along with winter squash varieties, peppers, potatoes, and other fall produce, all harvested from the Bolt’s 150-acre farm. Cindy Bolt and her husband, Russ—along with their right-hand man, Robert—have been running their farm for decades and always look forward to autumn visitors.

“Some people have been coming for years, and we’ve gotten to know them and their families well. It’s really special when a returning customer comes back with a new baby or with their family and we get to meet everyone,” Bolt says. “We love the relationships we’ve formed through this business.”

They see thousands of visitors each fall, those who quickly pop in and grab some produce, create stunning bouquets for a wedding or gathering from Cindy’s U-pick flower garden, or peruse the pumpkins. Though Bolt’s normally offers a corn maze, this year they decided to skip the maze and focus more on the glorious gourds. You can stop in any day of the week from 9am until 7pm at 9339 Atwood Road in Charlevoix.

Ghost Ship (Rated PG)

Haunted houses have a corner on the spooky spaces market on land, but the S.S. City of Milwaukee is the only way to get scared at sea. (Or…at lake?) This floating attraction is open throughout October on all Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30-10:30pm, plus Sunday, October 29th.

The multi-deck maze consists of five different levels to test your mettle, taking between 30 and 45 minutes to get through. The layout and scares change annually, so even those who have visited in years past won’t know what to expect (or when to expect it) when they climb aboard this spooky ship. Linda Spencer, the manager of the S.S. City of Milwaukee, suggests that among other things, guests can expect to encounter clowns, spiders, dolls, eerie doctors, and a whole host of other creatures.

The S.S. City of Milwaukee is a nonprofit, with the Ghost Ship haunted attraction being its biggest fundraiser of the year. Spencer says it takes about three weeks and lots of hours from volunteers to get the retired car ferry ready for its transformation into the Ghost Ship each October. The scarers are all volunteers, and there are around 30 to 45 of them each year.

Tickets start at $12 per person and are available on-site; children under 6 years old get free admittance. On Halloween, they offer a “toned down” version of the tour for kids and “scaredy pants,” with a $5 admission fee. (Want to skip the line? The Ghost Ship offers fast passes online, too.) Learn more at or visit the ship at 99 Arthur Street in Manistee.

Screams in the Dark (Rated PG-13)

If you get your thrills from screaming your lungs out, Screams in The Dark (pictured) is the best way to get your heart racing this fall.

Previously held at the fairgrounds in Kalkaska, the whole operation has expanded in a major way, owner Joe Ritchie says. This year the spooky attraction is at their new permanent location, at 5548 M-66, a large, 43-acre space along M66 in Kalkaska. Ritchie says they change the experience each fall, but this year everything from the ground up will be new and different, promising lots of tricks and treats for returning visitors and new guests alike.

The new location boasts several attractions. There’s the Town of Blackwood, where people wait before entering the Blackwood Manor, a large haunted mansion. Upon exiting, guests traverse the Trail of the Lost, which winds through over nine acres and plenty of scares in a dark wood. Visitors then come across the Grimfell Asylum, a hospital-themed haunt, before exiting into the midway area complete with food trucks, fortune telling, and more fun ways to unwind after the tense trek through the grounds.

Ritchie rates the whole experience as PG-13, with plenty of scares and some gore, but no graphic language or other things unsuitable for teens (the minimum recommended age for entry is 12). “I think what makes us stand out is our passion to make this the best haunted event in northern Michigan,” Ritchie says. “We want our guests to see all the detail, to feel like they are in a movie, not just any old haunted event.”

Readers beware, these actors (around 50 of them) are taking their jobs very seriously, and they aim to frighten. “We tend to lose hundreds a year,” Ritchie says of folks who get too scared. “Some don’t make it inside the first room before tapping out. Others make it much further, but sometimes it just takes the right scare, phobia, or fear, and they end up asking to be taken out.”

Screams in the Dark is open every weekend in October from 7:30-11pm Fridays and Saturdays and 7:30-10:30pm on Sundays. Tickets are available on-site for $20 on Fridays and Saturdays, $18 on Sundays, with the option to purchase a $30 fast pass on Fridays and Saturdays to skip the line.


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