Haunted attractions abound this time of year, offering a ghoulish assortment of frights. For the last six years, however, the artist collective known as the Soap Factory has enticed capacity crowds to descend into the depths of the Haunted Basement, the gruesome gold standard for demented delights. From the very start, the Haunted Basement distinguished itself from other Halloween-themed happenings by applying the full measure of its artistic ingenuity to the fundamental purpose of scaring audiences out of their wits. Hayrides and mazes are time-honored Halloween traditions, but really can't compare with the sensory overload inflicted by these maniacal mavens of the macabre. Directed by Noah Bremer to resemble a waking nightmare, each turn in the darkened labyrinthine corridors foretells ghastly surprises, including a bloodcurdling population of the demented and deranged as styled by makeup designer Kristen Leigh and costume designer Alli Olwell. Even without the horrid inhabitants, the atmosphere is choked with tension thanks to unnerving soundscapes, tactile grotesqueries, and a range of repugnant odors provided by the smell engineers at St. Croix Sensory. Those skeptics bold enough to assert their fearlessness, however, can purchase a Test Subject ticket for a nerve-wracking solo admission. No matter how one endures the horrors, liquid fortification can be found in the Spooky Speakeasy, a pop-up bar in which visitors are welcome to share a laugh over their screams.
Wednesdays-Sundays, 6 p.m.-midnight. Starts: Oct. 3. Continues through Nov. 3, 2013