The hottest Halloween destination

Local Experience

Mary-Stella Mangina, Volunteer Writer

University of North Alabama students who claim there is nothing to do near Florence, Alabama simply do not know where to look, as far as fun activities go. The area has much to offer, especially during the fall. One of Florence natives’ favorite autumn excursions is to venture to the haunted attraction, Arx Mortis. This haunted house lurks in Killen, about a half of an hour away from the University. Arx Mortis, which translates in Latin to “citadel of death”, lives up to its name and provides guests with a memorably macabre experience. This year, the attraction opened on September 24th, and it will remain open until November. Listed by a respected mappublishing technology company, Rand McNally, as one of the scariest spooky houses in North America. Arx Mortis boasts state-of-the-art animatronics and elaborately-costumed employees to cultivate a truly immersive nightmarish adventure. “I wait all year to scare people. It’s one of my favorite things to do. It gives me pure joy,” remarks Baylee Walker, who works tirelessly at Arx Mortis to scare those who dare to enter it. The scary site’s online column says it “offer[s] haunted entertainment – which means you might get scared, you might get terrified, or you might just enjoy the incredible actors, sets, and originality of [its] attractions.” While the cast in Arx Mortis are not permitted to touch the participants, they make it their primary purpose to strike fear into their hearts. Rated PG-13, the frightening feature is generally enjoyed by dedicated doom enthusiasts and hesitant horror novices alike. However, it is not recommended to young children or people who have a strong aversion to blood. “I would not recommend [Arx Mortis] to someone who is scared easily or uncomfortable with gore. Going through and experiencing it is terrifying,” says Walker. Similarly, Carly Robinson, who has been an employee at the place in question for nearly five years, observes, “Even though we are a no-touch haunt, I have seen multiple people come in and have to be escorted out because they were so scared.” Folks who decide to traverse the corridors of the haunted house do so at their own discretion. I drove out to the haunted house last night, along with a small group of friends from work. This year, it contains two main features. One is a mildly intense passage through a haunted hospital called Covington Clinic, and the other is a more extreme, prison-themed trek known as Cell Block 9, which my friends and I ended up choosing. Because we could not get off work until 11 p.m., we did not arrive at the place until 11:50, just 10 minutes before they were set to close. We cut it very close, but the haunted house’s staff were accommodating and hospitable nonetheless. Of course, their version of hospitality consists of more carnage and chainsaws than the average person’s, but that was to be expected. It was difficult for me to find friends who were willing to travel through the haunted attraction with me; many of the people I asked told me they were too scared. To invitees who decline on account of nerves, I always say the same thing: “Arx Mortis is therapeutic.” Where else is it socially acceptable to scream, start, and swear at the top of your lungs, for a prolonged period of time? The mental clarity I feel after running from cackling killer clowns is likened to the feeling you might derive from completing a hot yoga session. The highlights of the ghost house include a scarcely-lit maze, an illusionary vortex tunnel, a creatureinfested woodsy trail, and of course, a gift shop. It did not disappoint. Filled to the brim with screeching souls and flickering lights, Arx Mortis is certainly not for the faint of heart, but that is only because it is heartstoppingly fun.