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Shiver Me Timbers

Prepare to be frightened this Halloween season at the Alameda County Fairgrounds!


The Pirates of Emerson have scared families around the Bay for 20 years, but last year, they set anchor close to home. The haunted attraction opens an expanded event at Pleasanton’s Alameda County Fairgrounds September 30, and it looks to be the most frightening season yet.

From pirates to cowboys: General admission includes five haunts, where witches, prisoners, zombie cowboys, haunted dolls, and—of course—pirates roam. Watch out for machine guns and electric shocks in the Lock Down, and shrinking humans in the Alice in Wonderland–style Doll Hostel. But nothing compares to the Pirates of Emerson, a 30-foot ship that gets rocked—literally—by waves and canons. “It’s truly frightening,” says head pirate Karl Fields. “And it’s a whole new experience in the dark.”

Mazes for all ages: Much of the five-acre world consists of mazes, from a climbable hay playground to two corn labyrinths. The fan favorite Mental Maze is back, with thumping music and dizzying strobe lights.

Bone Cage Capture: A fun new highlight involves climbing inside a glow-in-the-dark “bone ball,” inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. You’ll start 13 feet high and roll like a hamster back to ground level. “We strap you in and push you off the ramp,” Fields says with a chuckle.

Pirates of Emerson is open through October 31. Tickets ($20–$70) and information at piratesofemerson.com.

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