'Tis the season for heart racing, blood pumping and horrifyingly delightful haunted attractions.

'Tis the season for heart racing, blood pumping and horrifyingly delightful haunted attractions.

For those who enjoy a good scare, Sussex County is home to several ghastly haunts that take visitors through houses, cornfields, woods and even underground.

The award-winning Screams at the Beach in Georgetown is well into its third season and has been lauded by the Maryland-based Haunt Review Crew as having the potential to be the best attraction in the country. Last year, coordinators Brian Turner and Mike Milliken received the Scariest Attraction Award from Haunt Rater, a group that reviews haunts in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

"It's scary and it's very well put together," Turner said. "We put a lot into our sets and designs and our actors are top notch. We have people who just jump out and scare you, but we also have people who are very interactive. I think the finished product comes across very well."

Screams at the Beach features five spooky attractions, as well as a carnival with rides, games and food. Turner and Milliken said the best attraction is likely House of the Hallow, which is focused on common phobias, like clowns and snakes.

"I've seen adults curl up in the fetal position and cry because of a clown," Turner said, adding another attraction focuses on loud noises and pungent smells. "Basically, we really try to get into your head. We go after all your senses, whether it's seeing something scary, smelling something terrible or hearing loud sounds."

Head south in Sussex County for several smaller, but still spine tingling, attractions whose proceeds go to local charities and organizations.

Cemetery House in Laurel is in its 26th year and Scott Allen of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which organizes Cemetery House, said the attraction is scarier than ever.

"Cemetery House gets scarier and more realistic every year because things change," Allen said. "I had my daughter watch a monster movie from when I was a kid and she thought it was stupid. They get used to things being more advanced and more realistic so we try to keep growing in that respect."

Allen was tight-lipped about this year's changes, but did say the overall theme has shifted from last year's zombie apocalypse to a mental asylum.

Visitors board a hayride at the Laurel Fire Department and are carted over to the attraction, which features a two-story haunted house, a corn maze and underground tunnels.

Proceeds from the attraction go to the fire department, Boy Scouts of America, 4-H Youth Development Program and the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows' United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth.

Nightmare's Haunted House in Delmar is in its fifth year at its current location in the former Delmarva Aluminum facility on U.S. Route 13.

This two-story attraction is complete with stairs, crawl spaces and a slide. Cindy Matthews of Nightmare Productions said the group of volunteers added three new sections to this year's attraction, which sometimes changes between weekends depending on whether the groups feels that visitors are thoroughly spooked upon their departure.

"Sometimes we find things that maybe aren't working or could be better so we make those changes," Matthews said.

Some of the haunt's highlights are the butcher shop, a swamp, a funeral for an undead 6-year-old boy who claims to eat brains, a vortex tunnel and areas featuring movie stars like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.

Proceeds from this attraction go to the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford and the Delmar and Blades fire departments.

Matthews said the heavy donations to causes that fight cancer are in memory of Nightmares Productions founding member Gerald "Gump" Brown who succumbed to leukemia in 2007 at the age of 40.

"Gump was important to us and we believe he's still there helping us and haunting us," she said. "His birthday was Oct. 28 so he was very much a Halloween person."

The Roxana Volunteer Fire Company is reopening its Haunted Forest this year after nearly a decade of being closed. Volunteer Firefighter Mike Magee said a new rush of fresh, young membership sparked the revival.

"All the structures were sitting in the woods for about 10 years so some of them were falling down and there was a lot of rotting wood," Magee said. "We had to buy plywood and make sure everything is up to code, safe and will last us another 10 years."

The Haunted Forest reopens this weekend and will feature a spooky bridge, a graveyard, a jail, a butcher shop and more. The Roxana Ladies Auxiliary will be on hand selling food and beverages.

All proceeds go to the Roxana Volunteer Fire Department.

The organizers of all local haunted attractions suggest visitors dress comfortably, wear close-toed shoes and leave young children at home.