Todd - Nightmare on Edgewood was another first for HHT this year. We were excited to be going through another extreme touch haunt and with it being a collective of 3 attractions, it sounded like there would be a whole 'lotta touching going on. Eh...not so much.
It wasn't made clear on-site what the haunt names were. According to their website, the first one we went through was Edgewood Mortuary. Of the three, this was my personal favorite and without a doubt, the most hands-on. I wouldn't have taken it as a mortuary; it seemed more like a crazed medical facility. Mutilated bodies were spread throughout and the actors were dressed like doctors, nurses and patients.
Gayle (per usual) got the brunt of the direct contact due to her overly-obvious cowering behind the group. While she was put into a head lock and damn-near trapped into the first room, the rest of us moved on mostly untouched. In the entire haunt, I had a gurney pushed at me and was pushed back into an examination chair. That's it. I'll admit, I was a little jealous that Gayle was getting all of the full-contact harassment.
Overall, the scenery was pretty impressive, especially considering it is all torn down at the end of the season, only to be put back up in the following late summer. Rather than relying on a bunch of automated eye candy, the look and feel was presented using practical props and a lot of gore - always a good staple! This was also the most chaotic haunt of the three.
The second section was Karnival, a fully clown-themed haunt. I'm happy to report this wasn't another 3D black light haunt. There were black-lit props, but it was mostly a dark, grotesque carnival theme. Contact was fairly minimal here, at least for me. Much of it felt open and unoccupied. At one point, the men and women of our group were separated to go into their respective bathrooms, aided by a few of the clown folk. In the Mens, we were then split again. I was excited by the potential of being alone, only to near-immediately meet right back up with my fellow gents. The various routes merely went around different corners and converged right after. The women then caught up to us, apparently escorted back though the Mens door. The lack of purpose with all of that had me a bit stumped.
Towards the end we had to crawl on our hands and knees into a pitch black room through a large tube. One of our members isn't a spring chicken anymore and such physical demands can be tough. I'm not sure if there was an alternative way through or not, but a haunt should always make these things an option. Once we all made it through, as I suspected, someone was in the dark room with us suddenly making themselves known.
To be honest, this one really didn't do much for me. Much of it wasn't too memorable because of the lack of content. A great deal of it felt like pinstriped walls all throughout and a handful of actors. Of course, if you're afraid of the dark and/or terrified of clowns then this will surely have an adverse effect on you. For me, it was more of, "Where's the rest?"
The final portion, Conley Manor, was my favorite aesthetically. From the start it had a fantastically modeled home interior - one of the best I've ever seen, in fact. It actually looks like a slightly scaled down house that you walk within, while in reality, it appeared to be in some sort of temporary or mobile structure. There were whole sets of a living room, bedroom (complete with a suspicious looking actress who didn't really seem to do much of anything...no touching? No throwing on the bed?) and dining room with a very fun surprise inside.
Unfortunately, the environment is the only thing this haunt has going to for it. None of us seemed to be touched with the exception of Paul, whose interaction was limited to his hat being taken off his head by a well-placed scare actor. Touch or no touch, I still enjoyed going through it up until I found myself immediately outside. It was over as soon as it began. This finale of Nightmare on Edgewood is disappointingly too short. To be fair, the structure it's in only has so much room so there's no one to place blame on. It was just a let down for me because it looked so great. I would have much rather had this haunt in the lengthy section devoted to Karnival. Who doesn't want to spend as much time as possible in a modeled haunted house?
Overall, I was entertained and impressed by the level of detail and construction throughout Nightmare on Edgewood(less so with Karnival). Going through these scenes, you would never guess they were temporarily placed. Everything looks very solid so the talent in transformation incredible. I expected a much higher level of touching given all of the warnings displayed by the ticket booth. The actors did a fair job in their duties of intimidation and scares - contact aside, however, there's no real sense of story presented in either haunt so neither actor carries a narrative.
I believe Nightmare on Edgewood needs to lock down what they're about. If they want to take the extreme route, keeping a diluted story is fine but they'll really need to up their game in contact and invasion of personal space. A portion of money made goes to the little league whose grounds they operate on. For this reason, going more extreme may not be the ideal move or image they want. If not, the quality of the haunt could surely be enhanced more so by telling a story, putting in some primary characters or making the haunt interactive in other, non-contact ways.
Paul - Nightmare on Edgewood is a haunt on the south side of Indianapolis that has been going for 40 years now and they've been able to do build some fairly crazy haunts over that span. Currently they have 3 haunts that you get to go through for your admission fee, and there are some pretty intense scenes. Edgewood is a full-contact haunt, so expect some grabbing, pushing, and showing on your way through.
You start out in Edgewood Mortuary which reminds me of some old run-down doctor's office from 1982, but with way more bodies lying around than you should be comfortable with. This was my favorite of the three haunts, mostly because of how authentic the set felt. Just the right amount of light and fog, very good props, and the actors did well also. The actors bring lots of knives into play and you're likely going to end up with quite a few of them against your skin, so be warned!
After you escape the Mortuary you visit Karnival. This is a clown-themed haunt that keeps things pretty dark. There aren't many happy clowns in here, mostly just psychotic ones that will invade any personal space you have, then take that space from you altogether. It's definitely one of the darkest clown attractions I've come across, and they do an admirable job of taking advantage of it.
The final haunt is Conley Manor. This is more your traditional haunted house, but with one of the most pissed-off families ever living in it. You walk through the front door and wind your way through the whole first floor before you finally exit through the garage. While you make your way through you'll see some really crazy decorations, way more blood spatter on the walls than any building should have, and actors coming at you from all directions!
Overall I enjoyed Nightmare on Edgewood quite a bit. The sets were super creepy, the crew did a great job of making you feel not-at-home, and I walked out feeling like I had been on quite a journey. I was a little disappointed in the touch aspect of it since the most contact I had was someone running a stretcher into me in the Morgue, but some of the others in the group were dragged all through the place! You definitely get quite a few scares per dollar at Edgewood and it's one you'll remember for a long time! (If you're not one of the unlucky lobotomy recipients in the Morgue that is....)
Teresa - This was our first time going to Nightmare on Edgewood. I was impressed to hear it was celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. I think the current owners have "only" been there for the last 10, but the place has some history and generations of fans. This is another haunt that has to be torn down and rebuilt every year, as it is located on a baseball field. I couldn't believe these buildings we were looking at were facades! This place is regularly voted the scariest and most intense haunt in Indiana and is full-contact, which is right up my alley! We got our tickets, and after snapping some pics with an extremely tall clown with awesome spinning eyeballs, we went inside to see what this was all about. There are 3 separate attractions here. The first was Edgewood Mortuary. Right away, the actors grabbed one guy and pushed him against a mortuary table leaning against the wall. They touched me a lot, jumping out, grabbing me, pulling my hood off, touching my hair; they were threatening in tone, and definitely made the haunt more exciting and fun. They were relentless with their jump scares, sometimes sticking with us for a little while, popping out multiple times. They came at us with various weapons and medical instruments. Not a place for the squeamish! One held a cleaver to my throat, and not all that gently! With a couple exceptions, the touching wasn't very aggressive. Most of it was more "teasing" in nature. There were some creepy scenes and some well-placed props, my favorite of which was an alligator in a swamp.
The next part was Karnival. We waited for a couple of minutes outside of what looked like a circus tent, with these awesome clown-head lanterns. Inside there were lots of carnival-themed posters, decor, games, and the like. Right away, I made a new "friend". He asked me if I wanted to play a game, which...of course!, so he put his arm around me and led me through a portion of the haunt to a "game". When I won, he said I got to stay there with him, but I didn't want to miss any more fun, so I bade him a fond farewell. He was definitely my favorite actor in this section. All of the clowns seemed to have fun with us. We got to stagger through a vortex tunnel, crawl through a low tunnel, squeeze through an air tunnel, and we experienced some cool lighting effects, all which helped put the "fun" in "fun-house".
When we exited Karnival, there was an escape room, which we didn't have time to do. It looks pretty cool on the website though. Let us know if you try it!
Last was Conley Manor. This one is very "classic haunted house". We walked through various rooms, each having some character or prop (or both) to make us jump. I enjoyed the girl with the dolls, the dining room, and the surprises from above. And beware the smell of gas. That's all I can say without spoiling it!
For me, the Mortuary had the most intimidating actors, Karnival was the most fun, and Conley Manor had the best props. Don't let the full-contact disclaimer dissuade you from going. These aren't THAT aggressive and they are lots of fun!
Donna - Nightmare on Edgewood is celebrating it's 40th year of haunting the residents around the Indianapolis area with three very different haunts in one location. The first haunt we entered was EDGEWOOD MORTUARY. This was the scariest of the three in my opinion due to the actors and very creepy scenes. However, I did feel that the Mortuary theme was not kept all through the haunt as some of the rooms were a bit out of place but still fun and entertaining to walk through. After leaving the Mortuary you go briefly outside and travel through the very creepy cemetery out back.
The next haunt awaiting you is the KARNIVAL, a circus-themed attraction, with sinister clowns waiting around every corner. This is a typical Circus/evil clown haunt but with a few fun surprises (we don't give away spoilers on our reviews but be prepared to crawl at one point!).
The adventure concludes in CONLEY MANOR, a very short traditional haunted house with not many actors but one of the best animatronics I have ever seen!
Note* This is a "Hands On" haunt and you will get pushed, shoved, have fake knives shoved at your throat, grabbed by the shoulder and held back from your group, so not for everyone. They do tell you that when you buy your ticket but be aware if you don't like to be touched, this is not the haunt for you.
Todd - It's not widely known, but a few of us in this group used to put on a small haunt a number of years ago. It was 100% out-of-pocket and generated no income. It was primarily built as an event for the company we worked for, for a single day and single evening. Weeks and weeks of work, thousands of dollars spent - all for one night. Why did we do it? Because we loved every minute of it. The haunt ceased mostly due to no longer having access to the space we built in. However, we had some aspirations to take it to the next level.
The Thirteenth Hour is the haunt that I wish I had today. While only in its second season, the passion, drive and sheer talent thriving in its foundation already surge at levels that more established haunts often lack.
Going in, I knew that this haunt was constructed outdoors and pieced together using modular sets that were broken down after the season. I will admit it - I questioned the quality beforehand thinking, "How good could it be if it's not a permanent fixture?" It's amazing in the darkest of ways.
People like myself are just naturally attracted to dark things. I'm fascinated by spooky stuff - decrepit buildings, gothic mansions, urban legends, the paranormal, etc. The Thirteenth Hour sucked me in right away. The entire haunt is themed as a dark church and catacombs complete with undead minions, sinister nuns, dark priests, as well as its founder - an undertaker who was practicing dark ceremonies next to his funeral parlor which created this whole thing you are now experiencing.
There is no variation in theme here. The entire haunt is in this church and its catacombs below. There are no clowns, cannibal rednecks, possessed schoolchildren or famous movie monsters. Every character inside fits the theme. The primary actors are fantastic and very interactive. Not only do they enrich the story and the history of the church, but they continually push the threat that one of you (the chosen sacrifice) is going to be taken and separated from the group. In haunt terms, a great deal of time is taken in these rooms with the primary actors; so much so that you actually sit down to listen to them talk. And yet, the pacing remained perfect, keeping our group in solitude.
The haunt is constructed on a gravel lot. There are walls on either side of you without any sort of ceiling. The decor is, well, dark...black...bleak. Candelabras, paintings and subtle animatronics line the corridors as you pass through. The open air above adds to the the ruins of a structure.
Most of the props within are made on-premise. While a few were clearly purchased (but brilliantly implemented), the fact that these were original sets with original props made the experience all the more enjoyable. There are tricks and surprises executed here that I've seen nowhere else. This haunt also demonstrates some of the best programmed lighting I've seen in a long while. The synchronization of music, effects and lighting in parts was outstanding.
Due to the way it is constructed, some of the turns and small rooms can be quite small. There were a number of times when the back of our group of six missed something because the actors reacted to the first person leading the way. This caused some timing issue and missed scares for some of us.
The ending left me slightly disappointed. Again, there's a running theme of someone having to be the sacrifice. At the end, when the choice comes to matter, it wasn't anything overly dramatic. I'd like to see the sacrifice get pulled into something more unique and involved.
It is clear that there is an immense amount of talent here. Almost every aspect (the construction, theme, decor, acting) was so well done. With plenty of room to expand in the coming years, I absolutely cannot wait to go again and see what is in store next!
Teresa -This was our first year going to The Thirteenth Hour. It is located about 10 minutes from downtown Indianapolis. I'm really glad we made the trip! The story behind this one in a nutshell is: an undertaker named Heinrich Chapel was removing souls from bodies by performing ceremonies in the abandoned chapel next to his funeral parlor. When 13 people, including Heinrich and his wife went missing in 1913, it was discovered that he had built all of these subterranean passages, which you now get to explore! See the website for more on Heinrich and his dark ceremonies. It was a very cold and windy the Saturday night we went, but there was a nice line of people willing to brave the elements for the chance to get a peak inside the ruined walls. After getting the chance to see it myself, I don't blame them! There were lots of things about this haunt that impressed me. I loved the chapel facade, and I really appreciate all of the scenes inside and in the catacombs. Rather than being flashy and overdone, they were realistic and the effects were executed perfectly. The lighting, music, and sounds we heard really added to the atmosphere. They did a fantastic job with the theme of the chapel and catacombs below and it really makes it more believable that they never stray from it. You really feel like you're walking through the ruins of a creepy old church and the evil contained within. The actors were fantastic in their roles, interacting with us, jumping out, sometimes just standing quietly in a way that was disconcerting. They made sure the whole group was there before any of the important parts happened (like splitting us up or making us choose which way we wanted to go). The pacing was very good, with time to really appreciate the unsettling decor and wonder what vile being was going to jump out next. The feeling here is one of creepiness. There is a sense of awe and dread. It isn't a touch haunt, and it isn't overly aggressive. However, it is filled with realistic-looking props, so that it was impossible to tell which ones were real people and which ones weren't, so there were plenty of jump scares. There's a lot of fun to be had as well. One thing in particular I want to mention is the option of buying an upgraded ticket for someone in your group. The "sacrifice" ticket, allows you to secretly select someone from your group to receive a special and personal experience, which is absolutely hilarious! It's always fun to turn on one of your own! The poor girl in our group was tortured throughout the entire haunt! There are some unforgettable scenes, characters, and creatures. One of my favorites was the spider-lady. She was really creepy! Itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout... except there was nothing itsy-bitsy about these!
It is obvious to me that this place was built by someone who really loves Halloween and creating chilling scenes to tell a story. The attention to detail is amazing, and the scenes are all hand-built. This is no cookie-cutter haunt out to make a quick dollar. This comes from the dark recesses of someone's brain; someone who is passionate about sharing it with you, so that you may be haunted by it, too. It is torn down and built anew every year, which really makes it all the more impressive. And having its roots in a charity haunt, they still believe in giving back to the community. For every purchase, you can vote for your favorite charity, and at the end of the season, the one that wins will get a check from The Thirteenth Hour. Ticket prices are also very reasonable. This is a quality haunt, offering a unique experience, and I'm definitely looking forward to where all this creativity goes from here!
Paul - This year marks our first visit to The Thirteenth Hour, and we're sure glad we were able to make it! The Thirteenth Hour is themed around the legend of an Indianapolis undertaker who decided to build a mass underground grave where he could put the bodies from his funeral parlor. This maze of catacombs was built underneath the condemned cathedral next door to his business, and this haunt is your voyage through it all.
You start the haunt outside of a fantastic looking cathedral facade and soon make your way inside to the pews to get things started. You'll wind through the cathedral before you make the voyage down into the catacombs. As you wind through, you'll encounter some very well done sets, well-costumed and talented actors, excellent scares, and very unique contents. One of my favorite aspects of the haunt is that the entire place maintains a singular theme. You don't go from a cathedral, to zombies, to clowns- it all stays relevant.
This is only the second year that The Thirteenth Hour has been operation as a professional haunt, and I'm fairly blown away at the amount they've been able to do in such a short time. It isn't the largest or longest haunt we've been through but almost every inch of it keeps you on your toes for the next scare, and I'm definitely looking forward to our next visit!
Donna - This haunt was a very pleasant, refreshing surprise with a very creative, convincing, terrifying ambiance. Excellent for a 2nd year haunt. Kudos to the actors, music and props. I can see this one becoming one of our Indy favorites.
What I would like to see next year is even more actors (staying in the theme of the dark church, of course), longer haunt, maybe cover the rooms (add a ceiling) if possible to keep out the rain and cold. But so far, so good. Nice job!
Gayle - This was our first year reviewing this haunt, and I am SO glad we did! This was a gem! Fairly new haunt with such an expertly done experience. This place is amazing and like NO other haunt I've visited. They provide such a great story that follows through from the moment you enter, until the moment you escape...ahem...I mean leave. The theme is creepy, the actors and costumes were perfect, the visuals were right out of a movie set...so well done! There's understated intensity that keeps you gripped throughout. I loved every second!
Todd - The USS Nightmare continued to offer something new and different again this year. Last year we welcomed the new RIP Experience - so much so that we awarded The USS Nightmare with our top Frightmaster award! This year's additions and continual interaction make it a strong contender once again.
The haunt itself, at its core, remains mostly unchanged from last year. Just about all of the scenes are the same. Since this is the year of Michael Myers, he'll be accompanying you in the beginning. It felt like a bit of the pathway was reconfigured on the first floor in the beginning but nothing else overly evident throughout the boat. However, with other additions included within the RIP Experience, it hardly matters.
The RIP Experience brings another dimension to your walk through. The actors will now be able to touch you and interact with you even more so. They'll surely see you since you'll now be wearing a lit up beacon around your neck. With this enhanced interaction comes a deeper story line to the boat. It will add responsibilities you must carry with you while inside...it can even lead to winning actual prizes!
I'm not going to give away any spoilers here but this added experience also will give you access to rooms closed off to the general admission INCLUDING 5-minute escape rooms! This was by far my favorite addition to the haunt this year. The escape room objectives are relevant to the presented story line and fit perfectly thematically.
Most of the actors performed quite well, especially those in deeper character roles relating to the ship's lore. We went on a Wednesday night and while I expect the actors should always be "on," I can only imagine they're even more fired up on big crowd nights. That's not to say they did a lackluster job for us, though.
There are still a few portions of the haunt that do not fit the otherwise strong theme. The largest offender would be the clown area. The designated clown area is actually relatively small, however it's pretty much a small maze of very corridors that wind up putting you into a circle over and over again. No matter how many times I've been here, I always lose my bearings. While I find getting through to be a personal challenge, it really has no place in the story. There's also a mad scientist section that feels a bit random as well.
The USS Nightmare is blast, regardless of any of these minor points. The boat is cool by itself and the haunt experience at it's core is really fun. Throw in the perks of the RIP upgrade and it results in a very fun and entertaining experience, offering a variety of elements rarely found in a single haunt.
Paul - The USS Nightmare is built on a retired dredge ship called the William S Mitchell that once roamed up and down the Ohio river making the channels deeper for boat traffic. The vessel is mostly intact with an enormous amount of the original equipment still there, now just surrounded by a bunch of haunt decor that plays very well off of the original super-industrial environment. It would be a really creepy experience on board even without the haunt being there, so it's an amazing place for scares! The history of the ship is fascinating and is well worth reading about on the haunt's website.
Our experience this year included the RIP Experience which added touch to the haunt and some added content. I would estimate it added around 20 minutes to the length of the tour and made the experience even better by giving a few more rooms to experience and even more intensity from the actors. The experience is already pretty crazy, so this just added more fuel to the fire so to say.
As you walk through the haunt you'll find yourself in many different original parts of the ship that didn't need much addition to the theme anyway, as well as a lot of areas that were totally changed to make them into something else entirely. The boilers, engines, and all of the equipment needed pretty much no help at all, and the kitchen, freezer, and bathrooms were all done amazingly well. As a matter of fact... they're so realistic we still aren't sure if they're original to the ship or if they were added for the haunt. There are a number of scenes that definitely weren't part of the original design of the ship as well, but they're mostly well-done enough to not take away from the authenticity of the surroundings. The lighting and sound effects are on-point, and even the few props in there that I've seen sold at the seasonal pop-up Halloween stores are well-integrated enough to make them fit very well.
On top of the things I've already mentioned, the actors were on their game! There are cast members who are just there to hide and give jump-scares, and others who are integral to their scenes, but not one of them was disappointing in their performance and several of them were phenomenal! The number of hiding places on that boat seem endless and the crew was happy to use every one of them that they could. I don't remember the last time I was actually surprised by as many jump scares as I was this trip through the Nightmare.
If you've never experienced the USS Nightmare you really should. It's one of the best all-around haunts I've experienced anywhere, and it's one of the few that I really look forward to visiting every year. You'll find it docked on the Ohio river right across from downtown Cincinnati, in front of Newport on the Levee. Park at the Levee, grab some dinner, try to brave the Nightmare, and make a night of it!
Teresa - This was my first return to USS Nightmare in several years. I remembered it was a lot of fun before, but this year was phenomenal! It completely surpassed my expectations. We got there before dark, and this ship is pretty unsettling-looking in the dying light of day. Apart from the signs and the big skull on top, it looks derelict, like the roof is caving in. We ate some dinner in Newport, and returned after dark for our tour. Now, the ship was in full haunt mode, with creepy lights, fog, sounds and all. There are various ticket levels available, and we opted for the upgrade for the RIP tour which allows for a more hands-on, immersive experience as you enter the Mitchell Massacre. If you opt for this ticket, you will be given a bright, blinky necklace to wear, letting the crew inside know they can get a little more close and personal. We were there on a Wednesday night, which is presumably a slower night, but it was by no means dead. Well, OUTSIDE, at least. As we waited for our turn, we learned a little about the history of the ship, which is a type called a dredger. It was used to maintain the depths of the water-ways, so they remained navigable. You can read more about this on the website, along with finding out about the 112 crew member deaths, about Captain Mitchell and his daughter, and about the eventual massacre.
Inside is incredibly creepy. You don't get much more atmospheric than this! We met a number of ghostly crew members, with fantastic costumes and old-timey accents, who touched our faces and hair, gave us things to eat and drink, made us play games, gave us missions, assessed our crew-worthiness, locked us up, infected us, decontaminated us, and all kinds of other things. One locked me in a box. Besides the ghostly crew members, I also saw vampires, Michael Myers, and some crazed killers and clowns. We walked through all kinds of rooms, from ship offices and bunks, to the kitchen, to the radio room, to the mechanical areas, to the portion taken over by the clowns, which was a maze of fog and mirrors. All through these rooms were characters we had to interact with, including the Captain and his daughter, Anna. We were given missions and tested in various ways, having to deliver objects, escape a room, play games, and find a key. This goes so much above and beyond a normal haunted attraction. And it was so much fun! The actors are very good at jump scares, too. It is really hard to surprise me these days, and they got me one after another. Good work! I think all-in-all we were in there for almost an hour. That's some serious return on your dollar! And even the parts of the ship that appeared to be almost left alone were so creepy. Picture walking along the metal walkways, with water all around you, and one of the tarps is flapping open in the wind to reveal the river flowing outside...but inside it is dark and things are hiding.
I simply cannot say enough about what a fun time this was. I highly recommend the extra money for the RIP ticket. The actors do touch you, but it isn't too aggressive. It's more sinister than scary. And the amount of time, interaction, and hands-on things you get to do is totally worth the extra cash. Although, having said that, they do have one night where they offer The Captain's Extreme Tour, which is a more aggressive, adult-style haunt, recommended for ages 17+, and I really want to go! Someone please go and tell us what you think! Even if you opt for the basic tickets, the ship is so atmospheric and unique, I think your whole group will have a wonderful time they will never forget!
Donna - I loved the USS Nightmare experience this year because of the interaction with the actors who were just so genuine they scared even me! The walk-through also seemed "different" as more of a maze then just a straight "conga-line" direction. I got the feeling of being lost more than once. This is a genuinely well done haunt and I have been reviewing haunts for almost 30 years. This is one of the best overall haunts that I have ever seen. Bravo!
Gayle - USS Nightmare is definitely one of my Cincinnati "Must Do's". There are so many things to love about this haunt...the fact it's on a boat, the fact it's deceptively larger than what it appears, the actors engagement, the new experiences...all of it combine into a frightfully fun time! The RIP Experience alone is interactive, engaging, and different than any other experience you'll get in Cincinnati. It offers an entire story line that stays true all throughout your tour of this haunted vessel. There are extra rooms, extra activities, extra actors...just EXTRA! It's amazing and one I definitely look forward to every year. So. Much. Fun!
Todd - With countless haunted house experiences under my belt, I'm quite often asked in one form or another, "What's the most extreme haunted house you've ever been to?" The Haunted Hotel is always the first to come to mind.
It's become a tradition of ours to stop by every year and to be truthful, I'd be pretty upset if I missed it. The Haunted Hotel is unlike any other haunt I've ever been to. There's virtually nothing traditional about it. There are no cemeteries, no lore of ghosts and very little left to the imagination. Instead, everything it offers is presented in full force, up close and personal. This haunt is nothing short of an adrenaline-inducing experience.
The entrance is a single sliding metal door; once it closes, that's it. There is no coming back out. Well, that's not true...but if you come right back out (which happens often enough), you'll have to do the walk of shame in front of the hundreds of people waiting in line. From the moment you enter, a sense of personal threat and trepidation pours over you as the hotel owner greets you and seals your fate - you are now one of them. The hostility to come is merely foreshadowed in his preaching. The first room is so small (now even smaller than in recent years) that the sense of claustrophobia is just a taste of what is to come.
Inside, the pathway to the end is feels like an endurance of will. You'll be forced to come face to face with some of the most intimidating actors in the business. The interaction WILL be physical. Expect to be touched, grabbed, picked up, slammed against walls and even caressed (in appropriate places). The worst thing you can do is show signs of intimidation - they'll be like moths to flame.
The Haunted Hotel isn't about offering a lot of jump scares. There's not a lot that will take you by surprise. When you enter any given room, you'll be able to size up the situation wondering how bad this one will be. The interior is often structured so there's no way to move on except through the actors, leaving you vulnerable to whatever they may choose to do with you. If you're in a larger group, you may luck out if someone become the prime target. However, if you think you'll get through the entirely of the haunt unscathed, think again.
The building is very unassuming. It's plain brick exterior provides no hint as to what is inside. There's more inside those walls than you would guess and fortunately, the outdoor ending portion seems to have been extended more so. The actors are unrelenting and it's astonishing that they can put this insane amount of energy into the production night after night. Their appearance is spot on for their roles too. They come across more like characters from Mad Max: Fury Road than spooks or specters and their demeanor is void of morality - quite intimidating. However, of the ones I've had a chance to talk to, they were all incredibly nice people with true passion for their craft.
I swear this haunt is turning me into a sadist or something. These days I go through welcoming the brutality! When I tell people about the things that have happened to us over the years, they usually give me that "What the hell is wrong with you?" look. To my slight disappointment, recent years have been a little less extreme. Of course, my definition of "less extreme" is probably enough to really shake up the average person. This year, I was grabbed by the throat, touched numerous times on the face, slammed against a wall and had my personal space invaded too many times to count. And yes - I want more! I miss the days of being grabbed by the head and thrown in a closet or bent over a metal table to have sparks fly at my face. I store these special memories away along with believing in Santa or when my daughter was born. Seriously though, those are the lasting impressions that The Haunted Hotel gave me over the years.
We heard last year that after a complaint that went somewhat public they had to take everything down a notch. I say, give us some kind of option for the "R" rated show and not settle on the "PG-13" one. It's made perfectly clear upon entering that you're going to be touched (to say the least) inside. To be fair, maybe I'm just THAT desensitized but I really wish the hands-on kicked back up a notch or two. Or five.
Why? Not just because I find delight in getting bruised for entertainment, but because The Haunted Hotel offers a surreal experience that's different from the convention - it's memorable, as often are the things that pull you out of your comfort zone.
Teresa - If you want to experience a real adrenaline rush, this is the place to go. It isn't the longest walk-through, it doesn't have the shortest wait, it doesn't overwhelm you with fancy decor and animatronics, nor is it a fun place to bring the kids (unless you're raising little Michael Myers). But, if you're looking for aggressive actors, and appreciate a good R rating, come to the Haunted Hotel. There's a reason the line here is always long. Waiting for your turn, you may get a sense from the queue actors with the really creepy masks and costumes that this one may be a little more intense than that neighborhood haunt you went to years ago that the local boy scouts put on. From the minute you walk inside, where you are greeted by the proprietor, with his old-timey clothes and accent, you have to control the urge to run. These actors are intimidating; their costumes look like something a demented person made. The humor can be raunchy, and they will grab you, caress you, bear hug you, tickle you, keep you behind while your friends walk on, tease, insult, and possibly gang up on you until you're huddled alone in a corner, shaking. You may get wet. You may get shocked. I just want to warn you what you're in for. Having said that, it is so much fun! I still love the elevator scene. You have to see it to believe it. The hotel has jump-scares galore and a thrill around every corner. We were screaming and cracking up from the start. I'm not sure if the lighting inside the house was changed this year, but I liked the flickering strobe effect. Outside was definitely improved. And we were not disappointed with the end. Watching people run out the exit, screaming, is always one of the best parts! I've been coming here for several years now, and it isn't quite as aggressive as it once was, due to parents' concerns over their teenagers coming home with stage blood or marks that look like bruises, which I find to be a shame, but I understand. I feel like the actors do a great job of using touch (and humor) to scare you, without hurting or being inappropriate for a majority of adrenaline junkies looking for full-contact haunted attractions. I did come out with black makeup down the side of my face. I have no idea where it came from. I like coming away with some small memento. I just saw a study today that says people who go to haunted attractions come out with an adrenaline high that is really good for your health. You owe it to yourself to get scared! And if you're anywhere near Louisville, this is the place!
Paul - The Haunted Hotel is the most extreme haunt around.
There are dozens and dozens of haunts within a few hundred miles of my home in Cincinnati, but there isn't one that I can say is more extreme than The Haunted Hotel. The combination of their acting, set design, costumes, lighting, gore, and intensity are completely unmatched, and if you're someone who has debated walking out of any other haunt early, you probably won't make it through the hotel.
You start out getting a little overview from the proprietor of the hotel (who is amazing) before you board the elevator to head inside. The absolute craziest elevator ride I've ever been on leads you to the front desk, from which you start making your way through the hotel. You'll see some of the wildest scenes ever, and you WILL be touched along the way. Honestly, you'll be lucky if you make it through without having your feet leave the ground because these creeps can be rather aggressive! This year was one of the milder HH experiences I've had, but there were still many hands to the throat and more violations of personal space than I could possibly count.
You'll wind through all kinds of scenes before you finally make your way outside into the maze. Don't think the insanity is over at this point because you still have a long road ahead of you. You think you've experienced chainsaws at other haunts? You haven't experienced chainsaws.
I love going through The Haunted Hotel. It's a challenge! Every time I walk out there's a bit of a sigh of relief and a feeling of accomplishment. There are other haunts that match up in a few areas, but nothing with this overall combination of kick-your-ass-and-scare-you-to-death.
Think you're up for the challenge? Think you can handle the abuse? Well make your way to Louisville and try your hand at The Haunted Hotel. Something tells me you'll break your reservation.
Todd - If you want to experience a haunt with your favorite horror movie icons, go to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. Too far? Too expensive? Then The Devil's Attic is the next-best thing!
Costuming and makeup effects are absolutely superb here. We've all been to that haunt where there's a Freddy Krueger and it just doesn't work. He's either stick thin, completely overweight or the mask looks like it came right off a CVS clearance rack. While there's no Freddy at The Devil's Attic, there a plenty of others replicated at incredible detail.
The star of the show is the man himself, The Devil, who will greet you with his infamous lore in which he explains that he has harvested the ultimate bringers of nightmares and stored them away, now to be unleashed upon you. This Devil is one of the few iconic haunt actors I've encountered that represents a haunt as a brand. Much like The Dent Schoolhouse's Charlie, when you see this Devil, you know exactly where he's come from. The costuming, like the others inside, is immaculate.
The bulk of The Devil's Attic is scene after scene ripped right out of the most famous horror movies, urban legends and historical horrors - each finely detailed. Each room is constructed much like a movie set with typically one or two actors inside each one. Some fan favorites you'll encounter include Jigsaw, Ash Williams, Regan MacNeil, Bloody Mary, some hot vampires and even Ed Gein - kind of. Just about every character inside should be familiar to the dedicated horror fanatic. If not, do some homework! A new addition this year was a fog swamp room which have quickly become common, however The Devil's Attic's setup is the best or second-best I have seen anywhere.
This year, the execution of the haunt felt a little more aggressive. The actors were a little more in our faces than usual (no complaints there). In the past, the pace was slower - we would walk into the room, take it in, then the actor would come out of nowhere and do their thing. This year, little time was left for observations. The actors were right in there, louder and more chaotic than ever. The entire walk through felt like an unrelenting gauntlet of nightmares; one right after the other. In one of the torture scenes I was sprayed with water so hard that I was re-adjusting my contacts through the rest of the scenes.
As an experience, I think I actually liked this more. The chaos, intended or not, brought the haunt to a different level. It came across more imposing than in the past. The only downside was that it gives the visitors less time to appreciate the top quality detail. It also felt shorter, simply because we were plowing through rooms faster than usual. I really wish the building was bigger - I want more! I can only imagine the things this talented group of people could build with a lot more working room. We were told they have enough room to add a few scenes which are in the works but otherwise they are at capacity.
So - going back to my Freddy Krueger example - that wouldn't fly here. Every year I say it but the costuming is damn-near studio quality. The Devil's attic almost comes off as an interactive horror museum as much as it does a haunted house which is why it remains entirely unique and worth your time and money. It will be hard to find this level of quality among so many characters and settings anywhere else in the vicinity.
Teresa - The Devil's Attic is a visual masterpiece. The sets and costumes, which are all taken from popular horror movies, are so impressive. You feel like you're stepping right into each movie. I love how they put a little clue as to what's coming up as you pass from one to the next. The actors play their roles enthusiastically, and they are pretty aggressive considering it isn't a full-contact haunt. At one point, they lined us up against the wall and for a moment, it felt pretty real. There are 2 nights they do offer full-contact, and I would LOVE to go! When we went in, we were welcomed by the devilishly-charming Devil himself, then walked through a number of movies, including The Exorcist, The Evil Dead, 13 Ghosts, Sleepy Hollow, Hellraiser, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And that's not all. Do you think you're a horror movie fan? See how many you can name! The ghosts banging on the glass in 13 Ghosts, and the Cenobites from Hellraiser were my favorites this year. If you are a horror movie fan, you have to see this place! I only wish it was bigger! It's so good, I always leave wanting more. It's also pretty fun to hang around outside, where the Devil makes occasional appearances, selecting a victim from the crowd. You'll also see Count Orlock stalking unsuspecting prey, along with this giant monstrosity that looks like something out of the ancient forests of Europe. So cool! Tickets are very reasonable, so there's no reason every horror movie fan shouldn't feast on the eye-candy in this place!
Paul - The Devil's Attic is a masterpiece. The sets, actors, and costumes are all nearly perfect and they'll scare the heck out of you from the beginning to the end.
When you enter the attic, you meet up with the Devil himself. He gives you a rough overview of the things you'll be experiencing in his attic and how to behave as you go through. From that point on you walk through some of the best themeing around and some of the best scares anywhere. The haunt is a mixed bag of themes but a majority of them are based on movies: Carrie, 13 Ghosts, Hellraiser, Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc... This year seemed like there were a few more non-movie areas than last year but they were equally well-done.
The actors do a great job and the costumes, like the sets, are amazingly detailed. There is a lot of looking around in amazement, then an actor jumps out and scares the heck out of you. It isn't the longest haunt on earth but the content inside is so good that you almost can't absorb everything anyway.
Louisville seems to be a hotbed of haunts and The Devil's Attic is one of the top ones in the area. I highly recommend visiting and seeing if you have what it takes to make the voyage through the attic.
Gayle - This is a very unique haunt in that it appeals to horror movie buffs especially. Every year, I love walking through each themed room, and am always amazed at how detailed and spot-on these room actually are. There are surprises around every corner, and the actors and costumes are truly phenomenal. There's so much going on inside, and I enjoy taking my time to look at every little detail so as not to miss anything. I look forward to this haunt every single year, and for good reason. This one is definitely worth the trip.
Todd - This was probably the best year at Asylum I've experienced. While neither attraction was entirely new, each had been revamped for the better making for one fun evening.
I'll start by discussing Zombie City, my now favorite part of Asylum. It's still set in the zombie-infested Blackwood City and the questionable corporation Paragon is still responsible for all that has gone wrong. This year's goal is to obtain the cure and successfully deliver it to the doctor at the lab who claims he will freely distribute it to all of the city's survivors.
We were fortunate enough to have the same amazing guide that we had last year (I don't know her name but she can hold her own keeping up with my improvised one liners - "SCIENTOLOGY!"...ok, you had to be there). Along the way you'll encounter mercenaries, cultists and of course zombies. Eventually you'll find someone who has the cure and it'll be up to you to safely transport it to the end at which time the doctor will coerce you to hand it over.
He went on and on about how we aren't really free - we're slaves to "the system" and we pay thousands in tuition so we can earn our money, just to give it back to big government. The whole thing had an eerie (and perhaps intentional) parallel to debates of today's political arena. His claimed plan was to distribute it widely, but perhaps in a manor that would contribute to anarchy. You see, he has found a way to train the zombies to attack on command and obey when instructed. We were then surprised by a representative of Paragon (the evil corporation) who said if we handed the cure over to him, they will ensure it is replicated and distributed properly. Crazy doctor guy countered that Paragon only wanted to profit off it and those who are destitute would be unable to afford it.
The choice is then yours (for us, it was ultimately my choice since I carried the vial) - do you trust a corporation to fix the catastrophe they caused (but perhaps block access to the cure from those less fortunate) or give it to the man who says he can now control the zombies, eliminating their threat and distribute the cure to everyone. It was a highly engaging ending to this staged experience that really left me thinking afterwards. It seems each decision may lead to a different final ending, however the scene takes place almost at the very end of the trail so its hard to imagine what may have been different. I'd be interested to hear what your choice was in the comments below.
Darkness Falls is the outdoor trail in the woods. Some changes were evident this year. For the most part some of the various sections were brought closer together, making the trail slightly shorter in length but eliminating downtime between scenes. It worked quite well and allowed some of the actors to stick with us longer, pretty much harassing Gayle. We were told that there are plans to extend the trail next year and there's apparently a lot of acreage available. The slaughterhouse-like maze had seemingly been removed but other memorable scenes - the bus, shanties, furnace, cemetery - remain. The actors were very entertaining and often times goofy and bizarre. The doctor in the beginning was pretty fantastic as well. The pathway itself was relatively dry considering it had rained to the point of closing the previous night. Many areas of the ground have coverings to help absorb or wick away moisture. It's always good to note though that this is out in the woods so don't wear your Sunday shoes and always watch your step. There are a lot of tree roots and uneven ground throughout.
Xterminate is still the indoor laser tag arena, however the theme has been changed from zombies to crazed clowns and I actually prefer it. Unlike in the past, there was no set time you had to run around and rack up your frag count. You go in with your group and pretty much make your way through the maze, gunning down the clowns as you push your way through to the end. In the beginning you are given an objective but it wasn't made clear. We were told there was a single switch somewhere inside we needed to flip, although at the end, we were asked if we got both of them. We weren't told there were two. There are also a few hubs inside that seemingly support the guns, but it was unclear whether or not they had any part in the experience or not. Originally I thought they were just repeaters for the guns, but one had a sign that said INTEL above it which then made me think it had a purpose. If it did, it wasn't explained at all. If there IS more to Xterminate than just running and gunning, it would be great if it was explained up front since it would likely provide a better experience.
The other two attractions are Zombie Hunting and Carnivale of Lost Souls. We skipped Zombie Hunting this year to save some time as we still had 2 more stops for the night. While I'm unsure if it has changed, in prior years, a bus took you through a paintball field with structure facades placed around it. Paintball guns are mounted on the sides of the bus and you have a set amount of time to unload on anything you can see (including a few live zombie actors). The Carnivale is an impressive stage show of fire-breathers and other daredevil acts. It is centrally located in the middle of the other attractions' lines to keep those waiting entertained.
While we were at Asylum we were fortunate enough to meet up with Travis from The 7th Street Haunt which was not in operation this year due to it changing locations (and name). Travis and Rich (owner of Asylum) are partnered on the new haunt set to open next year and we are told the new location is great and easily accessible and visible from the highway. Both sounded very excited about what is to come.
Aslyum was immensely fun this year. I've never had a bad experience here, but this year everything just seemed to click. In fact, our experience here is a great example of why we plan to include a "fun factor" component of our scoring next year. Where a haunt may not be utterly terrifying, it may be tremendous fun and Asylum was fun indeed.
Paul - Asylum is a huge 42-acre multi-haunt attraction on the South side of Louisville, KY. They have five attractions to scare you with and you will undoubtedly have a good time.
The five attractions inside include The Carnivale of Lost Souls, Zombie City, Xterminate, Zombie Hunting, and Darkness Falls on Asylum. The attractions can be fairly expensive if you only want to do one or two, so you're much better off buying the all-access pass where you can do all five of them for less than the price of getting two separately.
We started out this year with Zombie City. In this attraction you start out in a waiting room at a zombie research facility. Very quickly you find out the **** hit the fan and they weren't planning on just having you make a quick visit. That's when the chaos ensues and you spend quite a while making your escape from lots and lots of zombies!
Zombie City is one of the more unique haunt experiences in that you're led through the entire place by a guide who is helping you with your escape. There are some really well-done scenes in the voyage, my favorite of which is the swamp. There was one big prop from last year that I missed seeing this year, but it's still a good time.
After we escaped Zombie City we took a trip through Xterminate. This is a fairly fast-paced trip through a mutant clown-infested maze where you get to blast the goons with laser blasters. This is the attraction at Asylum that I have the most fun in. You get to go through pretty quickly with the mutant clowns jumping out from all over the place. It's much darker in here than it was last year, which I think it improves the scare factor quite a bit while still being a lot of fun.
In-between haunts is where you get to check out the Carnivale. This is a circus-side-show kind of attraction where there a bunch of performers doing some pretty wild acts. Lots of things involving fire too! It's a really cool thing to check out while calming down from the last attraction you visited, though you'll still have to keep an eye out behind you... You never know what might sneak up.
We ordinarily would have done Zombie Hunting about now but we were on a tight schedule and had to skip it this year. This is a Zombie paintballattraction where you board a bus and get to blast zombies while they drive you through an infested area. It's not that scary but it's fun. After all, who doesn't enjoy blasting zombies with fast-flying balls of paint?
The last haunt, and the one that ends up being the scariest, is Darkness Falls. This haunt takes you on a mile-long voyage through some of the creepiest scenes around. It's a huge attraction that combines both indoor and outdoor, and will have things jumping out at you from every direction, including up! There are some fantastic scenes in here, one of my favorites being the church. The pace in this haunt moves fairly quickly, but they have the timing down well so you don't ever catch up to the group in front of you. Really impressive crowd control, especially for an attraction this big!
Asylum is a massive place and you can spend a huge amount of time here seeing everything. They have some very unique attractions, a huge amount of scares, and it's a great place to spend the evening running from zombies!
Teresa - Asylum Haunted Scream Park has 5 attractions. There are two walk-through haunts: Zombie City, which is indoor/outdoor, and Darkness Falls on Asylum, which is an outdoor trail. The third is Xterminate: Mutant Clowns, where you get to shoot clowns with laser guns. Fourth is Zombie Hunting: Urban Paintball Experience where you get to shoot zombies with paintballs. Finally, there is the Carnivale of Lost Souls. This one consists of booths with food, games, the scare bus, souvenirs, a photo booth, and a stage with live performers. There was a guy spinning all kinds of flaming things around when we were there. It was rather mesmerizing. You can get tickets for each attraction individually, or you can save lots of money by getting a Scare Pass or an All Access Pass, depending on what attractions you want to do. This is definitely the way to go. You can also upgrade to VIP for an extra $20, which lets you skip the lines. Depending on how crowded it is, this may be worth your while. Some of the lines can move pretty slow, because some of these attractions require lots of spacing between groups due to their interactive nature.
We went into Zombie City first this year. In this attraction, Paragon Technologies Corporation has caused an outbreak of Pandora's Rage virus, which has turned the people of Blackwood City into zombies. The company has quarantined the city for clean-up, and has created a cure. Things seem to have gone a little wrong though. You have to navigate the city, interact with its inhabitants, find the cure, and escape. This is very theatrical, requiring your participation. It really makes it immersive and fun, like you're part of a live video game. The actors are fantastic, and they really have you running through the city, from building to building, avoiding angry zombies while things explode around you. It is scary, humorous, and you have to follow instructions and make important decisions. Who do you trust? It's a lot of fun if your group really gets into it. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I ate some kind of larva. If you're wondering, it didn't taste like much of anything, so don't be too afraid to try it! There aren't many haunts like this, where you get to be a part of it. Will you be able to escape?
Next we went to Xterminate to shoot mutant clowns. When it is your turn, your group will receive guns and you will be given instructions about your mission. Then you get to run through and shoot clowns. They pop out of everywhere, so this really gets the adrenaline going! Be aware, the guns can only stun them, so they will get back up and come after you. This is so much fun! The clowns are entertaining, and running through shooting things is a blast! We only accomplished part of our mission. It is rather distracting (and exciting) with more and more clowns after you as you get closer to the end. I look forward to this every year because our group has so much fun with it. Maybe next year we will actually complete our mission?
Next we went to Darkness Falls on Asylum. This is an outdoor trail that leads you through all kinds of atmospheric scenes. There's a foggy cemetery, lots of cannibals, chainsaws, creepy glowing mannequins, butchers, lots of creepy noises, some cool strobe effects, some really frightening things happening overhead, a metal priest, a slide into a trash incinerator, and one very funny actor hiding behind a tree. And another thing about Darkness Falls...they are very good at remembering names, so you really get that personalized experience!
Unfortunately, we did not have time to see the Zombie Hunting, as we were on a really tight schedule. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, shooting zombies with paintballs = fun. The thing that really makes Asylum special is the amount of interaction. Here, you get to play a part in the haunts. Even Darkness Falls, which is their most traditional haunt, has more interaction than most. Go with people who can really enjoy participating and you will have an absolute blast!
Gayle - What makes this haunt unique is it offers a variety of attractions from which to participate. The midway is simple, yet fun and not found in any other haunt I've ever visited. The fire dancers and performers are always entertaining and mesmerizing. I absolutely have a blast in Xterminate: the lazer maze...shooting evil clowns (who wouldn't?)! The interactive Zombie City is ALWAYS a big favorite of mine. I love the engagement and the actors here never waver from their characters, which allows for a more intense and fun experience. Darkness Falls is always one of my favorites here as well. The trail is long and full of engaged actors, the slide, the creepy old church, the ghouls ziping above your head, distracting you from the creepy crawlers at your feet...it's FANTASTIC fun! LOVE IT!!
Todd - A recent article I stumbled upon stated that in this day in age, if a haunt didn't have deep pockets or corporate backing they were dead. It's evident that writer has never visited the hidden gem in New Albany - Literally, A Haunted House at Culbertson Mansion.
Creativity and passion are super concentrated within the small carriage house that houses this haunt each year. The result - an intimate and engaging experience that is more memorable than some of its big box counterparts. Rather than relying on expensive props, high-tech lighting and over-the-top thrills, Culbertson's haunt entertains and scares with its gifted actors and clever construction.
Each year, Culbertson is revamped to bring you a new theme and story line - something that is important here. Most haunts have a back story but it's not always presented to you on-site. At Culbertson, it's hard to miss. This year's theme was about demonic presence. Right away, the first actor explains the strange goings-on that have been experienced recently so you know what you're in for. The theme is strongly carried throughout the entire haunt and executed in a variety of ways until you ultimately meet the beast itself.
The actors are arguably the best I've experienced in the industry. Their delivery is so strong that it's hard to comprehend how they can keep it up for hours on end each night. Many of them have come back season after season for years in order to be a part of this special attraction; their dedication is purely evident. We learned that one couple actually drives from 2 or 3 states away every weekend just so they can continue to contribute to the haunt they love being a part of.
Even haunts with the deepest of pockets can't buy smart, clever execution. Culbertson runs circles around other haunts in the art of misdirection. No spoilers here, but they are masters at getting your attention fixed at one thing, while overtaking you with surprise with something else you didn't even see coming. It's even more impressive how well this is pulled off given how close-quarters the haunt is. Also as in years past, Culbertson has shown immense creativity with their scares. I see things being done here that I never see anywhere else.
As I say every year, I just wished it was at least four times longer. It's so good that we just want more and more. Since the property is historical, it cannot be modified. With that being said, there was one addition at the end that was seamlessly "bolted on" to an exit, creating a new room. I had no idea until we were out that it wasn't part of the original building.
Many haunts give you enormous amounts of eye candy but the experience may fall flat due to sub-par execution, overuse of triggered props and inexperienced actors. Culbertson is quite the opposite. They don't have the biggest budget or the fanciest decorations. Their largest asset is the people themselves who are vested in this haunt, making it unique. If that could be quantified with money, they'd be incredibly rich.
Paul - This is fairly easily the best example I've seen of doing a phenomenal haunt with a small budget, as the folks at the Culbertson continually have one of the most impressive haunts I've ever been to.
The Culbertson Mansion in New Albany, IN is a historic building that was constructed in the 1860s that is now owned by the state. Over 30 years ago, they started running a haunted attraction there and it's been going ever since. The haunt is constructed in the carriage house behind the mansion, and it uses most of that building plus an outdoor area to terrify the people of Southern Indiana every fall. The haunt crew changes up the entire theme of the haunt on a regular basis. Not just one or two areas, but the entire theme. It's not a tiny building by any means, and with the limited budget they have, I'm blown away by the results every year. This year the theme is "A House Possessed" so more than ever it lives up to the term: Haunted House.
When it's your turn to face the evils of the Culbertson, (The actual name of the haunt is "Literally, A Haunted House at the Culbertson Mansion") you start out with a walk through a graveyard on your way to the stairs leading you into the building. From there you walk through all kinds of creepy scenes, with some really messed up games, some exorcist-style possessions, a foul kitchen, and the lair of some people you probably don't want to meet.
So lots of haunts have sets that sound a lot like these, what makes The Culbertson different?
The actors here are the best of any haunt I've been to. Ever. Their passion for what they do is obvious from the moment you meet your first roaming actor on the grounds and it doesn't let up the entire way through. They take rooms with sets that are fairly low-budget and transform them into unforgettable nightmares! If a few of these sets were in other haunts you wouldn't think twice about them, but here they're so overshadowed by the actors they work perfectly. And it isn't to say the sets were bad, as they're actually pretty good... It's just that the actors make them unforgettable. In the last month I've been through close to 20 different haunt attractions and this is the only one where I can remember almost every single scene. The guys in the cemetery, the woman with the Ouija board, the exorcist people, the people in the bathroom, the latticework guy, the priest (shocking!), the winged goat-devil (awesome costume), the roamers outside, and so many others... Just an amazing job.
The Culbertson just isn't like anything else we visit. There are very few store-bought props or costumes, there aren't any crazy light or sound shows, and if you just happened to be driving by while passing through town you might not even know it was there. But if you're reading this and you are in the greater Louisville area or can get there easily, you seriously owe it to yourself to go through the haunt at the Culbertson Mansion! Tell them Haunted House Tour sent you!
Teresa - The Culbertson is one of my favorite haunts every year, mainly because it uses old-fashioned creativity to craft its scares. In today’s world, where there are more and more big-dollar haunted house mega-plexes, where everything is bought from the same suppliers (so there are few surprises), it is refreshing to see a place built by low-budget hard work and the ingenuity of volunteers. It changes theme every year, so every year there is a new story and new scenes. The actors and designers are all “family” and they vote on the theme and select their characters and scenes. This year, it went very dark, with a Satanic cult theme. They’ve been posting videos on social media of some of the terrifying events occurring as they’ve built the haunt this year, so I thought I had a pretty good idea what I was in for. Although with this place, you never really know...
We got there right at opening, before it was even completely dark. We found a parking lot behind the property, just past the railroad tracks. There was a short line of excited people waiting under a tent to be admitted. A creepy character paced around the tent, sneaking up behind those who weren’t paying attention, eliciting screams. A priest was there as well, with an evil-looking skull, marked with strange carvings. Do NOT touch it, unless you want to be cursed. When it was our turn, we walked through a foggy cemetery where there were cult members who declared we were “unclean”. Then we were told to climb the stairs into the haunted carriage house, to see what awaited us inside. I was not disappointed. It was phenomenally horrific! I don’t want to give away all the details, but the scenes were super-creepy, the actors’ performances chilling, and the props surprising. They start you off with a Ouija session gone wrong, and each room gets darker from there. Oh, and by the way, they will touch you at this haunt. A character may grab your arm or leg, or saw your legs off with a chainsaw (okay...pretend to), but it doesn’t get too much more aggressive than that. I can’t explain how good the haunt is this year. Even the simple props were carried out to perfection. And the actors play their roles with real enthusiasm! One girl didn’t even have to make any noise, just the inhuman way she moved was enough to give you nightmares. The costumes and makeup were appropriate and unique. They are masters of diversion here, too, so when you’re looking at one thing, something totally unexpected will happen. Be prepared for a shock. Each room got progressively more disturbing, with secret passages, people possessed, exorcists, demons, and hell. And the laser-fog room had people sprinting out the exit, just to find it wasn’t even safe outside!
Don't let the non-profit status and low ticket prices make you think this place isn't as scary as the others out there. The people who work here are creative, talented, and they love scaring you. Some come from hours away to volunteer here every year, and all the money they make goes to maintain the mansion, which is definitely worth touring, by the way (ask them about the ghosts!). This haunt is theatrical and so fun! I cannot recommend it highly enough!
Gayle - This haunt is absolutely wonderful! The walk through the boneyard before approaching the house is creepy and very well done. The smoke, the imagery, and the actors lent itself to the whole spooky theme that followed right through to inside the mansion. This is a top-notch traditional haunt, with so much appeal. The actors were passionate and engaging, the costumes were amazing...especially the winged demon. There were some unique visuals here that played along with this year's theme, and were spot on and creepy. I loved every spooky second! I can't wait to go back.
Todd - Akron's Haunted Schoolhouse seemingly lives up to its name by location only. Housed within an actual modern-era school, very little of the haunt follows the school theme within. Both the school and the laboratory (housed in a separate building) follow a pattern of "start at the top and work your way down." For those of us that are not the poster children of physical fitness, you may find yourself winded by the time you get to the actual beginning.
The Haunted Schoolhouse presents itself with fairly conventional scenes - a butcher / slaughter area, creepy dolls everywhere, a cemetery, etc. - all within this schoolhouse. There were some elements of a school within (a kitchen, for example), but not enough to maintain that theme or any consistent or common theme for that matter.
While the construction and the level of detail of the scenes were very, very good, the haunt as a whole was mostly a hodgepodge of scenes without any relation or consistency. No story line or over-arching theme is evident. It's still enjoyable to go through and experience, however, I was expecting a little more of a consistent school theme when going to the haunted schoolhouse. Had this haunt been located in an old Denny's, it could have been named The Haunted Denny's, all the same.
The actors were very flat, I'm sad to say. Most were lacking any personality or ownership of the characters they portrayed. Room after room not much more was offered than shouting "Hey!" or "Where are you going?" as they popped out from behind a prop. There was very little integration into the scenes. In fact, I found a lot of them to stand out in contrast of the scene. Many actors appeared to be wearing jeans and hoodies. I suppose this is because they're supposed to be students...but then shouldn't they be playing victims rather than protagonists? It felt really out of place. For example, in the laboratory there is a scene with aliens all around the room and they are really neat looking. As I started through this room I was thinking it would be cool for an alien-costumed actor to come out. Instead we were greeted by another kid wearing jeans and a hoodie.
The Haunted Laboratory next door carries the same pros and cons as its neighboring school. The sets are quite good but most of the actors were lifeless. As with the school, you start at the top and work your way down. This actually works well in the laboratory because at one point you're at the top level on a catwalk going around the perimeter of the building and you can see three stories to the bottom in the center of the room. It's staged to look like something has crashed through the building, smashing a hole through all of the floors. It's really cool.
I recall a few standout actors in the laboratory. One was a surgeon giving a lesson in an 1800s-style medical classroom; he was highly interactive and engaged us a lot. Shortly after we met a crazed scientist who really aided his scene as well. On the other hand, I walked by one actor who was sitting in one of the scene's chairs quietly and I could clearly see her cell phone in her hand. Her performance was indicative of her evident boredom.
Of everything, the biggest frustration of the evening was the total lack of pacing, especially in the schoolhouse. When you first start at the top floor, there is someone staggering the groups. However the scenes are all so close quartered it creates a bottleneck and within no time we had caught up to the group ahead of us and the group after us was on our heels as well. After you get through a floor, you'll come to a stairwell and move down one floor to begin that level. This is the absolute perfect time to reset the pacing, however no one was to be found so the mass of people that are now joined at the hip are all starting that level as one big group. On more than one occasion we simply stopped walking and waited to create some space from the rest of the group ahead of us. It was really frustrating.
Towards the end of the laboratory, you'll find yourself in a narrow, dark maze. Now imagine being in that dark maze sandwiched by a group of people. Everyone is trying to figure out how to advance while the crowd backs up more and more behind you. For us, everything came to a complete standstill in the dark for several minutes.
The Haunted Schoolhouse and Haunted Laboratory both have excellent foundations. It's clear that they have the financing, creativity and skill to construct a high-caliber haunt. However, if the same investment isn't put into ensuring the actors blend into the scene or play a meaningful, contributing character they become a detriment and that was my ending impression. Adding this to the horrendous pacing problems, I found myself highly disappointment when leaving.
I would certainly like to come back in a few years to see if these challenges have been addressed and hopefully experience the haunt I had hoped I would this year.
Paul - The Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory are a one-two punch of horror located near the airport in Akron, OH. The buildings have been in place since around the 1930s and they have been haunts since the 70s! The current owners took over a couple of years ago and from what we've heard, they have made remarkable progress in transforming them from fairly average haunts into what they are today. This was our first visit to the Haunted schoolhouse and Lab and we have to agree that they're well on their way to becoming a haunt destination.
You'll start out in the Haunted Schoolhouse where after waiting through the line, you'll climb to the top floor of the building and start working your way down through floor by floor until you reach the basement. Right off the bat you get to go through some extremely well-crafted sets with some very original content. There's a huge variety of themeing in both haunts, but there is a huge amount of detail put into each room, good actor hiding places, good costumes, and quite a few jumps! It was a really good time, though I do wish they were able to separate the groups going through a little better as everyone just got bunched together into one big line the further we got.
After you emerge from the basement of the Schoolhouse you'll walk next door to the Haunted Laboratory. The Lab is an old research building where there are a couple of really striking scenes... Both of which will probably have you leaning back, but for quite different reasons. Again you'll climb up to the top of the building and work your way down through multiple floors of angry, creepy monsters. There are some very good scenes and a few with some room for improvement. Similar to the Haunted Schoolhouse, we ended up catching the group in front of us and had the one behind us right on our heels as well. It happens, but I think there are definitely some opportunities to improve on that.
The haunts here in Akron have a lot going for them, especially the buildings. There has been a lot done with upkeep on them, but they're still creepy old crumbly buildings that were almost destined to be haunts! Your ticket will give you a huge amount of screams per dollar, and you'll have some stories to tell when you leave. Make a run over to Akron and visit the Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory, you'll be glad you did.
Teresa - This was my first trip to the Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory. I've been hearing about them for years, so it was great to finally see them! They are each on the same property, in different buildings. There's a nice midway to hang out in before, after, or between haunts, with tables, refreshments, festive tents and lighting. Take special note of the Laboratory building. It is in the former Guggenheim Airship Institute and it has some really great Art Deco architecture. But that's not why you're here. Let me tell you about the haunts.
The Schoolhouse is the lair of a librarian witch, Ms. Alvah, who spells her students, sending them into the dark tales that she keeps on her shelves. There is some really fun decor that looks like you are walking through the pages of books into various scenes. There are also lots of dingy school rooms, a gross bathroom, a Narnia-like closet, a haunted locker room, a disgusting kitchen, and even a graveyard (I guess all those students who don't make it out have to go somewhere!), just crawling with all the worst possible things you hope to never find in an actual school. Some of the scenes were delightfully scary and surprisingly unique! I enjoyed some of the costumes, like the teacher with a pencil shoved through his face. And the kitchen worker who wanted to eat everyone was hilarious! Some of the actor-controlled props made me laugh as they actually shoved you against the wall! It might not sound funny, but see if you don't laugh while your friends watch you try to get around a giant rat that crushes you into the wall with its jaws! There was also a pretty fun fog laser room.
The Haunted Laboratory is in that cool Art Deco building I mentioned earlier. In this haunt, Dr. Guttenheim has been doing experiments with human and animal DNA and viruses, and after a horrible accident that left him disfigured, the creatures all escaped, along with the virus. So, you wind up with everything from Dr. Moreau-like man-beasts, to aliens, to infected people. There are decontamination areas, but I'm pretty sure it was too late for me. There are some pretty impressive scenes in this building. One was this giant Tesla coil that I would have loved to see operating! Another was this crazy view several stories down where you can see a large thing rotating. It made me think of a giant rock tumbler, but I think it was actually the vortex tunnel you walk through later, which was really well-done. Very disorienting! Another of my favorite scenes, was a multi-level room with these weird bird-people. Definitely nightmare fodder and freaky! There's a dark maze at the end, which took quite a while to navigate.
I'm so glad I got to see these two haunts! Both of these have really good themes and some unique scenes that you just have to see. I am just in awe of the Laboratory building. There is so much character in these places to be developed that I'm excited to see them grow in the coming years.
Todd - For another HHT first this year, we visited Canton's Factory of Terror and I was immediately excited by the impressive, solid presentation upon entering. While my initial impression waned by the end, I still walked away happy that we made the trip.
FOT is one mega haunt-plex containing 5 haunts as well as an axe throwing side feature and escape rooms (run separately). This place is enormous and perfect for spending an evening in the fall. It's all indoors (not the ticketing line) so no need to brave the weather. It also has a snack bar and a midway area to take a break and have a drink between the various haunts. You could easily spend a few solid hours here and make an evening of it.
Of the 5 separate haunts, only 2 of them felt entirely unique. In fact, after visiting I couldn't even remember the names of some of them. The two I can distinctly remember are Industrial Nightmare and Backwoods Hollow, for very different reasons. I'll get to the others shortly.
Industrial Nightmare was probably my favorite of the five. The entire haunt mimics the building's former identity - a factory. Before it was a haunt home, this facility was an aluminum foundry. When FOT moved in, many machine parts, controllers and other archaic mechanisms were left behind which now make up the scenes for Industrial Nightmare. The haunt winds path after path, walled by dilapidated machinery and electronics. There are a few hydraulic presses as well which produce a natural sense of caution. Industrial Nightmare is unique because a lot of it is legitimate, repurposed stuff. It was a very creative way to produce a theme with what was at hand - and it works. The appearance of abandonment and mechanical rot feels very authentic because to some degree, it is.
The other attraction I could remember by name was Backwoods Hollow, but not for the best reasons. This is pretty much what you would guess it is - crazed hillbillies with cannibalistic tendencies. While there were some impressive scenes at the end, what threw me was the beginning. What felt like the first 40% of the haunt was literally nothing more than feeling our way through dark corridors while nighttime ambient sounds played in the background. I was really expecting there to be a big payoff once we came to first light but no - it was really just the start of the other 60%. Before we knew it, the haunt was over. It felt extremely short and half complete. While the sets were good by the end, I was too disappointment by the first half to salvage the experience.
The other three haunts wound up melding together in my mind. Factory of Terror's first impression is a fantastical one. The entrance to the first haunt (1300 Lost Souls?) is a beautifully constructed home exterior which (at full scale) would be the source of urban legends in any town. VERY cool looking. However, recollecting my experience beyond those doors only stands out in pieces and I have a hard time placing which of those were in which haunt.
The quality of the haunts' environments was very impressive overall. There's a lot of attention to detail, whether it be a room of an hold house, an outdoor cemetery, a locker room, an office, etc. FOT carries a level of detail that would score in a higher percentile than the average haunt. Despite these haunts residing inside one massive structure, the level of detail in them kept my mind from recognizing this.
Although aesthetically the scenes were very interesting and appealing to the eye, one drawback I found was that not only did they run together haunt to haunt but even some of the larger props were repeated in a few of them (or it sure felt like it). For example, by now any haunt fanatic is familiar with the large suspended puppets which are manually operated and manufactured by Gore Galore. We saw a few of the same ones (if memory serves) among these haunts. Volume discount?
The three haunts I didn't call out all seemed to feel like the same haunt because they had no distinct theme. Each had a defining moment, if you will - one has a well-executed mirror maze, while another has a cave you go through. There was no defining story line offered or obviously present to make each stand out. For the most part, among these three, I just felt like I was in "another haunted house;" well constructed, but lacking character.
The biggest detriment to FOT, sadly, were the actors. As with any haunt, there were some standouts - namely the girls at the end of Industrial Nightmare and who I referred to as "Moonshine Guy" in Backwoods Hollow. They were good at improvisation. Overall though, most actors offered no more than screaming single-syllable words as we passed in attempts of a jump scare with little-to-no enforcement. Worse off, while walking through, I saw numerous actors coming and going through side doors - some with personal belongings! I get that the place is big, but this really killed the illusion. Actors should always remain in character until they are clearly behind the scenes.
Factory of Terror is a haunt that heightens the playing field when it comes to construction and multi-haunt offering. It has the advantage of hosting a full night of entertainment for a single admission price where most haunts have limited capacity for their scares. The attention to detail multiplied by sheer size of the complex surely keeps many employees busy at all times. I can appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into FOT. If they can bring their actors' interactivity up to the level of the environment and leverage good stories, Factory of Terror could be an unstoppable beast of a haunt.
Paul - Factory of Terror is a multi-attraction haunt in Canton, OH that has earned the Guinness world record for longest indoor haunt three times! This is a massive building that is absolutely packed with creepy actors, enormous animatronics, amazing props, and some really wild sets! This year marked our first visit to FOT and it was one I'll remember for some time to come.
There are five separate attractions inside but you make your way through them all in sequence. Each one you walk into has a completely different theme and there's so much to see, you'll walk out completely exhausted at the end! The first dive into FOT takes you through 1300 Lost Souls. The highlight of this one for me was the mirror maze. There were hundreds, or possibly thousands of perfectly-placed mirrors built into an insanely long maze. And as you go through, some very well-costumed actors would jump out of nowhere and give you a pretty good scare. The mirror maze seemed like it took forever to walk through and it was only a small part of the first attraction!
The second, and my favorite of the five haunts was Industrial Nightmare. This one hit home for me because I work in manufacturing and I've seen factories with this kind of equipment in them all over the country! There were all kinds of electronic and mechanical devices, robots, presses, labs, and the animatronic at the end was way over the top!
Backwoods Hollow was the third attraction, which starts off with a super dark maze and winds through some pretty disgusting scenes. This was followed by Massacre On Mahoning where they built one of the coolest cemeteries I've gotten to go through in a haunt, and we wrapped up with House of Nightmares; a collection of intensely disturbing sets based on all kinds of horrors you might dream about.
In between all of the attractions there is a midway area where you can pick up some snacks and drinks, there are a bunch of props set up for photo ops, and plenty of room to hang out and talk with people about the craziness you saw as you voyaged through. The entire place is indoors so there's no need to worry about any bad weather, and the non-actor portion of the staff made us feel right at home with their friendliness and hospitality. Factory Of Terror is a great place and it's well worth a visit!
Teresa - This was my first time going to the Factory of Terror. This place has won the Guinness Book world record for the Longest Indoor Haunted Attraction in the World 3 times. It is 5 different haunts under one roof in an old abandoned foundry. For the price of one ticket, you get into all five of them, which is a really good deal. Check out the website, as they have all kinds of special tickets and discounts. We got there on a Saturday night in October. There was a pretty good crowd outside. I'd recommend ordering your tickets online and picking them up at the pickup window around the side. It looked to be a much shorter wait.
Once inside, it is pretty easy to follow the signs to whichever line you belong in. There are some pretty amazing props and animatronics to see while you wait. There's also a photo backdrop where you can get a professional photo of your group that you can pick up at the end. Each haunt lets you out into an open area which makes it convenient to take a break, then get into the next queue when you're ready. They did a really good job of spacing out the groups so you don't wind up with a line of strangers stepping on your heels. The haunts had so much stuff in them! You get some of everything! The props, the animatronics, the lighting, the structure, the effects, the creepy sounds, the monsters...it's all there somewhere. My favorite thing was that each one seemed to have something that really made it stand out in my mind. When you go through 5 haunts in one place, there's the risk that they will all run together, and parts of them do. But certain things really stand out. For me, these were: the old industrial equipment left over from the old foundry (now put to good use), the awesome giant bats, the spiders, the foggy metal walkways that reminded me of being in a cave, the vortex tunnel, a fantastic mirror maze, one of the best graveyard scenes I've ever seen, a creepy catacomb scene with loads of skeletons, some VERY enthusiastic actors on bungees, a dungeon-like room with mirrors and chains, some really cool lighting effects, some squeeze tunnels, and some of the best animatronics you can find. There was this giant cross that was really impressive. The actors did a great job in their roles, and some were pretty funny. Others were aggressive, and did a really good job scaring you without making this a touch haunt. I really thought the rest areas in between haunts were nice, with refreshments being available and lots of horrific things to look at. There was even a carnival-type game involving zombie brains where you could win prizes. Lots of people were taking advantage of the props to snap selfies. There are also souvenirs available.
If you're looking for a fun way to spend the evening, this place is a great deal. It has a little (or a lot) of everything from actual vintage machine tools to state-of-the-art animatronics, to creative homemade props, to horror movie-type scenes, plus the actors are fun and there are refreshments... and it is all under one roof!
Todd - Our first-time stop at Blood Prison was close to last-minute. We decided to detour through Mansfield on the way to Akron, get there early and wait in line to check it out. I'm glad we did.
Everyone has seen The Shawshank Redemption. If you haven't, you should stop reading this and go do so. The now inmate-free building of the Ohio State Reformatory was used for many scenes of the classic movie. Throughout most of the year, you can take a tour of his historical location, see lots of Shawshank-related memorabilia and even go on a Ghost Hunt (yes, it's widely rumored to be haunted). However, every fall this former prison transforms into Blood Prison - one long, impressive haunt.
Going in, I really wasn't sure what to expect. I imagined that this haunt was in a section of the building specifically designated for the attraction, solely to take advantage of the unused space. WRONG. The haunt flows through almost the entire footprint of the building; it's huge.
Blood Prison has a backstory, although it's not really introduced on the haunt itself. In short, all the prison escapees around the country have settled within Blood Prison and you now to get to experience what their exclusive society is like. Given that, I found that from a story perspective, the different segments didn't really make sense. Like many other haunts, this one too attempts to cram all of the conventional haunt themes inside without much interconnection between them.
You'll find yourself in some areas that make sense - a medical clinic or a chapel for example. Prisons have these, but then you're in a clown area set up like a carnival produced by hobos. I couldn't understand why there would be clowns or a shanty carnival in a prison, but the actors were entertaining regardless.
The haunt really shines when it can take advantage of its natural surroundings. In a number of areas, you'll find yourself walking down a pitch black cell block pumped with fog. Every cell is open so every ten feet or so, you'll find yourself wondering if someone or something is about to jump out at you...and there are a LOT of cells you walk by. However, other areas also reside in cell blocks - like the chapel. As you walk down the aisle past the pews, there are still cells right there, visible. Another area that comes to mind is the zombie area where you'll surely get thrown around (if you opt in for the touch add-on). The zombies were cool and pretty aggressive, however, in this section there were a few cars and steel barrels. I was a little confused whether this was supposed to be an outdoor scene or if we are to assume the prisoners somehow got the cars inside. ::shrug:: Either way, just about everywhere you go, there are cells despite the theme of the area. After all, this is a prison. I just question whether some of these sections should have walled off the cells to create a more authentic setting. To be fair, I believe the majority of this haunt is removed after the season for tours and such so the addition of walls may be more work than its worth.
A few stretches of the haunt flow through the long corridors of the building's winged cell blocks. While every other room was clearly separated by a doorway covering, I was disappointed to find that three separate sections in one of these cell blocks had no divider between them, which allowed us to clearly see everything that was ahead of us. This ruined any element of surprise in that stretch.
Blood Prison fortunately offers more positives to offset these arguably minor gripes of mine. First off, the pacing is absolutely world-class. Unlike many high-volume haunts, Blood Prison sacrifices shorter wait times by giving each group a good lead way before admitting the next. To combat the "conga line" effect which is sure to happen in a space so vast, queues are placed in multiple areas of the haunt to reset the pacing, ensuring you get the best experience as possible. It was effective and efficient - I wish more haunts adopted this approach!
The actors certainly deserve recognition as well. They were highly interactive and extremely entertaining. While some are staged specifically to scare, many are placed to engage. Rather than delivering memorized lines, most were great at reacting to what we said or did, making for a very humorous encounter. Then again, we are the kind of people who love having an axe held to our throats. Perhaps other may have a slightly different reaction.
Blood Prison thoroughly impressed me. Unlike other haunts set in unique locals, this one could stand on its own even if it were in a conventional building. Having the fortune of residing in a creepy, abandoned prison just adds all the more to the ambiance. Some things to note for future visitors would be:
First - The website states gates open at 6pm, however the haunt does not start until 7pm. If you do not want to wait in a long line (and I do mean LONG), I'd still recommend getting there at 6 or even earlier. You'll have to stand in line until 7, but the line grows by the minute so if you wait even until 7pm to get there, you probably would still wait an hour before getting in.
Second - Opt in for the full contact. They'll give you a glow bracelet so the actors know they can touch you. It's not for everyone but it sure changes the experience. There's a little extra excitement when you're walking down a pitch black hallway knowing that not only can someone jump out of a cell, but they can grab you too. Most of the contact was wrist or ankle grabbing, however as a group we also experienced hair pulling and being slammed into walls..not too hard though.
Third - Don't make plans. As I said the lines can be unpredictably long and the haunt itself was much longer than we anticipated. I didn't clock our time but it sure seems it took about an hour to get through.
I would certainly return next year, hopefully by invitation of the operating group, so we may talk with them about the production and execution of this great haunt.
Paul - About 4 years ago I took a trip to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH with my wife. We had heard the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed there and that you could tour the building, so we took a trip to visit. During the tour (which was phenomenal BTW) we occasionally saw Halloween props hiding behind corners and we weren't really sure why. We eventually learned during the tour that they set up a haunted event in the former prison every fall and we happened to visit on the last operating day of the year before they closed up to start building the haunt. Since they weren't very good props, we just kind of laughed them off and didn't think much more of it.
So over the last couple of years when we kept hearing that the Escape From Blood Prison haunt at the Reformatory was a must-see, we were really skeptical. I kept thinking about the terrible props we saw tucked away into corners of the prison, and how there was no way they could have made a world-class haunt out of those tired old things. When we planned a trip up to Northeastern Ohio to visit some haunts up there, I figured we'd squeeze Blood Prison in on the way to the others to see just what the hype was about.
The hype is real.
We pulled up to OSR about a half-hour before the gate opened and found a line of about a dozen cars already waiting to get in. We hung out and waited, the whole time noticing the enormous amount of staff they had working. Just for the parking and crowd-handling there were more people working than the entire staff of a lot of haunts we visit. Once the gates opened at 6PM,there must have been around 50 cars there full of people waiting to get in. We pulled into the free parking lot, bought our tickets with the Touch Pass add-on, and jumped into line with only a few dozen people in front of us. Here is where we encountered the most annoying part of our visit. We were in line by about 10 minutes after 6, but they didn't actually let people into the building until 7. We had a fairly tight schedule to keep that night so this was a bit frustrating. I still don't know if they wait for the sun to set every night, or if 7PM is just the magic time. We haven't found an answer yet.
Three minutes after we walked through the door, I forgot all about the wait. This building is a perfect place for a haunt! The patina in the old prison just wouldn't be able to be replicated anywhere else, and the next 40 minutes would be one of the best haunted house experiences I've had. Scene after scene of highly-detailed sets, excellent actors, great scares, and I didn't see a single one of the uninspiring props that I saw 4 years ago. Some of the more memorable sets included the Gothic/church area, the Dr's office, the zombie/apocalypse zone, the laboratory, the butcher, and CarnEvil. They had such great lighting, believable acting, and realistic props that I'm still in a bit of awe over it all. The laser fog room was great, the air tunnels were the tightest ones I've ever had to fight my way through, and this is probably the only time I've ever gotten dizzy in a vortex tunnel. Plus, I have become a huge fan of touch-haunts and once these folks see that you opted in for the touch via the glowing wristband, you're getting touched. I was dragged around, thrown against walls, and moved in ways I never expected someone to be able to fling my 6'3" 240lb body around. Blood Prison is easily in my top 3 as far as best use of touch.
The jump-scare actors all made good use of their hiding places, the interactive actors did very well, and the make-up/costuming was on-point. There were several areas where there would be a single actor in with a bunch of props and it was really hard to tell which one was going to start moving and jump at you. And I'm still trying to figure out how they pulled off the legless wheelchair girl in the Dr's area. Is she really missing her legs?
On top of the fantastic implementation of the things I just mentioned, they also have some of the best crowd-control I've ever experienced at a haunt. We never once ran into the group in front of us, and were never caught by the group behind us. There were several places along the way where everyone files into holding areas that they use to build up the split between groups again and it worked remarkably well. Best crowd control I've seen at a haunted attraction by a huge margin.
I can't even explain how glad I am that we visited Escape From Blood Prison in Mansfield. It honestly started as "I think we can squeeze this one in on Saturday night" and wound up being one of the best we've visited. They have on-site concessions, free parking, and since the whole thing (minus the queue) is indoors, they're open in just about any weather conditions. Almost every aspect of this haunt was top-of-the-heap, and I can't wait to go through again!
Teresa - This was my first time going to Escape From Blood Prison, and I have to say I was very impressed! I've done a historical tour of the prison (also known as the Ohio State Reformatory) in the past, and it is creepy enough without being "dressed" in its Halloween costume. It is a giant, Romanesque building built between 1886 and 1910, and it was a state prison until 1990 when it closed. By the way, for those of you who don't know, this is where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed. Now it is slowly decaying into the bones of its former self. The paint is peeling; it is enormous, dank, dark, and echo-y. Because it has such an ominous presence, I had the notion that the haunt wouldn't need to work too hard and expected it to be run-of-the-mill. I was mistaken.
We got there before the gates opened at 6 pm, got our tickets, and were some of the first people in line. They offer general admission, speed passes, and lightning passes. You can find information on their website, explaining each of these. Also, for an extra $5, you can upgrade to a "touch" pass, which means they give you a glow bracelet to wear, so the evil inmates know they can physically terrorize you. Naturally, the three of us all happily paid the extra for the touch pass. Just a note, the bracelets are kind of small, so you may want to have a way to attach them to your shirt, hat, or something to make sure they are visible. We waited for a while, watching the sun set on the prison, because they don't start letting people in until dark. They did a good job of breaking us into groups and spacing us out, and had little staging areas throughout the haunt, to re-form the groups and re-space them, which was really great. It makes it so much scarier when you're not in one continuous conga line of people trampling each others' heels.
The story of the Blood Prison is that the most deranged inmates from all over the country have escaped from their respective prisons, and now make the Ohio State Reformatory their home. Inside, you will find psychopaths of all sorts: doctors, zombies, butchers, morticians, janitors, homicidal maniacs, clowns, Satanists, crazed priests, werewolves, and all kinds of other things. There are some really cool scenes and sets. I really enjoyed the haunted house facade at the beginning and the carnival section. The props were excellent, and some were so real, it was hard to tell which were props and which were actors. There was an enormous angel prop that really got my attention. And I was completely unnerved when what I thought was a prop turned out to be this completely ghoulish-looking girl. I want to go through again just to get a better look! The lighting was impressive and appropriate, with some fun fog/light effects and lasers. There is a wonderful vortex tunnel and some of the tightest squeeze tunnels I've ever squirmed through. The costumes and actors were fantastic, and did they a good job of making sure we got the full "touch" experience. Some touch haunts will grab your hand and pull you, or tap you on the arm, or maybe pat your head or caress your cheek. This place went well beyond that. Lots of them messed up my hair, which is long and easy to grab. Some grabbed it tightly, pulling my head back and holding me, so I couldn't move. Others chopped at us with "axes", or slammed us against walls (they are padded, so it isn't as bad as it sounds). Some are friendly in an evil way, putting an arm around you conspiratorially. Others grab your arm with a vice-like grip and drag you with them. The one that really got me was the one that chased me into the squeeze tunnel, tickling my sides for what felt like minutes, but was probably only 5 or 10 seconds. There's no escape when you're stuck in a tunnel! The actors all had well-developed characters, and many would interact. One let me take her hammer and beat on the metal basin she was carrying. They really include you in the fun. The dialog was menacing, hilarious, and disturbing. The touch aspect was aggressive, but not overly so. I thought they did a great job with it. And the people in our group who didn't get the touch pass seemed to really enjoy seeing us get manhandled. This is a pretty long haunt. You get little breaks throughout, where you wait for them to re-space the groups while you catch your breath and maybe catch a few minutes of a movie or chat with friends. Then you're back at it, climbing up and down stairs, circling the prison block, again and again. How can this place be so big?!
When we finally escaped, we walked through the gift shop, then went outside to snap some photos. We caught up with some of the people who walked through with us and they said they had a fantastic time, and I know I did! I am so glad we got to visit (and escape from) Blood Prison this year! I am definitely looking forward to returning to this one again!