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.