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!
Donna - Thirteen years ago Gene Webb had a dream of creating an outdoor haunt to showcase his love of all things Halloween and have a little fun scaring people as well. I don't think he had any idea at the time just how amazing and successful that haunt would grow to be. Located on a farm a few short miles south of Cincinnati in Northern Kentucky, this combination outdoor/indoor haunt puts the "Treat" in Trick or Treat. It is a largely family friendly (may be a bit intense for very young children) hayride through a dark and ominous corn field with shocks around every bend. Actors get on the hayride as you move through the field and threaten the screaming passengers from all sides of the wagon. You slowly move down a wooded path into a creepy village with numerous surprises and spectacles, each more terrifying than the last. Just when you think you are safely out of the woods, you are chased by another....I won't spoil all the surprises. I can tell you that when the ride comes to an end, you are shaking, laughing, and relieved to be alive! Best, most fun outdoor hayride in the tri-state!
The Farmers Revenge is an indoor haunt not to be missed and, although fairly short due to limited space, is one of my favorite indoor haunts due to the simplicity and old school haunted house charm. The actors are very convincing and the dark areas are truly scary. This place actually scared me a time or two and I am a very hard person to scare.
If you go to just one outdoor haunt this Halloween season, go to Sandyland Acres. Stroll around the grounds and visit all the fun scenes Gene has built to set the atmosphere. Then, when you get up the courage, get in line for the hayride. This is Halloween as it was meant to be, built by a lover of Halloween. Great job, Gene!
Todd - Ok look, we don't need to really go over whether The Dent Schoolhouse is good or not. It is. It's fantastic. It stands in a class of its own.
So - just to recap quickly:
Is it worth the cost - yes
Is it worth the wait - yes
Will it impress you - yes
I'm going to utilize my screen time to dig a little deeper this year. Dent reminds me a lot of Disney World. I know that sounds odd (and who knows how many times I've said this), but if you've ever been to Disney, you're well aware that presentation is perfected - staged scenes are seemless to the eye, everything fits the theme of its area, you never see see an actor or prop from one "land" in another...it's as fully immersive as it can be.
Dent is as fully immersive as a haunted house can be, especially for one that aims to keep the roots of a traditional haunted house while injecting the latest technology. Every detail is perfected and seemingly fits within the time period of the lore. From floor to ceiling, nothing is void of content. We were told their goal was to go darker this year; more sinister. I feel that objective was met. The details of the countless bodies found within are immaculate. Both the deliberate gore and the implied devastation aftermath really came off well making Dent feel a little more like hell in a schoolhouse than a haunted one.
However, the question I asked myself this year was, "With all of these details, props, lights, actors...is it too much?" Dent has arguably become over-stimulating. At every corner, down every hall, there is something to look at, an actor yelling or some sort of noise being made. All together, it forms a mass off sensory overload. There's no "down time" and in my opinion, this dilutes the scare factor simply because once you've experienced the initial shock, your mind has no time to reset itself for the next event. Right from the front door you are incessantly berated by the chaos presented from the scenes, actors, props and sounds. It never quiets down and for many, this may leave them perpetually on alert. Much of Dent runs on a "10" throughout and then tries to punch you with an "11" every so often.
Another thing to prepare yourself for is the crowd and flow. Thousands visit Dent most nights. Not only does this contribute to up to a few hours in line, but they're forced to keep the line moving at a quicker pace than some of the smaller haunts. Unfortunately, this creates the infamous "conga line" effect - you are highly likely to catch up to the group ahead of you and/or the group behind you winding up on your heels.
For us, this caused a lot of timing problems. Actors were not able to properly reset and execute their delivery as I would imagine it was intended. Instead, it felt as if they were delivering generic lines on repeat just to reinforce their presence. The actors were fairly impersonal, but with the frequency of visitors coming through their scene, I can't imagine they had any other choice. I felt rushed through the majority of the haunt because other people were at our heels and I found myself more focused on keeping momentum than being able to enjoy the environment.
Despite my reservations, I was ready to hop back in line and go in again. Once again, like Disney World, you'll never be able to experience everything in a single visit. Each time walking through, there's no question you'll think, "Huh...I didn't notice that before. Cool!" Dent offers an experience unparalleled by most which is why an annual visit is by all means warranted, I just wish it allowed time to take it all in.
Behind The Dent Schoolhouse is a second haunt named Queen City Slaughter Yard which is included with your admission. Unlike the schoolhouse, this outdoor pathway is pretty bare bones. It consists of a winding, queue-like walkway where intermittently you'll be threatened by deranged butchers suggesting you will make the ultimate cut of meat.
Occasionally you'll stumble upon an unwilling victim, but most of the time you're either being barked at or threatened with a chainsaw - so much so that this might as well be called "Escape From Chainsaw Maze." This is a shorter, close-quarters haunt and there had to have been easily 5 chainsaw actors in there. If they bother you, then you'll surely be disturbed.
I went into QCSY with high expectations. We were told they finally found the right actors to really make it stand out. Unfortunately, I personally found the experience to be on par at best with past years - just "so-so." Neither actor was memorable to me, aside from the menacing girl controlling the large, suspended saw. She actually didn't say anything; only laughed maniacally and it really stood out!
Queen City Slaugher Yard doesn't offer a lot of scares, just more in your face threatening brutality. It's not dark - just loud and is surely more effective on those who are uncomfortable in enclosed spaces. With it being an outdoor attraction, there are a lot of challenges in really upping QCSY's game to its potential. However, if we ever received a second experience meeting the schoolhouse's caliber, The Dent Schoolhouse as a whole would even more of an ultimate haunt experience.
Teresa - The Dent Schoolhouse is a Cincinnati legend for good reason. The location is an actual, creepy old schoolhouse that was built in 1894. Try looking up the legend online. In a nutshell, it says that everything was fine until 1942, when kids started disappearing. They eventually found the decaying remains in the basement after a horrible smell made people suspicious. It was evidently the work of Charlie, the janitor, who disappeared without a trace. The rumor is that he returned to the school after it was closed by the authorities. And now, "students" line up in droves outside to get a peak inside.
The website is very good and you can find everything you need to know about tickets, parking, special events, and the like there. I want to tell you about the experience. First, if you don't like lines, you can pay extra for a fast-pass or skip-the-line ticket. If you don't want to do this, get there early. Ticket lines and the line to get in can be very long. We were there on a Saturday night and the line was probably 2 hours long. Having said that, there is plenty going on to keep you entertained while you wait. There are vintage cartoons and things showing via projectors, there are snacks available, music playing, and lots of creepy decor. Plus, you can see people running and screaming as they exit the haunt, which is always fun. The best part about the wait is the queue actors. They are always phenomenal and make the wait so much more fun. They sneak up behind people, engage you in really strange conversations, and may even pose for photos, but possibly not in the way you had in mind. There is also a photo booth, once you get inside the side yard, where they snap a photo of your group, which you can buy on your way out (if you survive). It makes a nice memento.
Inside, you get to see one of the new additions for this year right away. It is a memorial/portrait gallery, and it's very Harry Potter-esque and did not disappoint. The schoolhouse portion of the haunt is themed to perfection. It is so detailed that you'd have to go through several times, and maybe even to one of the lights-on events to be able to see everything. There are loads of props, lots of animatronics, and plenty of creepy characters and fantastic costumes and makeup. The scenes are movie quality. The lighting seemed a little darker this year and the characters a little more amped up. They don't touch you (unless you attend the lights-out event and you want them to), but you will be chased by clowns with horns, maniacs with chainsaws, and all kinds of other nightmare-ish beings. It really makes that "I forgot to study for my test" dream seem not so bad. You go through all kinds of rooms, including classrooms, the kitchen, the theater, a lost toy room, a locker room, bathroom, showers, etc. And when I say "room", most of these are way beyond anything you're picturing. Some are like those rooms in bad dreams that just keep turning into more rooms and you can't escape. You also go into the basement where Charlie hid all the bodies. Be on the lookout for him. And do admire all the decor while you're there. They have bodies that are so realistic that they look like real corpses. I'm not even kidding. And there are scenes that are so creepy and creative that you just have to see them. My favorites are a giant ossuary, people carved like jack-o-lanterns, and a mind-blowing, walk-through garbage/body pit. So disturbing! The schoolhouse is non-stop scares. Even the hallways and outside portions are full of characters yelling at you, grabbing for you, things are popping out of the dark...you never get a break.
When you exit the schoolhouse, it is a very short walk to the Queen City Slaughter Yard. This is a sort of indoor/outdoor haunt included in the ticket price. On entering you will find yourself surrounded by cages, some containing people. You find yourself in a maze of crazed, hungry butchers. The decor is fitting for an abbattoir and you get to see some really crazy saws and tools for processing meat. This part does a good job of sticking to the theme also, and uses crazed cannibals with chainsaws to really keep the adrenaline going.
There are few haunts out there as visually stimulating and detailed as The Dent Schoolhouse, and to reach those, you'd have to travel pretty far. The acting, the theming, the lighting, the costumes, the characters, the scenes...this place is the top of its class.
Paul - It's just in another league... This is what I keep saying to myself over the last day as I think about what to write for the Dent Schoolhouse. I've been fortunate to attend many, many haunts over the last several years, and the only one that can begin to compare to the Dent Schoolhouse is about 500 miles away. The Dent is a non-stop sensory overload of haunt. From the moment you walk through the front door, there doesn't seem to be a single place you look that isn't creepy, crawly, or jumping into your face.
The Dent Schoolhouse is an old Cincinnati schoolhouse from the 1800s. The story is that the school custodian killed several students over the years and stored their remains in the basement of the school. Once they were discovered, the school was shut down immediately, but the kids still haunt the school today.
The theme is used through the haunt exceptionally well. You pass through the cafeteria, kitchen, auditorium, classrooms, locker room, etc... But then things start to get really dark. The boiler room, sewer, dungeon, and crypt are all amazing, and the body disposal room was really gruesome to have to get through. With every corner you turn, and every actor you come across you fall deeper into the haunt and it feels more and more like a nightmare you have to escape.
Every year we visit I look forward to seeing what's new, and every year I walk into some room where my jaw drops. Every inch of the place is so detailed that sometimes you just don't know what's real and what's a prop.
The main haunt is fairly long and if you really enjoy haunts, you'll want to take your time and absorb every bit of it if you can. The line can be fairly lengthy during peak times but you have many roaming actors there to keep you company, and plenty of screams coming from inside to remind you of what's coming.
Once you make it out of the schoolhouse, you still have the Queen City Slaughter Yard to get through! Queen City is a maze of wooden hog gates you have to make your way through, but the workers there seem to have mixed with the pigs a bit and you have some really angry freaks there to cut you up and spit you out. This portion is pretty intense, but as someone who thinks chainsaws in haunts are more annoying than scary, this portion doesn't add to the experience for me very much.
That said, the Dent Schoolhouse is a haunt experience you just can't miss. I love all kinds of haunts, big and small, but this is just an experience unlike any other. Highly recommended!
Donna - We have been reviewing the Dent Haunted Schoolhouse as far back as I can remember. What I love about it is every year they change it up while keeping the same theme of the "urban legend" haunted schoolhouse. The path you follow doesn't seem so much like a maze but more of a natural walk through an old, creepy school that's inhabited by lots and lots of ghosts, ghouls, walking dead, rats, bugs, demented carneys and other deranged characters too frightening to describe. Of course, Charlie the janitor makes an appearance. According to the legend, he was the murderer of the schoolchildren back in the 50's who hid the bodies in the basement.
What I liked about this year is that the house starts off fairly quietly and lets the suspense build slowly. The attention to detail in every room is beyond compare to other haunts. The feeling of living out your worst nightmare grows as you make the trek through the old school totaling over a 25 minute trip. Never knowing what awaits you - but knowing it will be something horrifying!
The actors are relentless, the animatronics are superb and the creativity is off the charts! You even have to walk through a dumpster full of body parts!
This is a haunt not to be missed this year! Go and then go again when you can keep your eyes open!
Overall Score - 7 / 10
Scare Factor - 6.7
Actors - 5.3
Visuals - 6.7
Value - 8.3
Have you visited this haunt? Tell us what you thought!
Todd - The Lewisburg Haunted Cave is quite the experience - but not without its challenges. First - the setting: It's a cave. A real one. Underground. It's massive. This alone makes for an authentic spooky setting. There's no natural light whatsoever, the smallest sounds can echo around bends in the rock and if your claustrophobic, don't even bother. No - you're not going to be reliving "The Descent" or risk having a "127 Hours"-like moment but if the thought of walking around 80 feet underground with countless tons of limestone supporting itself above your head unsettles you, this may not be for you.
So we've got a cave....and a haunted house. Kind of sounds like a perfect combination, right? Well unfortunately that's not entirely true. Here's why...
This haunt feels void of an identity - at least for me. As you walk through it's enormous path you come across inconsistent scenes that have no apparent relation to each other or any form of story to support them. One minute you're walking through a graveyard and the next you're being "shot at" by a pickup truck driving by. Some scenes depict remains of ritualistic activities with some degree of realism, while others look like an aisle at your local Spirit or Halloween Express shop.
...my biggest hangup was a lot of missed opportunity.
The spectrum of props is all over the place. You can find a dummy stuffed with black trash bags and other homemade props right next to an animatronic from PoisonProps that cost more than some visitors make in a month. Professional appearances of scenes are marred by cheap, plastic decorations; it's a shame. Many of the higher grade props' illusions are also tainted by full exposed armatures.
I know I sound harsh here. I WILL recognize that there a lot of logistical challenges with positioning and lighting because, you know, it's a cave. However, I can't get over the fact that despite all of this, my biggest hangup was a lot of missed opportunity. There are a good two or three areas you walk through that are large, wide-open "rooms" which were not utilized at all. No props and any actor interaction was minimal at most. These are the areas I would expect to be heavily staged the most as it could really provide a wealth of interactions. Many of the scenes you see throughout are positioned in the wings of the path, only to be observed like an art exhibit in a museum. In these larger rooms, if the space is afforded it should be utilized! There were also many missed chances to take advantage of misdirection. Many times a prop is used to get people's attention on the left, when the real scare is coming from the right. Most of the time here, you look left and just keep going.
The finale of this haunt really is its shining moment. You confront satan (?) (or a demon) himself, acted with intensity incomparable to the rest of the haunt who explains you must choose your path correctly in order to escape hell and resurface (literally) to the world above. The choices are a series of entryways, only one of which leads you further towards the exit. There's actually series of these which could take a while to successfully navigate, especially if you're easily disoriented.
Most casual haunt fans will not be put off by the items mentioned above. Those afraid of the dark will be much too preoccupied trying to get around to notice. It's also important to re-emphasize that this is a real cave - it's muddy, has very uneven ground in some parts and you'll likely get a little wet. Also, the main entrance and exit is a VERY steep hill and on wet days especially, slipping and falling is very possible so take caution and think ahead before anyone with physical challenges wants to visit. There are alternative entrances to the cave but I am unsure if they are accessible to the public.
The bottom line - if you don't mind a drive out there, this one IS worth your money. Is it perfectly executed? No. However, it's a unique experience and for the most part, family friendly. If this haunt was in a traditional building, it would not score as high - the cave provides enough ambiance for it to work. As a haunt outside of an environment, there's a lot of opportunity for improvement.
Paul - Some haunts automatically get a bump in excitement just based on where the founders chose to build them. Lewisburg Haunted Cave is one of them. Built 80 feet underground in an old limestone mine, the cave is a massive underground cavern that's spooky even without the haunt being set up in it.
Last year was the first visit we made to Lewisburg and I'm glad we went back. The cave is kind of in the middle of nowhere and can be a little bit tough to find, but once you've arrived there is an ample amount of parking and not much question where to go. There isn't a lot above ground to see, but the ticket, concession, and mine tour stands are all there, as well as a few decorations. You can't see much of anything until you get your ticket and start walking down into the earth.
And down into the earth you definitely go, 80 feet from what we were told. This is probably a good time to warn you... This isn't an easy descent, or an easy ascent back to the surface at the end. Shoes/boots with lots of traction are highly suggested and it's about as far from handicapped accessible as you can get. If anyone in your group has difficulty walking on flat ground, they likely won't make it here.
This place is HUGE, and has an absolutely enormous amount of room to pack in the scares.
Once you get to the bottom, you'll walk through one of the longest haunts in the world. It even held the Guinness record for that at one point. This place is HUGE, and has an absolutely enormous amount of room to pack in the scares. Tons of actors, lots of animatronics, and you zig and zag all over. There's a scene where a truck is literally driving around down there right next to you!
There were several scenes that blew me away. The graveyard and the morgue were able to take advantage of the space and they were able to pack some amazing detail in for them. One scene had one of the best uses of a chainsaw I’ve seen, and the final scene is pretty impressive. Just as an example of how much is packed in here… I’ve been to a few haunts where they had a coffin or two that would make noises or someone might jump out of it. There must have been twenty or more here.
As huge as the cave is, this also is a bit of a problem. Some spaces are so huge that they don’t have enough content to fill them. There aren’t enough props, actors, whatever. It’s understandable, but it also takes away from some of the scares. We walked through several places where we were just in a huge “room” with almost nothing in it other than some lights and an animatronic of some kind. Also, the first quarter or so of the haunt has lots of air-powered props that REALLY need mufflers. The noise isn’t painful or anything, it just takes away from the effect of the prop when you just hear the air solenoids making so much noise.
Even with the areas needing improvement, the haunt is still well worth the price of admission. The actors do a decent job and make good use of distraction to get some good scares, the number and quality of the props is well above average, and it’s in a cave under the surface of the earth! It may not be one of the top ten haunts in the country, but it’s a hell of a bang for the buck.
Teresa - Lewisburg Haunted Cave is a really "cool" experience. It is hard to beat a cave (or old mine, in this case) for dark, dank, gloomy atmosphere. It really makes for a unique experience with ambiance in spades. We arrived early, around dusk, and being September and early in the season, we were able to buy our tickets and pretty much walk right in. The ticket prices are very reasonable for the experience you get. There are no skip-the-line passes here, so if you're planning to come on a busy night, plan to take advantage of the concessions or kettle corn available while you wait (there are also portolettes). Also, be warned, this is a full-contact haunt. The actors will touch you. More on that coming up. You should definitely wear sturdy shoes, as you have to walk down a long descent into the cave (and you'll be coming back up at the end, so be ready to work those quads!), and it is very damp and can be slippery. The trail you walk is not paved concrete; it is rather rough and uneven and (did I mention?) damp! This is a very long haunt. The mine is enormous and you will cover a lot of ground. The bridge you walk over at the beginning is one of my favorite parts. It is so dark, and the wood seems old and spongy, and there are sounds in the dark. The path was sometimes obscured by what felt and smelled like real tree branches you had to push past.
...be warned, this is a full-contact haunt...you should definitely wear sturdy shoes...it is very damp and can be slippery. The trail you walk is not paved concrete; it is rather rough and uneven...
There are lots of pneumatic props, everything from simple homemade coffins to giant man-eating behemoths. They rely heavily on these props, having so much space to cover, and some of them are very well-placed and triggered. And they do a good job with actor placement, so they pop out when you least expect it. There are all kinds of creepy things down there, including spiders, cemeteries, cannibals, chainsaws, blasts of fire, and a "devilish" maze. The path you walk is sometimes close and claustrophobic, and sometimes quite the opposite, with the space wide-open, the lighting allowing you to get a sense of just how big some of these rooms are. They are large enough to drive vehicles up next to the path. Parts of it are quiet and dark, and other parts very loud and exciting. There is a maze that can take quite a while to find your way through. I especially liked the lighting in the maze, and how it would occasionally go out, leaving you in darkness. The actors will touch you, but it is not overly aggressive. One might grab your hand and stop you from following your friends. Some of them will caress your hair, or grab your legs as you're walking down a dark passage. I had a few cut off my leg off with a chainsaw. Okay, not really, but they did touch it to my leg. I'd have been a goner if that thing was functional! There were lots of older kids and teens there, so I think the characters inside make sure it is scary, but keep it to a safe level. We saw the line growing as we walked out, and there was a fire performer entertaining people outside. Some haunts are small with tons of detail to wow you, others rely on fabulous character actors to give you nightmares, and yet others excel in unbelievable props, staged to perfection. The star of this one is the cave itself. Anything in there is made creepier just because you know you are inside cave. You're down there in the dark, with things that shouldn't be there.
Overall Score - 9 / 10 *
Scare Factor - 8.3
Actors - 9.3
Visuals - 9
Value - 9.3
* Forsaken was not open for our visit. These ratings are an aggregate of both Stillwell Manor and Tantibus.
Have you visited this haunt? Tell us what you thought!
Todd - Stillwell Manor very well could be Indiana's best "unknown" haunt and what a shame that is. I don't mean to imply that this talented group of people have not made a name for themselves - far from it. It's just that this unique attraction feels overshadowed by larger, less-inspired haunts. We are BIG fans of "Stillwell" and always try to get the word out that this one is worth your time and money.
Stillwell Manor as a whole is divided up into 3 separate attractions - its namesake - Stillwell Manor, Tantibus and Forsaken (opening in October, replacing Isabella's Beyond). Forsaken was unfortunately not ready at the time of our visit but from what was described to us, it certainly sounds thematically darker than anything we've seen there in the past.
Stillwell is a prime demonstration of what true passion for the craft can create. Every year it improves more and more. As most know, it is constructed within an abandoned 80's-style movie theater. Today, you wouldn't ever know while inside the haunt. Rooms and environments have been created with enough detail, utilizing real furniture, real decor and creativity that the vibe is entirely unique.
Stillwell Manor is immensely fun. The experience is always memorable for me and it feels great to experience a haunt with so much evident dedication.
I find it actually challenging to put into words the experience that Stillwell offers. The primary haunt (Stillwell Manor) feels very traditional which is becoming less and less common in this era. It doesn't rely on expensive animatronics for its scares. It's not hyper-stimulating, it's not psychologically challenging or overly grotesque. The heart of Stillwell solely resides in its actors and its authentic setting. Almost all of Stillwell features settings in a home, outdoors or cemetery (I'd like to add here that a new, phenomenal mausoleum has been added).
While Stillwell's character comes from its impressively furnished sets, its personality is fueled by the actors - many of which were great. One thing we learned this year is that the actors contribute a lot to their staged area. Much of what you see in an actor's area may very well be something THEY brought to the table or created themselves. The premise may be handed to them, but the execution may be left to their personal approach. The actors also attended hours of pre-season training this year and it shows. Many of them are excellent at staying in character during improvisational conversation (trust me - we test them).
Tantibus (english translation - nightmare), another haunt at Stillwell Manor, displayed many of the same positive qualities mentioned above - particularly regarding the actors. The feel of Tantibus is a bit more 'in your face' and fast-paced. Rather than exploring an eerie estate, you are pushing your way through one oppressive situation after another - zombies, demented doctors and of course, clowns. Tantibus supplies very little recovery time from one scene to another, which compliments Stillwell Manor quite well. It also still features its signature..."ride" which never gets old.
As a whole, Stillwell Manor is immensely fun. The experience is always memorable for me and it feels great to experience a haunt with so much evident dedication. The actors add so much charisma to this unique setup, it's hard to imagine not coming back year after year.
Paul - Go to Stillwell Manor. Now. Really. I’ll wait.
Did you go? Ok good. Totally worth it right? Did you drive a couple of hundred miles round-trip like we did? Still worth it! If you love haunts like we do, you really have to make the voyage to Anderson, Indiana and visit Stillwell Manor.
Stillwell Manor is one of the more unique haunts we visit as it’s built inside of an old movie theater. The sloped floors are still there, and occasionally you’ll catch a glimpse of one of the weird corrugated-concrete walls the building is made up of. But every year as the haunt gets better and better, you see less of that due to the phenomenal sets that this passionate group of haunters put together.
This is my third trip to Stillwell and I’m blown away by the improvements every year. This year I think I noticed the biggest transformation, and we even visited before the third haunt opened for the season! The layout has changed a bit, there are several brand new scenes, and the actors are better than they have ever been.
If you love haunts like we do, you really have to make the voyage to Anderson, Indiana and visit Stillwell Manor.
Stillwell is comprised of three haunts… Stillwell Manor, Tantibus, and the new haunt that we were too early for is Forsaken. Isabell’s Beyond is no more, and I can’t wait to see how Forsaken darkens things down!
Stillwell Manor is the main attraction here as you’d probably guess. It’s kind of your classic haunted house, themed around General Stillwell’s mansion that has been frozen in time for years. There are all kinds of residents and most of them are very unhappy to have visitors. You'll walk and crawl through dozens of different scenes, and a couple of the new ones this year made a big impression; especially the doll house and the mausoleum. The detail blew me away. In addition to all of the super creepy scenes, the actors showed big changes this year as well. There were so many great performances, it’s hard to remember them all. I especially remember the girl offering fingers to snack on in the dining room, the doll house girl, the doctor, and the 3 little girls trying to get you to play with them. Excellent.
Tantibus is the second attraction we were able to experience. Tantibus is a collection of fears that you have to face. This was a surprising haunt because it has remained mostly the same for each visit, but somehow keeps getting better. This year there were a couple of new scenes, and again there was a huge improvement in the acting. The two you run into first were fantastic, as was the noodle-room inhabitant, the dark-walker, the insane-asylum resident, and my favorite was the character at the very end, right before you get your freedom back!
There were a couple of small things that weren’t working properly since we visited on opening weekend, but they didn’t take away from the experience at all. This is still one of my favorite haunts and I’m sure it’s going to stay up near the top of my list the rest of the season. Go visit and tell them Haunted House Tour sent you!
Teresa - Stillwell Manor is 2 attractions in one (soon to be 3 again when they open Forsaken this October). On a cool, damp, opening weekend in September, we arrived pretty late and the crowd had died down. We were able to go right in. There is a Haunted Manor-esque talking bust that acquaints you with the background of the manor and tells you the rules as you wait to go inside. Once you get inside, you go through all the rooms and outdoor spaces you may find in a (very) haunted manor house. The decor is made of real items they collect, like you might find in an actual haunted manor. It gives each space a legitimacy and loads of character. Being inside an old theater, floors sometimes slope strangely, and it makes finding your way through all the more unsettling. I absolutely love the haunt actors here. Their costumes are unique and they are so entertaining! Some of them improv with the best of them. I love being able to interact with them. Others are scary without ever saying a thing. They alternate between being creepy, funny, and down-right terrifying. While not a touch haunt, they are not afraid to get right up into your personal space, with whatever creepy face or items they may want to show you. The actors here are top notch and they make the walk through the manor so much fun. I loved the crazy cat lady (hissing at us), the (new for this year) doll room (with the creepy mannequins), the sisters in the bedrooms (really intimidating), trying to find our way (and making so many wrong turns!), having to go through a Narnia-like closet, the foggy outdoor space (with weird plants), the mausoleum (I can't even explain how cool this was), the huge chapel facade, and crawling through a coffin. The spaces are so creative, and I love the changes they made for this year. It is definitely creepy, as noted by the couple who was there who tried to bail out early! They left, cursing and laughing about how scary this place is. It is pretty long, with lots of rooms and simulated outdoor spaces, and so worth the money. Especially if you go in with a small, intimate group.
This is a really fun haunt and I'm amazed that it wasn't busier when we went. Maybe it is too scary because it is so intimate? ...maybe they have heard stories about the real ghosts who haunt the theater?
Once you exit the Manor, there is an indoor area with concessions and souvenirs where you can hang out and take a break while you work up the courage to enter the second attraction, Tantibus. Tantibus is Latin for "nightmare" and nightmares are what you face (face you?) in this section. It immediately started off with a bang as we ascended the stairs and I saw, down a back-lit hallway with laser lights, some really creepy girls. I stopped to stare, then reminded myself to keep moving toward them so the rest of the group could see them too! There's a zombie outbreak section, a really gross bathroom (who hasn't lived that nightmare?), a funhouse section with creepy clowns and an enormous slide into a ball pit (you really have to try this!), people climbing the walls, some really dark passages holding characters you won't see until it is too late, and another great hallway scene at the end. The lighting and effects made this character look so unnerving! It is hard not to stop and just stare in awe (or run screaming!). The decor isn't as detailed in this section as it is in the Manor, but it is more nightmare-like. And come on! Where else are you going to find a giant slide and ball pit like this? I won't tell you what else is at the bottom. Who wants to go first?
I'm not sure where Forsaken will fall, whether you will do it after the Manor or Tantibus. I can't wait to see it. My understanding is that it will build on the story of Isabell and her Beyond that they had in previous years. See our past reviews for more on this. I really enjoyed Stillwell Manor and Tantibus this year. I really love the updates they made and very much want to see Forsaken. Especially since it is advertised as being interactive, which is one area in which these guys really shine! The only thing I missed, and I think it was because we were so late in the evening, so early in the year, were the queue line actors. There was no queue line, so no queue line actors. However, not having a big crowd is a huge win for you! Go before they get really busy next month! Prices are discounted until Forsaken opens, and the other 2 are well worth the money on their own. Plus parking is really easy. This is a really fun haunt and I'm amazed that it wasn't busier when we went. Maybe it is too scary because it is so intimate? Maybe people are afraid they might get lost in these dark rooms forever? Or maybe they have heard stories about the real ghosts who haunt the theater?
Have you visited this haunt? Tell us what you thought!
Overall Score - 6.6 / 10
Scare Factor - 6.5
Actors - 6.3 *
Visuals - 6.5 *
Value - 7.3
Todd - Phobia is Land of Illusion's new haunt this year, which replaced the VooDoo Bayou Shanty (RIP). Phobia's uniqueness among its neighbors is that its fright level is mostly dependent on YOU.
Phobia is a dark haunt which means just that - much of it is in the complete darkness. Anyone inherently scared of the dark will find this utterly terrifying and hard to navigate so cling on to a buddy. Phobia isn't all about what you see; it's about what you don't see. Much of the time you'll find yourself stepping forward very slowly, feeling the walls to determine when you need to turn a corner. It's very disorienting in the best way.
Make no mistake - you have "company," and while you can't see them all the time, you'll probably hear them. This concept is sure to give some a fair amount of anxiety.
If you're ok with navigating the dark, perhaps one of the phobia rooms will have you facing what you tend to normally avoid. Many of these room contain things that are commonly disliked by the populace so there's a good chance at least one may make you hesitant.
The structure itself is put together with a configuration of shipping containers which are all covered by a large tensioned membrane roof, which not only keeps the haunt safe from the weather, but those waiting in line as well. Just like the addition of the Zombie Sniper Patrol's line queue last year, Phobia's waiting area looks like a modern amusement attraction.
Phobia is a "less is more haunt." The unseen and unknown are the true stars here. For the scenes that are staged, some are quite effective while others need some work. For it's freshman year and a reportedly (and incredibly) short construction time, it was put together very well. There's plenty of room to grow and enhance the experience. Since we visited on the first weekend of the season, it's entirely possible Phobia may be much enhanced by October. We were invited to return at the end of the season, so if we do, we'll surely update our review to cover how this haunt improved in a matter of weeks.
* The numerical scoring on this haunt could be mis-interpreted because there's so much not SEEN. All in all, there aren't a lot of visuals and there are not conventional actors so please keep this in mind.
Teresa - Phobia is brand new this year and I thought they did a good job covering a whole gamut of phobias, including spiders, bugs, snakes, clowns, tight spaces, and of course, the dark. One of my favorite parts was the absolute dark in sections, and the things you could hear in the dark. Creepy! This one has a lot of room to grow, and I’m really excited to come back and see how it develops over time.
Paul - Phobia is the newest haunt attraction at Land of Illusion. It’s in a brand new structure that stands where the Bayou used to be, and it was created to dig into your biggest fears. I don’t want to give away the scares within but there are a half dozen or so different scenes themed around different things that people typically have fears of, with a lot of dark maze-like passages in between. When we visited this year, Phobia was only finished a day earlier and they were still fine-tuning some of the scenes. It’s an impressive start and I hope to make it back to check out what they do with it through the season!
Donna - This haunt was designed and executed surprisingly well for a first year haunt. The theme of Phobia was carried out throughout the entire haunt with enough dark areas and in your face actors to keep you on your toes. You get the feeling of dread after the first scene like they really know what you are secretly afraid of. As you walk through each scene, people follow you and whisper into your ear, making the experience more terrifying with each turn. I really liked this neew haunt and feel it is an excellent addition to the Land of Illusion experience.
Killer Klowns 3D
Overall Score - 7.5 / 10
Scare Factor - 6
Actors - 8.5
Visuals - 8
Value - 7.5
Todd - IF you have followed me throughout the years, you know I'm very skeptical of 3D blacklight haunts. The novelty of the 3D scenes only made possible by wearing glasses never impressed me enough to get over the fact that the blacklights are so bright that you can see everything all around you. I never found that to be scary or disturbing.
This why when I learned that Killer Klowns went BACK to using blacklights after ""going dark"" for the past few years, I was initially disappointed. To my surprise, there were some new things in store that left me pleasantly surprised.
First off, I'm not scared of clowns. If you are, then naturally this one is going to bother you no matter how well executed it is. The clowns inside are not your traditional Bozo-like circus clowns....more like Rob Zombie's "31" clowns. They're grimy, bloodied and have a sick sense of interpersonal cohabitation. They're quite creative regarding the use of various internal organs. In other words, the actors were noticeably improved from earlier years.
MUCH of this haunt has been modified this year. While it's actually shorter (some was segmented off for Escape Rooms opening later on), it's not even noticeable due to many improvements and additions. First - the art. While some of the wall art is the same in places, many larger mural-style paintings have been added which due to their size, created a very effective sense of depth when viewed through the glasses.
The chain-link maze still remains, only now it's fogged so navigating it feels a bit more complex since you can't see all the way through it.
At one point in the haunt you become a human pinball, navigating through flippers and bumpers, which I found to be very original and fun throwback to gamers like myself. There was also the addition of cotton candy cocoons a-la Killer Klowns From Outer Space, which was great.
Overall, I walked out agreeing with the others that the changes were for the better. I liked the clown haunt when it was dark, abandoning the blacklight approach that had become common everywhere. However, with the new changes and additions it feels unique again.
Teresa - Killer Klowns 3D wins my vote for most improved. The walls are decked out in new psychedelic murals and with the 3D glasses you really get a trippy effect, where it feels like everything is constantly moving and shifting. Combine that with walls that do move, and it gets really fun! The thematic elements are spot on, with giant pinball machine decor, mazes, and spinning tunnels. One simple thing I really liked was the giant cotton candy cocoons that you had to push past, and could occasionally see a face inside. Killer Klowns from Outer Space, anyone? The lighting and sound effects were good, and the clown-actors were fantastic! They laughed, taunted and jeered, stomped and climbed all around us on the bridge, and pleaded for us to play games with them. Great funhouse, Killer Klown-style!
Paul - Killer Klowns is the most physically changed attraction of the year. Last year’s Klown experience was a little darker than usual, but this year you get a brand new 3D experience. Fresh visuals all over, a bit of a different layout, and they deliver the best creepy clown experience I’ve been through this side of Netherworld. The actors did a GREAT job (honestly, the actor enthusiasm seems to be one of the biggest improvements through the entire park this year and it makes a massive difference), the paint/murals were outstanding, and I thought it was much improved over last year. You can tell there was considerable time and money spent in the offseason, and it shows.
Donna - This was a good 3D clown haunt but was made better by the actors. It was pretty typical as far as the props go and visuals were pretty much what you would expect for this particular theme. The actors were, however, over the top scary and had excellent costumes that were both convincingly cute and horrible at the same time. Well done.
Temple of Terror
Overall Score - 8.9 / 10
Scare Factor - 8.8
Actors - 9
Visuals - 9
Value - 8.8
Todd - Temple of Terror wins "haunt of the night" for me. Going in, I was expecting the same, unchanged experience from the past. While the flow and structure was seemingly the same, added details and fantastic actors have instilled new life into his haunt.
The Temple has always resonated with me because it has a lot of things good haunts tend to have in common - dark, narrow corridors, lots of corpses, various monsters and standout scenes that make you say "wow" or "now, this is cool."
Everything you've come to experience in recent years still lives on in the Temple - but now, layers of detail have been added which gave it a new vibe. Great-looking spider webbing has been added over what was already highly detailed wall coverings. Blood smears have been added over the faces of mummy coffins that line the walls. Small things like this all put together really improved the visual impressions of the haunt this year.
The most radical improvement however was with the actors. They were absolutely fantastic and exploding with energy. Many were somewhat free roaming so if we moved on, they cam right back around to give us more. Others that were stationed in specific areas were either very creepy or exuberantly pumping even more chaos into the scene with shouts and wails.
It was very unexpected but incredibly satisfying. I now look forward to what else they'll bring to the table next year.
Teresa - Temple of Terror was probably my favorite of the bunch this year. This one has a lot of great scenes and is really fun to experience. The actors were quite skilled and played their roles well. They did an impressive job of sticking with you, disappearing, and reappearing when you least expected it. And I love it when they interact with you. It is so much fun when they are scary and funny, all at the same time! My favorite costume was the goat man. My favorite scenes were the swamp and the bridge. They have so much atmosphere! Add some giant animatronics and superb sound effects, and this one is not to be missed!
Paul - If you’re ever curious what actors can do to make a haunt better, Temple of Terror is a perfect example. For a haunt that was relatively unchanged, Temple was the biggest improvement over past years that I’ve seen, and it was almost exclusively due to actors who enjoy and care about their craft. Physically I didn’t notice a huge change inside the attraction, which is themed to an ancient temple where an overwhelming amount of supernatural occurrences are happening. There were a lot of small “attention to detail” things that were changed and made noticeably better, but nothing massive. The entire reason this was my favorite haunt of the night was the crew. The performance they put on and the passion behind it was fantastic. There were characters jumping out all over the place, hiding in places I didn’t know were there, and getting really close to you before you knew they were even there. Excellent work!
Donna - This was my favorite haunt at Land of Illusion this year because of the unique visuals and additional actors throughout the dark, creepy tomb-like catacombs. I loved the changes this year (no spoilers! Just go and see for yourself!). The actors were excellent, the haunt was very claustrophobic and just felt like a cold, damp tomb with every type of creepy crawler and crazy mummy chasing you. This haunt will take your breath away and make you want to run, not walk, out of the place!
Dr. Psycho's Haunted Estate
Overall Score - 7.9 / 10
Scare Factor - 7.8
Actors - 8.6
Visuals - 7.3
Value - 8.3
Todd - Dr Psycho's Haunted Estate remains as the most conventional haunt at Land of Illusion. Part house, part outdoors - this one offers a little bit of everything.
Aside from some reconfiguration of the outdoor pathing, not much noticeably changed this year. I don't necessarily mean to convey this as a bad thing. Dr. Psycho's packs in a pretty lengthy experience with plenty of eye candy with more details than you'll have time to full observe.
The actors, consistent with the rest of the park, performed with more gusto than we've seen in recent years. Dr. Psycho himself did a great job - I only wish I got to interact with him more. Another standout was a nameless little girl converted to a life-sized marionette puppet using her veins as strings.
The exit exterior has also received a very impressive facelift. It's now a well designed "Oakley Cemetery" which looks great. We were told that similarly themed areas will be staged around the park in the future.
While Dr. Psycho's didn't offer anything dramatically new, it's still a haunt I'll always find myself wanting to visit because there's just so much to look at and experience.
Teresa - I like that Dr. Psycho's Haunted Estate has indoor and outdoor sections. It’s more like you really are wandering around an estate. But the actors are what I like the most about this one. The puppet girl was fantastically creepy! Others were shrieking so loudly that chills ran up my spine! And one was talking about eating my eyeballs. Gross! These creeps stalked around us, cajoling us to do dubious things, banged loudly to startle us, and elicited screams from their victims. Some may have even chased us with chainsaws. Or maybe not. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Paul - Dr Psycho isn’t a nice fella. He’s been performing a lot of experiments on people, and the ones who are still alive aren’t very happy about it. They’re also not happy you’re there. This haunt’s theme works very well, and again, the actors do a good job of selling it. The haunt hasn’t changed a huge amount from previous years but when you have something that works this well, sometimes a huge change isn’t needed. As for improvements… The outside area needs a little bit of re-thinking to keep it fresh, and some of the props inside are showing their age- Fairly minor things. Dr Psycho’s place continues to be a really creepy experience and will get your blood pumping!
Donna - I really liked this haunt because it is more old school haunted house visuals. It was a bit too well lit in places, though, but made up for that with the intensity of the actors. The girl on the puppet strings was fantastic and Dr. Psycho was chilling and creepy. The outside areas needed better lighting as most of the scenes were invisible in the dark. But it was still fun to walk through the indoor/outdoor areas. Again, the actors are what really made this haunt good. Very impressive and convincing. I would do this haunt a couple of times to see everything because some of it is so scary, you'll want to shut your eyes! Nightmare stuff for sure!
Overall Score - 7.9 / 10
Scare Factor - 7.5
Actors - 7.5
Visuals - 8
Value - 8.5
Todd - Anyone who has walked the Haunted Trail before knows that it's quite a hike. Trying to remember every bit of it for the purposes of this review is a real challenge so I'll do what I can...
Just like every year, parts of the trail have been refined. More than ever, the trail seems void of unnecessary, wide open spaces - especially around the middle where the buses are. Rather than filling up these spacious areas, the fences have been pulled in to keep a direct path.
2018 is the year of Michael Meyers so of course he still roams the decked pathway, which was filled with some of the most dense fog I've ever been in (it's great!). All of the standout scenes still remain - the spider infestation, the school, the butcher shop, the cemetery/crypt and of course the hillbilly shanty area which to my surprise was actually reduced in size. The opening section with the sewer is still quite impressive, which leads almost directly into the hanger now where the machine gun fires louder than ever (it's damn near deafening).
The challenge with the trail has always been maintaining a flow of engagement among an inconsistent theme. The trail is the perfect place to have a hodgepodge of experiences, however each has different levels of execution so some are better received than others.
One issue we had when going through was the pacing. The fireworks had just ended and since most people naturally like to go through the trail late a night, quite a line had formed. It was evident the staff was really pushing the crowd through due to the lines. Unfortunately this was a real detriment to the experience. Not once, twice but three times we either wound up on the tail of the group ahead of us or another was on our heels. This isn't good for any haunt. While I can appreciate them trying to compensate for an abnormally long wait, the experience surely suffered from it.
The trail is always a popular attraction simply because it's long, it's in the unlit woods around the lake and it carries a natural spooky vibe and if you're at Land of Illusion, one simply doesn't skip the trail.
Teresa - I love a good haunted trail. This one is long at around a mile. The lighting, fog, and sound effects are really well-done. I love the long, dark, eerie bridges. The spider scene was really creepy, and I loved the spider sounds. Skin-crawling! The cave was also really horrific. One of my favorite parts was the jack-o’lantern garden. I’m a Halloween geek, what can I say? The music really added to the atmosphere, and walking around up-ended vehicles lent a post-apocalyptic feel to parts of it. There are some pretty loud sections, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Paul - This is the attraction that got Land of Illusion started. It’s a HUGE trail that takes you through some really well-done scenes and has you confronted by dozens of creepy people who want to make sure you remember them for a long time. We unfortunately ended up right in the middle of a really obnoxious group of drunk people who seemed like they were only there to prove how tough they were, and they took a lot of the fun out of it by constantly trying to draw attention to themselves. However, one of the best parts about Land of Illusion is that once you’re inside you can go through any of the haunts as many times as you want! Your admission covers your entry, then it’s up to you what, when, and how many times you go through each attraction (except zombie paintball which you pay for each time). Since we’ve been through the haunted trail several times before, I know just how good it is. It’s definitely a can’t-miss attraction and one of the best haunts around.
Zombie Sniper Patrol
Overall Score - 6.1 / 10
Scare Factor - 4.5
Actors - 6.5
Visuals - 6.5
Value - 7
Todd - Zombie Sniper Patrol is an "add-on" to your admission in the park. Since it's a ride and a somewhat interactive experience, you'll need to pay a little extra.
There's always some satisfaction in shooting people with paintball guns so it's hard to be bored shooting at well-padded zombies...and let's be honest, we all tend to aim for the crotch. I know I do.
The large bus will drive you through the woods stopping at about 4 scenes staged with static objects and building fronts occupied by a few brave actors who get paid to be your target.
The ending, as we've now come to expect, results in a chase scene with (at the time of our visit) three vehicles to unload on. Unless you're equipped with some spare cash, pace yourself as you shoot. Extra paintballs are $5 a fill.
I always ask myself, "what could make this better?" and to be honest, I don't know. It is what it is. This type of thing is becoming more common across large multi-haunt parks and they all are kind of doing the same thing. In my opinion, for a higher premium, going through a zombie survival course on foot, armed with a paintgun and a set of objectives would be an absolute blast. I get that there are logistical challenges and probably some liability risk in that, but the interactivity would be off the chart.
For now, you're set with a ride through the woods with a mounted gun - not bad after a stressful work week!
Teresa - Zombie Sniper Patrol was the best it has ever been this year. There were lots more zombies to shoot at, and some of them were really asking for it! I especially liked how they would die after being shot a bunch of times. It really makes it feel like you’re killing zombies. Head shot, head shot, head shot! I was feeling pretty formidable. My only complaint is that the truck is so loud, I couldn’t hear the instructions as we were heading to our first elimination site. It turns out, I didn’t miss anything important, but maybe the guides need an intercom or something? There are so many zombies now, that you can burn through your ammo pretty fast, so I’d recommend having an extra $5 bill on you so you can get more if you run out. I didn't score this one high on the scare factor, but it is exciting and lots of fun.
Paul - Let me preface this by saying that I've never really had a zombie paintball experience that's blown my socks off. That being said, this is still the best zombie paintball attraction at any haunt I’ve visited. The waiting area is great (and fully covered, just like almost every other haunt at Land of Illusion- Don’t let the weather scare you away!) The trucks are really cool, the scenes are well done, and these are easily the most active zombies around. It’s a pretty wild ride and the ending gets your blood pumping pretty fast.
Donna - This was the most fun of the night! The Zombies were really into it and having fun with the people shooting at them. The bus chasing the truck we were riding at the end was a great addition. It seemed longer this year and had an additional scene added. This is a must do at Land of Illusion!!!!
Todd - Land of Illusion is really starting to come together as a full-fledged amusement park. They had their first successful summer with the new outdoor water attraction and the park looks better than ever.
The actors all went through a "school" prior to the haunt season and it really paid off. The actors were great and if they can keep up that level of energy throughout the entire season, all visitors are in for a real treat.
It's also beneficial to everyone to note that although Land of Illusion is a large haunt park, 4 of the 5 haunts are indoors with covered queues for the lines. Don't let the threat of rain dissuade you from coming. Aside from the haunts, there are 2 bars (one indoors, the other covered) and a large canopy over the central fire pit for you to take shelter under in the event if inclement weather.
Based on our visit, Land of Illusion is going to have one hell of a season.
Teresa - I am very impressed with Land of Illusion this year. Every year it gets better, but since I didn’t get to come last year, this year was much improved over the last time I was here. The grounds are turning into a Halloween amusement park. There are shops, food, bars, the Demon Drop, a mechanical bull, a giant bonfire, which is under a roof in case it rains (as are most of the queue lines for the haunts, so that’s really nice), and there is new décor which is great for photo ops. Some of the haunts take your photo too, which is offered at a reasonable price on your way out of the park. There’s also a big stage with live music. The night we were there, there were Rozzi fireworks, played to creepy music! I’ve never had the pleasure! And the lake is now a water park, which looks like a Wipeout set. It looks like so much fun! I loved watching the wandering actors scaring (and posing with) the visitors. One looked like a voodoo man, complete with saxophone which he would play and offer a Cajun greeting to guests. Another was a creepy ghoul who handed me a leg (prop I hope?). It sure felt real! Then there was the girl who did not look at all well…possibly possessed, who was zooming around in a bed and yelling at people. She was hilarious! This is not the cheapest place, but for what you get (4 indoor haunts, a long trail, zombie paintball, live music, fireworks, and refreshments galore along with lots of entertainment), this makes for a fun night out with friends. If you live nearby, they offer season passes, which would make this a great go-to hangout.
Paul - Land of Illusion is one of my favorite haunts we visit. The park is fantastic! The actors are great, the atmosphere is one of the best around, and year to year you can see they aren't just "phoning it in". There are substantial improvements every year! As a matter of fact, the acting this year was so much better than previous years, I thought they must have brought in some kind of acting coach. The difference is that obvious.
While the price is a bit higher than most haunts, you also get WAY more for your admission. You get to go through any of the attractions as many times as you want, there's a stage with live music going, there are roaming actors everywhere, there's a bar/restaurant, and a huge fire pit in the middle to relax around and watch the mayhem unfold around you.
Every attraction but the haunted trail has covered waiting areas and is indoor, so you can visit rain or shine. As a matter of fact, a rainy night might end up being better since attendance tends to be fairly low in inclement weather... Shorter wait times for all!!
Unlike most haunts where you go through once then go home, Land of Illusion gives you multiple haunts in one place and is a place you can spend the entire evening in. And you should! Tell them Haunted House Tour sent you.
Donna - Land of Illusions just gets better and better every year. This year was no exception. They now have a huge gas fire circle inside a covered gazebo with picnic tables in the center of the area. The night we were there they had a country/rock band playing and fireworks. This is not just your average 30 minute walk through haunt, this is a pay one price, all included complete night of entertainment. The five haunts plus the Zombie Patrol keep you in the Halloween spirit and the bands and DJs keep you entertained while you take a moment to catch your breath in between haunts. There are plenty of places to get refreshments, funnel cake, beer, snacks or whatever and a very nice gift shop to visit on your way out. This is one of my favorite places to spend an evening. If you really want to get into the Halloween spirit, or are just looking for something to do that's fun and different, check out Land of Illusion! Tell them The Frightmaster sent you.