The front of Pennhurst Asylum:
I had been waiting anxiously since October 2009 for Pennhurst Asylum (Spring City, PA) to open. Randy Bates of the really awesome Bates Motel (Glen Mills, PA) was working on this haunt. I expected for Pennhurst to be comparable to The Bates Motel in at least a small way. I even cut them some slack because this is their first year.
I still cannot recommend this haunt to you. Pennhurst was really disappointing on a few different levels. It really seemed like this was more of a proof of concept than a finished haunt. Here are 9 things that I hope Pennhurst Asylum will change in the coming years so that they can become really amazing.
1. Questionable wait times with no entertainment: I have heard from other haunt fans that they have waited for hours in line for this attraction. I arrived at 7:30ish (opening time) on Friday, October 22nd to avoid that. I waited about 15 minutes, but the line quickly grew to enormous proportions behind me. The area has a winding pathway that you must follow to get to the line for the attraction. There were hardly any scare actors at the route (I counted only 1.) to get to the line and absolutely none around the line at all.
2. Linear implementation of the traffic flow: There was a band playing and a bonfire set up at the entrance to the path that led to the line. This was pretty cool. Unfortunately, you couldn’t really enjoy them. They were not visible from the line. The way that the area was set up prevented you from returning to this area after you go through the attraction. It’s just a fact that no one will wait to get in line for a haunt. I don’t get why some haunts have to make their grounds linear like this. They’d make more money if we were able to enjoy the band and refreshments without worrying that we’ll have a really long line growing in front of us.
The bonfire area:
3. Overuse of mass-produced animatronic props: The majority of the scare actors inside Pennhurst Asylum seemed to be animatronic props. I felt like I was walking through a Halloween costume store. I really could not get into it. These props actually made the Pennhurst building seem less scary than it probably was.
4. Wide, well-lit rooms are not scary at all: The rooms were too well-lit and too wide. They really need to build the walls inward to provide better hiding places for the scare actors. I could see everyone coming a mile away. It was so lit that I couldn’t help but notice how cheap their plastic Halloween masks were. This is the first haunt I have ever been to that I felt the urge to laugh at and make fun of things as I went through.
5. Sparse distribution of scare actors: Maybe it was the size of the rooms, but it seemed like there weren’t that many scare actors working.
6. The attraction is REALLY short for what you are paying: They are billing this as 2 attractions – Pennhurst Asylum and Tunnel Terror. This is kind of ridiculous because both of these “attractions” are linked together and only last 15 minutes total. In my opinion this is one short attraction. You will probably spend about 7.5 minutes inside Pennhurst Asylum and 7.5 minutes in the Tunnel Terror and you’ll pay anywhere from $20-$25 for it.
7. Tunnel Terror is absolutely awful: It sounds really cool to enter the bowels of a messed up haunted place, right? Well this was just annoying and boring. At first a few scare actors were just standing around hitting mallets into metal drums near the occasional strobe light. Then the lights kept getting dimmer and dimmer. Then it got pitch black. Big problem – It was far too dark to see where you were going. This caused a traffic jam. The people behind us pushed in front of us by accident. The people in front of them had stopped because they couldn’t see. It just got nuts really fast. It wasn’t scary – it was a really annoying mass of confused people in the dark. The hallways were extremely wide so you couldn’t even feel your way through. You couldn’t even see any scare actors to get scared. I don’t think there were that many scare actors down there, though. The emotions my group felt during this attraction were annoyance and nervousness of accidentally pushing into another person.
8. Puddles of stinky water: The floor in the tunnels were soaking wet for some reason. There were puddles of water everywhere.
9. No storyline: It’s an Asylum. Boogity boogity. Big whoop. None of the scenes really made sense. There was a preshow area where a doctor is supposedly interviewing you for acceptance, but really nothing said or done here had any impact on anything. I can enjoy a not scary haunt if they are telling me a story. I can forgive a story-less haunt if it’s really scary. Pennhurst was both not scary and lacking a storyline. All we got was a random amalgamation of scenes that had a hospital theme to them.
I really wanted to like Pennhurst, but I probably won’t be returning for about 5 years because I am hoping that they will have fine-tuned it by then. I hope that they make some serious changes – including opening the building up for day tours. I believe in this haunt, but right now it is too short, absolutely not scary at all (I didn’t scream even once), and full of mostly animatronic props with no real storyline other than “OMG ASYLUM”. The coolest thing about Pennhurst was the hype and the graffiti on the exterior.
For $20-$25 we really should be getting more than this.
Oni Hartstein is a Los Angeles-based CMO and entrepreneur that is obsessed with progressive rock / metal, marketing, and nightlife. Please direct all business inquiries or review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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