Oni and I were media guests at Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride in Glen Mills, PA on October 22, 2012. We’d previously been to this haunted attraction in 2009 as well as 2010, but gave them a rest in 2011. We’ve always believed Bates Motel was a top notch haunt, so what did we think about it this year?
Before I get too far though let me give you some basic details. Bates Motel has 3 attractions: Bates Motel Haunted House, Haunted Corn Maze, and Haunted Hayride. Bates are notable in that they have their scare actors touch you–not roughly, but more just gently placing their hands on you, or brushing through your hair (or in my case, they love to touch my bald head and mess with me), just enough to make the point that they are in your face and connecting to you. It definitely adds that extra bit of confrontation to a scare, which is really nice. (but if you don’t like being touched, well this isn’t the place for you).
Generally Bates is most known for their hayride, which is consistently ranked in top 5 lists for each season, which we must agree is correct. They’ve spent a great deal of money on their set pieces, and the infrastructure for the ride, and it shows. One of the reasons we gave them a rest last year though is partly due to this success–much like Universal Studios or any other theme park, when you’ve invested a huge amount of money into a ride, you don’t tend to make many big changes to it (think the Twister ride at Universal Studios Florida, which has been around forever unchanged). If you go every season to Bates you know mostly what will be coming, with some incremental changes here and there every year. However, with a ride this great that’s mostly meaningless–I’d jump on the ride right now again, but for review purposes (as in only us) it could be the same review every year, so we wanted to wait a bit.
So what did waiting get us? Well, the Hayride was definitely even better than before. But again, in an incremental way. We saw some more animatronics (which they excel in using), and one really great addition of actors in a zombie setting. One thing that we’ve always noted with Bates is their excellent scare actors. In one particular set the actors were absolutely nailing the zombie walk/movement/actions stuff such that it was amazing. They really have great scare actors, on par with our other favorite event Busch Gardens Tampa Howl O Scream.
So the Hayride was definitely great as usual, no surprises there.
So now we were in for some real surprises. The other 2 attractions at Bates, the Corn Maze and Haunted House, have also always been great, but we were blown away this year with the upgrades and additions they’ve made.
First off, the Corn Maze had a huge revision since our last visit. They added in new sections, and the star of the attraction was their clown area, which was done like a classic circus environment. Really creepy, really effective. They added some new animatronics throughout, with great use of them as diversions for really effective scares. They took something that we already liked and made it even better.
The thing that absolutely destroyed us though was the Haunted House. Bates’s house is relatively small, but was always a fun attraction. In our previous experience it was a solid scare filled attraction, but not a destination in itself. This has changed in a big way. I honestly think that their house is one of the most tightly run and scare filled locations I’ve been to in 2012. They had things happening that were unexpected, and played with the perceptions of even people like us, who’ve “seen it all”. Every single room was one huge knock out of the park. Parts of the haunt that we thought used to be a bit slack were made perfect–there’s no safe place anymore for you to rest.
If I could have them do one thing it would be to build a huge new addition to this house and keep the scares coming. I just want more, I’m greedy.
That’s the situation. Bates managed to do the unbelievable and make their already excellent haunts even better, and all 3 of their events easily fit into the top lists for each type of attraction this year. If you haven’t done Bates you absolutely have to, it’s a must do.