Oni and I visited the Haunted Schoolhouse and Lab in Akron Ohio on October 27, 2012 as media guests. Right off I can tell you that this haunted attraction is legit classic old school, which is awesome.
Some history: This attraction has been running since the seventies, so they’ve had some time to get things down and set. The schoolhouse and the lab attractions are situated in adjacent buildings, both real former schoolhouses and labs, so this lends them an immediate air of reality, which they run with (and man is there a lot of running going on!)
When you pull up to the schoolhouse it really seems like you are going into an elementary school. The first few areas where you buy tickets and wait in line look very innocuous, like a real school session could be going on later. The location is used for rentals during the rest of the year—the haunt is on the floors above.
From your first look you’d be lead to believe that this was going to be some cheap “throw some stuff on the walls and say boo” kind of place, but that quickly leaves your mind when you enter the real queue area—the stairs leading up. This building, and the lab, have multiple floors of doom, and your first understanding of your situation is when you see the years of graffiti on the walls—with the listings of how many times some people have been to this haunt.
They keep this area looking rough on purpose, so it has that “holy crap, this school has been abandoned” feeling. When you enter your first room of the haunt you see that they’ve placed padding on sections of the wall, that’s for you—yes, people must have been hurting themselves running away from the scares!
The set up of the haunt set pieces is old school—with barriers preventing you from actually entering the scenes. In many ways you are doing a walking dark ride and viewing the scenes as you go. This is a very old school styling. In most modern haunts you go through the scene—but there’s a reason they have kept it old school here. These guys literally bust out of every possible angle and run like maniacs at you, stopping right as they smack into those barriers! We saw one scare actor who blew an entire group away by running so fast he whipped past 8 people before they had time to react and they all practically jumped out of their skins. The energy here is amazing.
The sets themselves were impressive, with all kinds of electrical set ups (remember, they had a lab to pull from) and school related set pieces. They had the metal shop, wood shop, nurses office, and other places you’d expect—all filled with the most fierce scare actors I’ve seen in awhile. These guys were really going for it.
After going through many floors of this action you get released and are now on to the haunted lab next door.
On normal nights they have a tesla coil on the roof of this building shooting lighting—on our night it was too wet to do that—but I’m sure it’s a spectacular view. You can also hear from outside that there is a humongous one inside that goes off periodically.
Just like the schoolhouse, you immediately realize the age of the building you are entering by the look of the stairwells. And you walk up a lot of them in this haunt. (if you have problems climbing stairs you might want to skip these BTW) When you reach the top and enter the haunt your first thought is “wow, that’s a neat miniature/depth effect they have to make it look like you’re looking straight down 5 stories”. Wrong. It is 5 stories, and you are on a metal walkway staring into an abyss.
After this dramatic entrance and view you are taken through many floors of alien invasions, lab rooms, and other scare locations. This haunt, like the schoolhouse, has plenty of space, and they use it well. They have multi-level set pieces and many vistas to view, and they are all great. The darkness of the place really sets you up for the next scare—they really control the walkways and other areas to make each new area pop up in a dramatic fashion out of the darkness.
These haunts kicked a ton of ass and hold up as well as any new haunt we’ve visited. While it’s very old school in design—some things stand the test of time and work.
We were able to speak to the owners for a brief period after we went through the attractions, and it was obvious that running this haunt was a labor of love. If you are in the Ohio area (or even aren’t but like road trips) you really need to check these haunts out, it’s definitely worth the trip and the scares.