The Scarehouse in Pittsburgh, PA was one of the gems we discovered last year when we widened our tour into my old hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I feel the reviews online did not accurately represent this haunt. I was very surprised to find one of the best haunted attractions out there nestled in Pittsburgh, PA. Of course we decided to return the following year immediately.
Right off, you’ll notice that these guys have a superior approach to customer service. I came to know that this is a family business with people that are doing this for the right reasons. You can probably see that come through in every aspect of it. From the stellar actors, the amazing sets, and long attraction time – some of the best scares of the year were in here for us.
The actors have very high quality makeup and technique. It’s not the run of the mill “boogity boogity here is a chainsaw” stuff – you’ll see intricate doll makeup, and even the zombies are unique. They aren’t all shouting at you – I have never seen better improv acting in a haunt than I have here. Sure, they will startle you, but the majority of their scares are varied and not rooted in the tired, repetitive, and boring “lunge and scream” you’ll find at your average haunt.
For example, in one scene an actor scared Harknell twice. Harknell exclaimed “Oh wow he did doubly duty!” Quickly the actors were like “Doody? It smells like you did a doody!”
The Scarehouse has one other unique element, Creative Director Scott Simmons , told us that he actually takes a feminist approach to the structure of the house. The crutch you might see in other houses of helpless, cut up women? You won’t find them here. You may see women in distress, but never helpless. One might argue that by not succumbing to the played out gender roles in horror it’s harder to be scary. When you deviate in any way, you have to innovate. If that is the case, these guys nailed it. They were extremely scary, funny, and beautiful to look at all in one.
In fact, the one thing that Scarehouse obliterates into the stratosphere is innovation and marketing. They are the only haunt I have seen that appears to match up with my personal philosophy of marketing and branding. They are interactive, conversational, and they create unique content like videos and a web series called Scare U where they talk about phobias and why people like getting scared in a funny way. They aren’t afraid of the Internet.
They have also created several recurring characters who entertain out front. Scarehouse Bunny and Princess Holly are just 2 of many that you might meet. The night I was there they were doing Gangnam Style and general mayhem was afoot.
The Scarehouse has 3 attractions that are daisy chained together. The Foresaken, Creepo’s Christmas in 3D, and Pittsburgh Zombies. Normally, you might see us look negatively on haunts that have 3 attractions fed from one line, arguing that this is 1 attraction. The reason this is not a negative here is because they really are 3 LONG, well-done and complete attractions. It’s not inflation, it’s reality. Pee before you enter.
In fact, the time inside the haunt this year was indeed longer than last year. I asked them if this was true and they confirmed to me that they did make changes to make it longer.
So how were the attractions?
This attraction seemed completely different from last year. There were a lot of really disturbing dolls, beautiful sets and great scares in here. We were getting rocked so much in here, I can’t even break it down. Just trust me on this one – it’s insane.
Creepo’s Christmas in 3D:
I normally don’t like 2 things – Christmas-themed haunts and 3D haunts. I do not know how these guys managed to do it, but they put the 2 together and made what I consider to be one of the best haunts of the year. Actually, I can tell you how they did it – they didn’t do it like anyone else. They are not lazy in any aspect of their production. They created hand-painted sets that were funny and scary at the same time. The costumes were crazy – a walking gingerbread man was a favorite for us. The sound in here appeared to be custom-made by them and not off the rack. It’s like these guys enjoy the journey just as much as running the show during the season.
I was raised in Pittsburgh. It’s a burnt out steel town. On any day of the week Pittsburgh is a perfect setting for a zombie movie. That is only one part of what makes Pittsburgh Zombies so good. The great improv acting and sets are other parts of that puzzle. I do believe they changed this one from last year – I was too busy getting my ass kicked in here to keep score, though.
The Scarehouse gets a thumbs up from both Harknell and I.
See this one.
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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