Oni and I visited the The Haunted Scarehouse in Wharton, New Jersey as review guests. This season was their second year of operation, which means it had it’s first year when Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey hard, not a great first season for any new haunt.
Well, it’s obvious that they have some very large ambitions. The Haunted Scarehouse is located in a very large warehouse location, that has plenty of space to go up and outward in scope. Their attractions are entirely indoors, so that makes it easier on people to go on any night of the season. Parking wasn’t an issue either, with plenty of space next to the location.
Clearly They Have “Space Available”
The two attractions (which are connected together, but with 2 different themes) are on different floors of the building, so they’ve already started building upwards. In many ways they’ve actually gone pretty heavily into things and have made a ton of purchases and compiled the greatest hits of haunted attractions for their themes, animatronics, and props.
And So Many Friendly Faces
Their two attractions, The House of Nightmares and The Attic both have some very good visuals, but they had some “newbie” issues with scare actor placement, training, and psychology. These are the elements that take time for staff, managers, and scare actors to get down–and we were told that the night we went through was particularly a problem due to many actors out for illness or other reasons. It was definitely a “lunge and scream” experience with most actors. In many cases they were getting in the way of the prop based scares, or not using them to their advantage as distractions. There were a few actors and set pieces that worked really well though, so it shows a lot of promise.
And Some Looked Like They Were Putting Their Christmas Lights Up Early
As a new attraction they have a few issues they need to work out. First off they don’t have a VIP/Express option–they didn’t quite set up the queue line with this idea–and their queue line hid the fact that the line itself could be quite long (it looped around through a doorway that then revealed the actual final line area). We ended up waiting close to an hour on line, which we didn’t expect from the initial look of things. They had some scare actors doing line work though, and a looping video of horror movie clips playing–but both needed a bit more oomph to really make the experience less of a drag. Part of the issue was they were doing very attendee friendly party numbers, in most cases 2 people at a time entering the attraction, but as the line grew they didn’t up the number to a reasonable 4 or even 6 at a time until quite a bit past when they should have started that process. They did know that these were issues and said they’d be working on all of these problems. This again sometimes simply requires seasoning of your staff–you need people who understand your set up and have the experience to know how to react quickly–this will come in time.
The Haunted Scarehouse is just starting out, but they show a lot of promise. They’ve made a lot of good initial decisions, but need to work on some parts (line area), bring in some haunt veterans to work with their actors on training, and generally direct an eye toward tightening up their set up–but based on their openness to suggestions and a really obvious desire to grow and get better we expect to see some big changes and even better stuff from them in the next few years.