I received a tip that a new haunted attraction had opened in Rye Playland in New York so Harknell and I drove out there a couple of weeks ago to check it out. I went to write the review about Gallery of Horrors but realized partway through that I can’t review it fairly without reviewing the entire park, so first I am going to talk about the park and then the attraction.
Rye Playland already had several dark rides that you can view here. They have 2 ride-through haunted houses called Zombie Castle and The Flying Witch. They aren’t really themed (Correction! Zombie Castle is – thank you George LaCross for pointing this out), so don’t expect a witch story in The Flying Witch. I enjoy them both and ride them every time I come.
Flying Witch car:
Ye Old Mill is the best ride that they have. It was designed by Sally Corporation and Rye Playland gave them a good budget so that they could actually do a very good ride. Normally Sally’s best rides are in Europe and elsewhere because US parks do not generally want to pay for anything besides coasters. Ye Old Mill is a gem. It’s a shame I didn’t get to ride it this time. More on THAT later.
Ye Old Mill:
They also have a House of Horrors which is an old-fashioned mirror-based fun house. I respect these old classics but mirror houses bore me so I don’t go on that one.
I would not have ever gone to Rye Playland if it were not for the high number of dark rides they have. Their customer service just plain stinks. I’ve had bad experience after bad experience here and this visit was no different.
On this visit the Old Mill ride was down. It was not listed on the sign that posts ride closures before you paid $30 each under the pretense of being able to ride everything in the park. When we asked when the Mill would be up, the response we got from the folks working on the ride was similar to this asshole in the Pop Copy skit from Chapelle’s Show. They were less inflammatory, but of the same IDGAF style. Imagine this guy, but a really sleepy version of him who shrugs a lot at you:
I digress slightly away from a single attraction review, but this is important for my conclusion later in this post.
So how is the new Gallery of Horrors?
Rye Playland’s Gallery of Horrors is a short walkthrough with no actors. They say this up front so none of this was a surprise to us. What was a surprise was how short it was and that we got charged an extra $3 per person to enter. Walking slowly through this attraction may not have lasted more than 3 minutes, tops.
At this point you can’t help but feel ripped off.
If this were a tech demo at the Transworld haunted attraction show of someone’s design and staging capabilities it would be great, but it’s not. It’s being sold as a standalone attraction worthy of an upcharge from your $30 admission that purports to include all of the rides in the park but doesn’t. The park doesn’t even list it on it’s website.
From a customer’s perspective, I paid $30 to ride 2 5 minute haunted house rides and had to shell out $3 more to go through a 3 minute walk through haunted house and the biggest ride I wanted to ride was down and not listed that it was down and never came back up.
This is a fucking joke.
I am aware of how park / attraction relationships work and I realize that the attraction owner probably has no control over this and that the park may be operating in a way that forces them to upcharge and excludes them from the wristband program. I see this happen frequently in parks that rent out their space to haunted attractions and it’s pretty terrible for small business.
The park is also not communicating to the customers properly on what is and is not included in the wristbands as well as which rides are down for that day before you pay to enter. The typical experience with Rye Playland is that you just get rude surprises and treated like shit once you enter the park in a way that makes Six Flags look like Disney World. You will not get what you pay for at this park. I never have and I have been here at least 3 times.
The last time I was here I was kicked off of a carousel because I had a mini backpack and not given a refund. I double checked and no signs were posted that bags were not permitted on that ride. That time I had paid per ride and didn’t buy the “all rides” wristband. It wouldn’t take that much to hand my tickets back to me. (NOTE: They don’t even list the tickets on the website but still offer them – another example of poor communication to the customer by this park.)
As you can see, Rye Playland is a fiasco. If you are a haunted house dark ride fan the Old Mill is worth the trip. It’s designed by Sally Corporation and is one of the few rides that gave them the budget to make some very awesome magic. Ye Old Mill is a gem and one of the examples of the great work that Sally does that most parks won’t pay for – but Playland actually did. (I guess a broken watch is right twice a day…) The catch is will that ride actually be running? No one knows. Pay first and find out.
I can only recommend Rye Playland to the die hard haunted house and dark ride enthusiast because of how the park is being managed. Gallery of Horrors was well-designed but it was the shortest haunt I have ever been through in my life and quite sterile. The rooms were staged well but it was very basic. There was no payoff, no story, no real interaction between the customer’s brain and the attraction and it left us with the “dafuq did I just pay for?” feeling. The biggest shock was exiting because it felt so short.
How it’s being positioned in this park is poor. I cannot recommend it to anyone. If it were free I wouldn’t go back through because nothing in there calls for a second viewing. If it were a room staging class it would be a great teaching tool, but the sterility of it all – you’ve seen everything the first time just like how once you’ve seen the inside of a Chipotle you know what the restaurant looks like and won’t forget.
It is not worth an additional $3. It is not worth $3 on it’s own without being at least double the length it is and adding at least 1 room that has some sort of “big” concept happen in front of you, like a chain reaction or any sort of psychology being used in any of the rooms.
Gallery of Horrors was just your basic scares laid out from the best LCD screens and other items purchased probably from Transworld or some other haunted attraction show that I have seen in every haunted attraction in the eastern seaboard. Even in larger attractions I find these types of pre-purchased props to be never something that should be a main focus to the overall design unless you are a company trying to sell these props to other haunters and you are at a trade show. If that’s the case – don’t charge for it.
It seems that whoever built this may be working on a haunted house for this Halloween. Across the park they had a display of props set up advertising their website and the full haunted house with actors which is supposed to open in October. It seems it may have already happened for a year or so – so if anyone actually went to this please let me know how it was.
Again – this display has a reliance on purchased technology. The focus of this display was this monitor which put a zombie face on you. Cool stuff, and completely appropriate for a marketing display – but that plus the house we paid for both had a reliance on tech over story. Purchased tech shouldn’t be the main focus inside an attraction in my personal opinion so this makes me concerned that it will be the focus in their full haunted house this Fall.
I am sad to say that Gallery of Horrors does not advertise their next project positively to potential customers unless the marketing message is that you will feel ripped off afterward. I feel bad for whoever put this together because they clearly are talented and know what they are doing. I feel like the park may have handicapped them and created a situation in which the product they have now was forced to be priced in such a way that it set custumers up for disappointment.
I hope that Playland gets it’s management act in gear and fixes how it handles it’s vendors and how they handle customers – otherwise I won’t be back. I actually can’t see myself returning to this park unless this haunt gets in touch and tells me that they rock and to please come out. Every time I go to this park I feel like I paid for a bad experience where I didn’t even get to ride what the ticket promised due to the park management’s poor communication and customer service.
Read the rest of my haunted attraction reviews and get hyped for Haunt Season 2016!
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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