I received an email announcement for a new haunted attraction in central New Jersey called “Arcana Haunted Experience” with an intriguing description: “New Jersey’s First and Only Fully Immersive Haunted Experience”–so of course I had to go and check it out. It was a bold statement–and left many questions as to what exactly would be found when going into the experience. Was it a theater performance? What made it “Fully Immersive”? Was it one of the “extreme” attractions that have popped up in recent years? Or maybe some kind of “escape room”? I didn’t know what to expect–and I was going on my own, so whatever it was I was going to get it all in my face.
So, what was it? Well, sort of a combination of all of the above.
First off, I went on their second day of operation–and as far as I can tell this is the first year of their existence. They seem to have grand plans for being a year round operation with new themes over time. This first time they are calling it “Mortuary”–with a back story involving a crazy mortician who decides to create his own clients. He is your adversary during your time in the attraction–and you keep hearing that he’s coming and you want to avoid him (cut to the chase: You obviously don’t avoid him).
The attraction is entirely contained within a building, so it’s available rain or shine–though the line and other elements are outside. I happened to arrive early and was immediately taken inside (literally–when the event started I was taken by the hand and escorted into the interior). It was then that it became obvious what they were shooting at–each room you enter is a separate experience and akin to an escape room in that you need to do something to move on to the next room. In my case this was a bit of a challenge, since I’m not very good at that sort of thing (which is why escape rooms are not something I normally go for). Also, Some of the rooms are actually supposed to be done with at least 2 people–so they needed to adapt things slightly for me solo.
As opposed to many escape rooms though, there were scare actors in the rooms that sometimes menaced you as you looked around–or helped when people like me were struggling. In between some of the rooms were “classic” scare areas where jump scares or other traditional haunted attraction elements would happen.
So, what did I think of it? I think it has great potential. As a first year, and literally first weekend of operation, it showed that they had some great ideas. It’s not completely fleshed out–and I would suggest they consider investing a bit more on set design between the rooms–but I liked it’s style and though it was a fun time. I also wonder how well it will work if they do get a big crowd, since things can easily hold up if one group is going really slowly since the concept is to not push people through until they figure out each room. And the solo idea isn’t exactly an expected flow.
If you like the idea of escape rooms, with a bit more menace and some scares–I think a trip to Arcana would be fun. It’s not a huge time investment and well worth the $20.