Category: Haunted Attractions

2017, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Horror, New Jersey, Oni Haunts, Reviews

Haunted Attraction Review: Flemington, New Jersey: Schaefer Farms Frightfest

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Get Ready To Ride

Schaefer Farms Frightfest can be classified as a “family style” haunted attraction. It’s goal, as far as I could see, is not to be the most frightening, but to be a fun experience for the whole family. When I visited it on Oct. 1, 2017, the group I went with on the hayride was filled with teenagers, children, parents, and older people–so a good cross section of people. (and afterward I asked around and they all had a good time)

For my own personal filter, I tend toward liking haunts that have more scary set ups, or extensive visual settings / set pieces–but I have to say that I actually found myself having a good time going through Frightfest. They obviously know that they won’t be the scariest or most ornate (given what looks like a somewhat modest budget), so they tended toward comedy and other elements that were a hit with the crowd. Each stop on the hayride had their actors talking and interacting with the group–and they actually threw candy and other treats into the cart–something I can’t remember any other location doing–but is a great idea!

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Time To Ride To Your Doom

The idea at Frightfest is you go on the hayride for quite a distance, with an actor on the ride who adlibs and provides context for the set pieces. I’d suggest they consider setting up a microphone system for the actor since it wasn’t always easy to hear them from the other side of the cart–but he did move around and include most people over the course of the evening. After riding for awhile you’re let off to walk through some areas, then return to the same cart for a bit more, then walk through a final area that’s more of a defined haunted house set up (the other areas are in the woods or a corn maze. They call this multiple attractions–but in reality they can’t be visited separately, so they are really just sub sections of one overall thing.

Like many other farm based attractions, please note that the walking paths can be quite challenging for anyone with walking issues–and even without issues, you’ll need to be careful not to trip or stumble in some parts–but this is the nature of being out in a real setting.

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Get Your Treats, Then Get Chased

As this is a working farm, they also have a store on property–with many delicious looking items and things to buy–and not just Halloween related. Also, a “bonus” (at least to me) was the fact that they have a range of animals near the end of the attraction that are usually wandering around and would love to have you feed them:

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The Deadly Emu and His Friends

Again, I normally shoot for more intense attractions–but I found myself having fun at Frightfest. If you want to dip your toes into going to a haunted attraction, or are unsure of how much intensity you can handle, these guys will be a good training wheels location to get you going.

2017, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Horror, New Jersey, Oni Haunts, Reviews

Haunted Attraction Review: East Brunswick, New Jersey: Arcana Haunted Experience

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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.

2017, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Horror, New Jersey, Oni Haunts, Reviews

Passaic, New Jersey Haunted Attractions: Brighton Asylum 2017 Review

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I visited Brighton Asylum on it’s first operating day of the 2017 season. Brighton Asylum is located in North New Jersey in an industrial area–and that really sets the mood for the terror to come. I’ve visited Brighton Asylum with Oni in many past seasons, but this was my first solo trip, and I had a great time again.

As a side note: It’s often great to visit events very early in the season–for most people haunted attractions aren’t on their radar until close to Halloween–but if you go early you’ll have a great time with a shorter line to get in. With shorter lines they also tend to pulse entry to the attractions–so you’ll have a much more individualized experience and won’t have the pressure of people in front or back of you in the attraction spoiling things. Just a tip for the those wanting to get a great experience.

Brighton has provided a great experience in the past (2015 review), and this year was no different. One of the new additions for this year was breaking up their attraction into 2 sections–each with their own entrance: The Tunnel, and Brighton Asylum. While in some cases this would lead to making things just 2 shorter experiences–in this case both walk throughs seemed longer than the original it was split from (so, basically, they carved off the section that was The Tunnel portion and made it into it’s own long attraction).

I absolutely loved the new starter area for The Tunnel. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a special room where you sit down….and stuff happens to you. It was unexpected and a great start to the attraction. I love the creativity and new direction this added to things. The rest of the haunt was filled with actors and animatronics that were well placed. The group I went in with were constantly screaming. This attraction, along with Brighton Asylum, is filled with doctor/medical horror, with an addition of “wasteland/cannibal” style crazy stuff.

Brighton Asylum and The Tunnel have a good combination of atmospheric setups, jump scares, animatronics, and actors. One thing to note: They do have some “difficult to traverse” sections, where the floor moves, or requires crawling, or some type of movement which may be difficult for older people or those with some disabilities–so be aware of this in advance–I find this a great thing that adds to the experience though. They also added on a “foam room” at the end of Brighton Asylum–you can go around it, but if you go through be prepared to be a bit wet and a bit foamed up afterward. (one of the women I went through the attraction with ended up with a “foam tiara” on her head–we all were laughing like crazy when we got out).

This location feels to me like the north’s version of Netherworld. They both take what works great and add on new things each year to bring it to a new level. If you are in the New Jersey area you really need to check out Brighton Asylum / The Tunnel.

Lastly, I want to add a shout out to the group that adopted me for the trip through Brighton Asylum–Emily and the rest, you guys made it fun, and I wish you well on the rest of the season. It made my night to hang out with a group that loved haunted attractions as much as I do (and thank you for the suggestions on some others to check out).

2017, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Horror, Oni Haunts, Pennsylvania, Reviews

GUEST POST: Haunted Attraction Review: Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Field of Screams

Disclosure: Oni and I were invited out to the media day event at Field of Screams and were provided VIP passes to tour their houses and events this year–Oni was in LA at the time, so I brought with me some newbies to the event to see their reaction to what has historically been one of my favorite haunted attraction locations. They had some great set ups showing the history of the event:

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When you enter Field of Screams, you immediately realize it isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill haunted attraction location.

2016, Attractions, General, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Pennsylvania

Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania Haunted Attractions: Hotel of Horror / Altered Nightmares 2016 Review

Let’s just cut to the Real Talk. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are back this year and they are in fabulous form. They made several changes to their haunts this year and the actors are giving the great performances that these haunts are famous for. A large part of these attractions have been redone. There are completely new rooms. Pre-existing rooms have been totally re-staged. New pathways have been created. Much of what you know from the last 2 years is different.

I know that the first question I am going to get is “How does it compare to last year?” This year’s show is several levels above and beyond their show last year. If you didn’t go last year or were thinking of sitting this year out you should re think your life choices. This is the year to go. Let’s talk about what’s going on this year and why that’s the case.

Hotel of Horror’s theme this year is Judgment Day. “Be witness to medical mishaps injustices and their consequences.” For example, this guy:

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Altered Nightmares theme this year is Dark Magic. “Visit a world where spells and curses rule the kingdom.”

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I am not going to give away the surprises or tell you what rooms are totally new and how the pathways were redone. Both attractions are more intense and more focused than last year with a higher skill level displayed by all of their actors. And no – they didn’t really know I was coming. I swooped in quickly and paid to go this year because my schedule and mental ability to handle advance organization got eaten by Hurricane Matthew.

I loved almost everything that I saw in both attractions. Most of the actors were on their game this year. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a very small number of new actors were relying on only pop n scare. 1 used words such that I thought his room would be a theatrical room. When we paid attention to him thinking that there was more he didn’t have more. Some of the newer folks weren’t tag-teaming with their neighbors in the other rooms so in very small places the flow seemed a bit inconsistent, but these instances are few and far between.

It should be noted that I am holding these guys to a higher scare actor bar than I would hold other attractions to because their strength has always been the diversity and improv of their actors. It’s almost kind of silly to say because the staging and layout of both haunts is also A+. The key is that their actors are what makes these guys unique on a national scale in my personal opinion. There is a lot of good work out there. These guys have the most unique scare actors who are allowed to customize their rooms and create their own story for you while they will also scare you. Most haunts don’t put much time into this. This is art. Seriously. This is a completely unique point of view that could only come from Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares.

Both attraction are top tier and consistent favorites of mine. All of the actors that I noticed weren’t as developed were new, so of course that is to be expected. I know that as they work at this haunt they will learn the improv. I am already hearing reports that the skill level has improved with the new folks every weekend from some of my friends who have gone on their own a couple times.

This place is a true delight. Snort Gore was wandering around the front, which is always one of my favorite sights to see.

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How can you resist that face?

AS USUAL I have to call out one thing that is way beyond anything else you will see on a national stage. And that is this guy in Altered Nightmares:

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Not every scare actor will ACTUALLY LEARN JAPANESE over the course of 2 years in preparation for a scare actor role. Anthony HoH did. The sheer amount of preparation, accuracy, and devotion to the craft demonstrated in just this 1 Altered Nightmares room blows away everything else I have ever seen in my writing career. To make it even more impressive, I was an Asian Studies student who was conversationally fluent in Japanese. I still understand Japanese. I could easily understand him. He was so good that I was surprised. My Japanese ended up being bad and heavily accented American – because WTF I did not expect that. This is a culturally accurate kabuki character.

This is Toukatsu:

I often say that Netherworld is worth a plane trip. Eastern PA is also worth a plane trip. Here you have Hotel of Horror, Halls of Horror, Field of Screams, and The Freak and Funhouse all within close distance of each other so that you can make a weekend of it. (Use my reviews here to plan.)

This year Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares pulled off a tremendous triumph that brings them back to what they were most strongest in. The attractions are great and so are the scare actors in only the way that this particular group can achieve. Toukatsu is worth a plane trip on his own even if you see nothing else. I can’t guarantee you that this character will be here next year so you really should call out of work, sell your arm or kidneys or whatever if you have to and DO THIS ONE.