We visited Fright Dome during their 10 Years of Terror celebration in 2012. Creator Jason Egan pulled out all the stops for the massive celebration housed in the Adventuredome at Circus Circus.
Fright Dome is an epic Halloween party. Five haunted houses, twenty-five amusement park rides, a stocked bar, celebrity appearances, live music, and four scare zones all capped off with a nightly dance party led by a bunch of terrifying clowns.
Christine visits Fright Dome at Circus Circus
The weekend we visited the celebrity visiting was one of the cars used in the film version of Stephen King’s Christine. Since my name is Christine, I am a huge fan. Thanks to Christine’s owner Bill Gibson, I had the privilege of sitting in Christine. I watched with awe as the car seemingly came alive.The dashboard lit up, the radio played “We Belong Together,” fog poured from the dashboard, and my seat lurched forward toward the steering wheel. It was AMAZING.
Back to the haunted houses. All of the haunts were stunning with a fast-paced tour guide format. We were completely wowed by their zombie themed haunt, Ward of the Dead, created in conjunction with George A. Romero. The facility was experiencing a breach and the tour guide shouted guidance about how to avoid the creatures. We jumped and dodged and ducked out of the way…. well, I did. Shelly, who was behind me, couldn’t hear the guide’s instructions and found herself fighting through hoards of zombies. We both had a spectacular time and the sets and costumes were incredibly detailed.
Another highlight of our trip was riding the Adventuredome roller coaster in the darkened Fright Dome environment. You can’t see what’s coming next, which adds a delicious element of surprise.
Many haunts try to create a hip party-like atmosphere around their haunted attractions, but no one succeeds like Fright Dome. Fright Dome is the ultimate Halloween party.
Fright Dome 2014 Season
October 3 – November 1
General Admission: $34.95 – $39.95 | Fast Pass: $54.95 – $59.95 | VIP Tour: $89.95
Not appropriate for children under 12.
New For 2014
Six new haunted houses including a Texas Chainsaw Massacre themed haunted house that will incorporate scenes from the film. The new Isolation Haunted House is just for fast-pass and VIP ticket holders and must be entered alone.
Hauntsmith Randy Bates has been scaring area residents for over 20 years with his top ranking haunted attraction, The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride. Located just outside of Philadelphia, the Bates Motel, has drawn national attention with several features on the Travel Channel and in USA Today. So, when I arrived at Arasapha Farm in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, I had some understandably large expectations, but I learned very quickly that Mr. Bates does not disappoint.
Visiting the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride is like experiencing the pivotal scene from every horror movie on your Netflix queue back to back. Not only do they have a haunted house inside a full size replica of Hitchcock’s famous “Psycho” mansion, but Arasapha Farm is also home to an equally elaborate haunted corn maze, and one of the most incredible haunted hayrides in the country.
What makes the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride unique isn’t the incredible Hollywood-quality sets and special effects, but a solid understanding of how sensory details complete an environment and create tension and distraction for an audience. For example, no horror movie is complete (or scary!) without a soundtrack and Bates Motel incorporates detailed customized music and realistic sound effects to set the tone for each section of every attraction.
Is It Scary?
According to their Official Website : “America’s Most Horrifying Motel.”
The Raven & Black Cat says: Imagine being surrounded by a series of horror movie sets and special effects in the middle of the woods. Then add monsters that can touch you.
What We Loved
A common problem with hayrides is that once the zombies and crazed killers reach the side of the wagon, they have nowhere to go. This is not the case at the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride! When these monsters reach the wagon they launch themselves into it! Realizing that the usual rules don’t apply creates the ultimate feeling of unease and adrenaline. We also loved the hayride’s mine shaft section. The sound effects and downward movement created a chilling claustrophobic feeling of being trapped. Other highlights include the man-eating crows and gators in the corn maze and the Bates Motel’s greenhouse and room of taxidermy.
What Could Be Better
The set design and special effects are so complex and detailed. It would be incredible to see the same time and attention applied to the acting. A complex character (with a back story) that reacts to their environment and moves with intention is more real and infinitely scarier.
The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride is perfect Halloween entertainment that will scare most and captivate all. Even the most fearless will enjoy visiting the dark and imaginative world of Randy Bates.
Hotel Fear and The Asylum have been spooking Las Vegas residents and visitors alike for more than 15 years! In that time, R&J Productions has been leading the way in developing trailer haunts: entirely mobile haunts that are self-contained within groups of customized trailers. We had never been to a trailer haunt and were excited to check out what the genre had to offer. It’s amazing what’s accomplished in such a small space. Both attractions explore the life of Mortimer Feoray, a troubled child that goes mad (Hotel Fear) and is eventually institutionalized (The Asylum). Even with a limited budget, Hotel Fear and The Asylum create a fun and innovative story-driven haunt that’s likely to make you scream for more.
Is it Scary?
R&J Productions says: This is the REAL DEAL…the Real Fear you NEED to experience!
The Raven and Black Cat says: The Asylum and Hotel fear provide the perfect midrange haunt: it’s not too gory and it’s not so scary that you won’t make it through. You’ll be delightfully horrified by the carefully designed story and the actors will actually scare you out the door.
What We Loved
We love story-driven haunts! Hotel Fear starts out perfectly, picture this: You walk into an old Hollywood style hotel lobby. A sign says ‘ring bell for service’. The moment you ring the bell the lights go out and chaos ensues. It’s fantastic. You’re sent on a quest to find Mortimer in Room 13, but that’s no easy task. The hotel is specifically designed to trap and confuse you. Many rooms have hidden doors and it creates an awesome feeling of distress that you’ll never make it out alive! The key to this scare tactic is the small size and ample spacing between groups. There is plenty of time to get lost in the maze of the hotel without creating a backup, and if you’re the least bit claustrophobic you’ll be terrified. The fact that both haunts stay true to the theme adds to the realistic nature of the scares. Every scene supports the story and every scare is designed around the theme- you get lost in the story and experience some fun scares along the way.
What Could Be Better
There were a few actors that really stood out, particularly the woman in the spa and the man in the white out room – they encouraged you to interact with them and were very successful at creating the perfect atmosphere and set up for the scares to follow. Unfortunately, many of the other actors utilize the scream-in-your-face tactic, which is much less effective. Not every actor is a star and not every actor is able to improvise, but vary the tone and tempo of the startle scares. A whisper is often creepier than a scream and discovering a silent actor in a pitch black hallway would be truly disturbing. Use the actors as living set pieces and get rid of some of the tired animatronics. We love the sections of complete darkness – our first reaction is to reach out for the walls, so make them feel sticky or wet, and maybe add some elements of unsure footing to add to the disorientation.
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on younger actors. Unfortunately, we spotted one high school age asylum patient listening to her ipod.
If you’re tired of haunts that jump from theme to theme just for the sake of a scare, then Hotel Fear and The Asylum are your new haven of horror.
Las Vegas Haunts 2012 Season
October 3 – October 31
Hotel Fear: General Admission: $15.00 | VIP: $20.00
Touted as “America’s Best Haunted House,” The Darkness has been on our list of must see attractions for quite some time. This juggernaut of the haunt industry first entered the scene in 1994 and has since dominated the genre by expanding into manufacturing and distribution of their haunt sets and props. They’re also responsible for the Transworld’s Halloween and Attractions Show and produce and distribute HauntWorld magazine. This self-proclaimed “King of Scream” is located in downtown St. Louis, and includes three attractions. Darkness Haunted House is a massive two-story traditional walkthrough haunt filled with Hollywood style props and sets, state of the art animatronics and professional lighting design. In Terror Visions 3D you’ll experience a slew of maniacal clowns, including an Ice Scream Truck and a surprising Jack in the box. The haunts exits into The Monster Museum and gift shop, which is filled with replicas monsters from numerous feature films such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Alien and Predator.
Is It Scary
According to their Official Website: “The Darkness is not like any other haunted house you’ve ever experienced. Because of its national reputation, the creative team behind this St. Louis haunted house believe they must go above and beyond what any other haunt across the nation can do. The Darkness continues to set the standard across the World for what a premiere haunted attraction should be modeled after.”
The Raven and Black Cat says: “Visiting The Darkness is like walking into a museum of mayhem and horror. No phobia is overlooked in this massive walk-though haunt, filled with Hollywood quality sets, detailed costumes and realistic props. The Darkness is a scenic designers dream come true and the faint of heart’s worst nightmare.”
What We Loved
There are so many awe-inspiring, innovative elements to The Darkness that there’s a lot to love. From the moment you step into queue, you’re surrounded by waterfalls, an alligator infested moat, a giant cobra – it feels like a twisted version of a Disney ride in the most horrifically delightful way. Every set piece and prop is realistic and no detail is overlooked. The lighting is impeccable and effectively draws your attention to the focus of each room. Every possible theme is explored and chock full of Hollywood quality sets and effects. My favorite animatronic is the Outbreak inspired caged monkeys. They’re truly disturbing, and a nice change from the typical zombie outbreak. I found the hallways of broken pipes particularly fun and surprising with its foggy mist and air cannons. The Darkness has many creative effects, and has mastered the art of unsure footing – one room tilts from side to side as you walk over the floor, a drawbridge drops from under your feet and as you climb into the ‘Ice Scream Truck’, the vehicle rumbles and bumps along with the video footage to create an incredibly terrifying ride.
What Could Be Better
This is a really long haunt. By the time you’re halfway through, you’ve almost forgotten what happened in the first few rooms. As a haunted house enthusiast and connoisseur, I can appreciate the amount of money that has been spent to develop the effects, animatronics and sets. It’s not surprising that they’re the dominating manufacturing in the horror world, but it’s just a little gratuitous. The event is so over produced that you find yourself studying the sets instead of experiencing the haunt as it was intended. There are surprisingly few actors in the haunt – many rooms solely rely on animatronics and all of the actors choose a startle scare method. Despite the effectiveness of the startle scares, after the first 15 minutes the scares were too predictable and in need of variation.
The Darkness creative team has spent so much time and money building the framework for a haunted masterpiece – it would be incredible if the characters and script were developed with the same attention to detail. Create variations in volume and tone of voice. Use actors as living set pieces to breathe life into the scenery. I don’t understand why haunts are still enthralled with 3D attractions, but if you’re going to have a 3D section that is that long (way too long in my biased opinion) you need to invest in plastic glasses that don’t fall off your face and fit over your four-eyed fans glasses.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in state of the art scenic design then The Darkness is the perfect haunt for you. If you can’t get enough of those special effects, there’s more where that came from – be sure to check out their other haunts: The Haunting of Lemp and Creepyworld.
The Darkness 2012 Season
October 12 – November 3
General Admission: $23.00 | Speedpass Admission: $30.00
It’s a crisp autumn night, when I pull up to the former Ted Williams Camp, to visit Lakeville Haunted House. Despite being early November, the Haunt is on in full effect: the parking lot is full, a DJ is spinning to a crowd of dancing teens and the aroma of spooky concessions wafts through the air. Delightful. I love to be surrounded by fellow haunt lovers, all dying to stretch the Halloween season a little longer.
I am really excited. Lakeville Haunted House is the first haunt we’ve visited that is entirely non-profit. All of the proceeds are donated to scholarships and local charities. In their ’21 years of ‘blood and tears,’ Lakeville Haunted House has raised a monstrous $200,000 for the community.
Is It Scary?
According to their Official Website: “No matter where you turn, you can feel the eyes of someone or something watching you. A snap of a twig, the rustling of leaves, the howling wind and screams of fear fill you with fright as you travel through the twisting, turning maze of horror.”
The Raven and Black Cat says: Lakeville Haunted House explores many different themes and phobias for your terrifying pleasure. If you tremble at chainsaws, run from clowns, and are afraid to walk through the woods alone then Lakeville Haunted House will definitely scare you.
What We Love
I love that they have embraced their roots by starting out with a Crystal Lake-inspired camp section. Lakeville is a rural area and there’s nothing scarier than running through cabins and seeing Jason slowly approach your group.
The fabulously creepy clown maze had a ton of disorienting effects and hidden doors; my group got stuck on multiple occasions trying to find the exit. The troll blocking the path, was my favorite character. When I asked him what the toll was to pass, he whispered, “Your Soul!” and proceeded to ‘suck my soul’ with conviction. It was a fantastic touch. The drawbridge is another great and unexpected effect.
What Could Be Better
Children are absolutely terrifying in a haunt, and the little kids at Lakeville were some of the best actors we’ve seen. Unfortunately, the teenagers were significantly less intimidating, especially when they broke character to say hi to their friends that were attending the haunt. Haunted attractions that rely on a volunteer staff have to work with what they’ve got, but you can increase the intimidation factor by placing teens in a victim role and employing detailed masks or makeup.
Everyone loves a good chainsaw scare, but when there’s a chainsaw around every corner you lose the element of surprise and it becomes banal. Try exploring different power tools like drills, angle grinders, or dental equipment – they’re just as threatening, but will vary the experience and keep your audience on edge.
If you’re looking for a traditional walkthrough style haunt in the woods, you should definitely pay a visit to Lakeville Haunted House. It explores all the basic horror themes, features original handcrafted sets and costumes, and enthusiastic actors. There are a lot of scary elements, but you don’t have to worry about anyone touching you and it’s not so terrifying that your kids can’t enjoy the fun too. Lakeville Haunted House is a fun-filled family-friendly attraction for a good cause.
S & I visited 40 Haunted Houses in 8 different states in 2012. We had the opportunity to meet many haunt owners and get a special behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of the country’s top haunted attractions.
What started as a joke of a challenge became an incredible journey into the haunt industry and how America celebrates Halloween.
In the coming weeks, we will be working hard to add all of our 2012 reviews to the site.
Check out the map of our 2012 haunted house tour below. Click on the markers for haunt information, when we visited, and links to posted reviews.
We met some amazing people and visited some brilliant and innovative haunted attractions. We can’t wait to share our adventure with you.
Nightmare: New York is back with a vengeance. Killers: A Nightmare Haunted House is a serial killer themed haunted house located in downtown Manhattan. We had the opportunity to experience it this past Thursday and it is a chilling masterpiece of horror theatre. We are thrilled that Nightmare: New York will be awarding 2 Tickets to one very lucky reader of The Raven & Black Cat.
The deadline to enter is 12:00 AM on October 16, 2012.
I took one look at Field of Screams in Mountville, Pennsylvania, and was bowled-over by what has to be the scariest looking cornfield I have ever seen…and I grew up in Pennsylvania. It’s with good reason that this ghastly overgrown cornfield and the haunted attractions it surrounds have been scaring area residents for the last 20 years. Field of Screams resembles a County Fair from Hell, complete with an entertainment area with food vendors, horror-themed games, and a stage. This midway of the macabre sits between an elaborate Haunted Hayride and two creepy old barns that house the walk-through attractions Frightmare Asylum and Den of Darkness.
Frightmare Asylum is a twisting walking tour through insanity, chock full of detailed environments, clever special effects, and disturbing themes. Look out for a seriously creepy homage to clowns.
The Den of Darkness received a massive redesign for 2012. From the outside it looks like your run of the mill Haunted Mansion, but inside there is a tantalizing variety of horror and special effects ranging from a dark dungeon full of spark throwing angle grinders to a small passage in the wall that requires crawling on all fours into total darkness. A surprise photo-op captures your screams for posterity on their Facebook page.
The Haunted Hayride loads you onto a wagon for a journey into that dreaded corn. Each stop is a grand display of impressive sets and dazzling special effects.
Is It Scary?
According to their Official Website: “We terrify all who visit, so come prepared to scream.”
The Raven & Black Cat says: They have taken great care to zero-in on many common phobias. If dolls, darkness, cornfields, tight spaces, and clowns (with chainsaws!) are your idea of a frightful good time, then the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
Here’s A Tip
Visit Field of Screams on a Sunday, or spring for the VIP Upgrade to skip the lines. Without timed admission, you could be waiting in line for a while.
What We Loved
We love the sensory details used at Field of Screams. Creative lighting techniques, the light touch of an actor’s hand, the strong smells of the old barn, and an interactive set fully engage you in the experience. We also loved the use of unusual and detailed movement in the asylum. One girl looked like she was straight out of ‘Silent Hill.’
Other highlights are the room full of menacing faceless nurse mannequins, a ‘shockingly’ dark hallway, and the hayride’s horrifying porcine slaughter scene.
What Could Be Better
We wish that Field of Screams would apply the same exquisite attention to detail that is so apparent in their sets and special effects to all of their actors. Detailed characterizations and compelling acting would give the haunt an eerie element of realism.
That said, some rooms can be scarier without any actors at all. Dolls make me really uncomfortable. The doll room would be so much scarier if it were just lots of dolls. I found the girl dressed in the doll costume oddly comforting because she was a person and not a doll. Fear isn’t rational. If you want to scare people that have a fear of dolls, all you need is dolls. Underscore the scene with a creepy music box melody and then have one doll move.
Field of Screams delivers a perfect evening of entertainment that will drag you into its dark underworld of horror and then spit you out to console yourself with a funnel cake.
Field of Screams Runs
September 22nd – November 4th
Scream Pass (All 3 Attractions): $28
Combo Pass (Any 2 Attractions): $25
Haunted Hayride Only: $15
Den of Darkness Only: $13
Frightmare Asylum Only: $13
VIP Upgrade (Skip to the front of the line): Add $10 – $20
13Haunts Coupon: $8 Off VIP Scream Pass/ $5 Off Regular Scream Pass – Click Here!
Join the Field of Screams Mailing List for Additional Coupons and Discounts.
Not recommended for children under 10 years old. (They have a non scary daytime event for children and adults who are young at heart at Corn Cob Acres.)
Saturday night, we will make the journey out to Long Island. The first stop is HV Asylum in Coram, NY. Then it’s on to Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse of Horrors in Bellport, NY. As if that isn’t amazing enough, we will also be given a private ghost tour of the 100 year old property and then get to spend the night in the gorgeously creepy Edwardian mansion.
Nestled in the woods beside Spring City, Pennsylvania lies the remains of the Pennhurst State School and Hospital (originally known as the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic.) The massive compound for the mentally and physically disabled was built in 1908. It was completely self-sufficient with its own power supply, dairy, green houses, fire department, movie theatre, and underground tunnel system. At the turn of the last century, it was thought best to segregate disabled individuals from the rest of society, but a 1968 exposé uncovered that over-crowding and under-funding had led to conditions that were unsanitary, inhumane, and dangerous. Ultimately, the Supreme Court found institutionalisation to be unconstitutional (Halderman vs Pennhurst State School) and Pennhurst was abandoned in 1987.
The buildings and everything within them were left to rot for the next 23 years. Pennhurst became popular with trespassers (particularly those with an interest in “urban” exploring and vandalism) until it was reopened as the haunted attraction Pennhurst Asylum in 2010 by hauntsmith Randy Bates (The Bates Motel.)
We arrived in Spring City, PA late on Saturday night. The Victorian architecture of the town is lovely, but under the mask of darkness it takes on a very different aesthetic.
We arrived at the address listed on the Pennhurst Asylum website and were directed to park in a field. Reaching Pennhurst requires a 10 min walk through the woods. Go ahead and read that last sentence again and really let it sink in.
The buildings rise out of the woods and you are instantly transported to the early 1900s. Pennhurst Asylum is straight out of your worst nightmare. The haunt is made up of 4 separate attractions: ‘Pennhurst Asylum’ in the old Administration Building, ‘The Dungeon of Lost Souls’ explores the basement of the Administration building, ‘Ghost Hunt’ is a self-guided flashlight tour through two floors of the abandoned untouched remains of the Mayflower Dormitory, and ‘The Tunnel Terror’ a walk-through haunt located in a 900-foot section of Pennhurst’s underground tunnel system. There is a centrally located ‘picnic’ area with food and refreshments if you need to take a break.
Is It Scary?
According to their Facebook Page: It was “Voted the Scariest Real Haunt in America for 2012!”
The Raven & Black Cat says: We agree! Fear is subjective, but the remains of the Pennhurst State School would be terrifying on its own. Pennhurst Asylum is a top-notch haunted attraction that can be placed in two very exclusive categories: A Real Haunted Location & The Actors Can Touch You.
Here’s A Tip
Visit Pennhurst on a Thursday or Sunday, or spring for the VIP Pass to cut the lines. Without timed admission, you could be looking at some outrageously long lines.
What We Loved
Wow. There is a LOT to love here. The attraction entitled ‘Pennhurst Asylum’ is housed in the old Administration Building. You walk through the actual rooms of the historic building and greet deliriously dark staff and human experiments of the mad Dr. Chakajian. (A fictional legend, in which a mad Austrian Doctor houses his human experiments in abandoned Pennhurst buildings, was created in order to be sensitive to the history of Pennhurst.) Many of the rooms contain equipment and artifacts that were abandoned in the buildings in 1986. Animatronics and clever special effects are employed to distract you while actors grab at your ankles. The element of soft touching is very effective. It is quite unsettling to have your personal space invaded in a traditional walk-through style haunt. One girl even tried to stick her fingers in my ears!
The ‘Ghost Hunt’ Attraction is what we wanted to do from the moment we set foot on the Pennhurst campus. The Mayflower Building was featured on ‘Ghost Hunters‘ and ‘Ghost Adventures‘ and was found to be a hot spot for paranormal activity. It is outrageously creepy. The walls are covered in graffiti from the vandalism years. The odd messages commingle with remnants of dormitory life in a state institution like an abandoned metal walker still labeled with a patient’s name and ward number. The energy of the building is heavy with human suffering and I honestly believe I would be in tears if I had to sit in there for an hour by myself. It is that scary.
What Could Be Better
‘The Tunnel Terror’ is another fabulously inventive attraction with gorgeous elaborate sets. The lagoon section, in particular, is amazing, but I couldn’t help but wish that I could see the walls of the historic underground tunnel system. Perhaps by accident, we caught a glimpse of the original tunnel through an open door that was propped open by a chair. The tunnel is something I could not dream up. It is real life horror complete with secret passageways. A fifth attraction walking through a portion of the original tunnel would be an incredibly scary experience.
The attractions of Pennhurst Asylum are so detailed and effective that we were surprised that they didn’t capitalize on the opportunity for a large and definitive ending for any of them. Instead of building towards a memorable last scene, all of the attractions end very abruptly. Creating a unique and memorable way to exit each attraction would be the perfect finishing touch to what is otherwise a flawless, fun, and frightening experience.
Pennhurst Asylum is a must-see. It is a chilling and effective haunted attraction masterfully combined with the horror of human history.
Pennhurst Asylum Runs
September 21st – November 4th
Pennhurst Asylum: $15.00
Dungeon of Lost Souls: $15.00
Ghost Hunt: $15.00
Tunnel of Terror: $15.00
Combo Pass (All 4 Events): $40.00
VIP (very important patient) PASS: $75.00
$5 OFF All Tickets (Promo Code: ghost ) – CLICK HERE!