Tuesday, October 29, 2013

[Haunt Review] Ghoul Mansion - Fear is Damn Good!

Haunt Tour 2013 continued this past weekend with a visit to one of the longest running Haunted Attractions in Western PA, Ghoul Mansion. It was our first stop and one that we'd been looking forward to since we had to put off our trip up due to illness and weather a couple weeks ago. In the end, we were determined to make it out and thankfully our trip into Ohio brought us right past 'em...more or less. From the satellite images we'd seen on Google Maps, it didn't seem that large to us, but damn if the place isn't huge once you're in it.

This year Ghoul Mansion is celebrating it's 20th anniversary and is gunning for your screams with a vengeance in Scarin', PA (Sharon for those not in the know). They've got their all volunteer cast revved up and hellbent on causing as much chaos as humanly possible throughout six differently themed areas within the complex fear they've created.

Really, what their actors manage to pull off is awesome. When you realize that the bulk of them are high school kids, you're even more impressed with how much they put into their performances. Again, they're not paid. They want to be there and that shows in spades.

The dedication that they have is not only impressive for their age, but it says amazing things about the owners of this Haunt as well. When you have this kind of combination going on, there's really no way that things can go wrong...
  • Date Visited: 10/25/13
  • Review Team: +Carrie H.C. and +Kitsune Hazard 
  • Rating: Really Damn Good
  • Recommendation: Definitely have to check this out if you're in NW PA or NE OH! 
  • Likes: Love the actors energy (they really nail it!) and the layout is confusing as all hell, just adding to the madness of it all. Oh and creepy ass girl in the bathroom, don't ever stop doing that! Line pulsing, love haunts that don't push ya through like cattle.
  • Dislikes: CarnEVIL Fear 3D, mostly due to the actors here being first years but the screaming got a bit old after the third or fourth time. I'd love to see more done with this area and the actors in it as the artwork is top notch stuff. 
  • Pro-Tip: Be prepared for steps, ramps and other interesting things to deal with along your trip.
Disclaimer: We were invited out to check out this year's Ghoul Mansion and given complimentary tickets to do so. However, that has not influenced our opinions or views on the attraction. It never has and never will, but I'll keep sayin it!

Now, let's get on with it!

To start the night off we entered into an indoor waiting area that's lined with some extremely interesting takes on famous artwork and a few other famous folks you may know. Let's just say that things haven't worked out well here for them. However, while there wasn't much of a line at the time of our visit, the scares likely won't start here...there are quite a few nightmares just waiting for you in line as well.

After a little bit of a pre-show that goes along with this indoor area...yet not really connected with the artwork, you're let through the door into this twisted and insane wonderland. With your group...and just you're group, you're allowed into the first room of this maniac mansion, one that seemingly has no way out.

Don't be too alarmed though, this is just a moment to get your photo taken (which you can buy afterwards, if you've survived), a calm before the storm as it were. That said, definitely have some fun with this one if you get the chance, the crazier ya are...who knows where that picture will end up!

From here you exit (I won't tell ya how or where, but it's a bit of a surprise) and head into the insanity that's been waiting for you. A quick little elevator ride later, with one insane and disturbing lift man, and you'll find yourself face to face with the stairs that lead you down even further...

It's down here in the bowels of the building that you start to lose all sense of where you are and what direction that you're heading in. The first stop on your nightmarish tour? The Dungeon of Doom.

It was at this moment when we realized that this was not your typical haunt even more so. The scares started to come from everywhere and anywhere they could, these fiends have no fear. They just love coming at you from places you won't be expecting at all. We were loving it and the best part is? It was just us and them through the dimly lit corridors and furnace rooms...the group before us? Nowhere to be seen...this already was a winning combo.

From here you enter into the tight, claustrophobic and extremely sensory limiting, Gauntlet of Ghouls. It's confusing and disorienting as you try and your way through the darkness, all the while not knowing what will come at you. It's amazing what the cover of darkness can do to you and this puts your senses on high alert as you try and make your way through inky black.

This really was a great use of space and a perfect lead in for the next area that we were to enter. Usually I'm not a fan of the "pitch black" house theme, but I think that in this case it works really well for a transitional piece over other ways that some attractions use them. It's not packed with scares, but you don't need them in an environment like this...your own senses can be far worse than anything that they could find or put down here and that's the beauty of it. It just works, don't question it and go with the flow.

At this point in our journey, having no earthly idea where we were in the building at all, we entered into the Scarin' Behavioral Institute. After the isolating experience that the Gauntlet of Ghouls provides, the crazy was back in full force. Literally.

Lucky for you, they've got some vacancies just waiting to be filled and a very short wait time at SBI. This area a is full of amazing and nightmarish things to look at as well, just don't look too long or else you'll find yourself at the mercy of the crazed patients and staff before you know what's happened. Needless to say, things haven't gone well for this place over the years...

I won't tell you where to look or what to expect, but trust me on this one...they're completely mental from here on out. Each step you take through this insanity driven wonderland takes you that much closer towards madness. Good thing that the doctor is free and would just love to have us in for a consult...

The scares keep coming from everywhere and you can't help but feel like absolutely nowhere is safe within the walls of this institution. They really lay it on you full force and from this point on, there really is no turning back the dial.

Oh and that bathroom scene...one of the coolest and creepiest things I've seen someone do in quite a while. You'll definitely want to keep your eye out for what's lurking in there! The only question you'll likely be asking is, "Will I make it out alive or end up joining the tormented souls within these carnage drenched walls?"

Thankfully we did (otherwise I'd be writing this from beyond the gave or you'd be imaging it) make it through that bit of nightmare fuel and found that weren't out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. In fact, we were only about halfway through this nightmare and there's a lot more ground to cover before we were even remotely safe. Now we were face to face with The Mansion and the crazed souls who have taken up residence within.

This is definitely a place that you likely won't want to stop over for dinner at. Though, if you're like us...maybe you would like to stay for a bite and a little relaxation in. Too bad they'd never let you get off that easy.

The playfully evil residents keep coming at you from every angle and a few that we weren't sure were even possible. They're definitely out for blood and your screams every inch of the way. As we made our way through this twisted house of horrors they reminded us of that at every opportunity.

I'm sure they would've just loved to make a little extra room for us, but I doubt we would've been much to look at...even if we did turn out to taste good.

However, just when we thought we were safe? No dice. Now we had to make it through The Body Shop with all our own parts attached. You see, apparently there's a few pieces missing from a very special project being put together and you just might have the pieces required. It's another hellish journey that builds off all of the insanity that we had survived before and they just refused to let up with the crazy. Not that we'd ever want them to...

The final area that you go through is one that we both typically loathe, clowns and 3D. Sadly, we had a bit of reason for that this time. This last area was the weakest of the line up that Ghoul Mansion has put together as a whole. Now, we did learn that part of the reason for that is because it's usually where the first year actors go and while a couple of them who were wandering the halls weren't that bad. The rest, as you can expect, definitely need a little work.

The artwork in this area is awesome and there's some really cool stuff being done with it, but it's overshadowed by the ear piercing screaming that was going on right in our ears. Can't really say that was overly scary...just annoying. We'd love to see more interactive stuff going on in here, anything is better than that. This is only impacted more because the rest of the attraction is so excellently executed.

I mean, after everything else we saw, it was a fairly weak ending to things and while it has the potential to be one crazy trip through a 3D wonderland...it winds up falling a bit flat and that's a shame. So much so that I hate even having to write that...

Hopefully in the future they change this up a little bit and maybe give the actors a bit more to play with because the ending should be much, much more than what it is currently.

Overall, we loved our time at Ghoul Mansion and honestly, aside from the ending bit, the volunteer crew of actors they have is really something special. You may not find the most detailed or big budget set dressings, but you probably won't have much time to look around since you'll likely be screaming and running for your life through this twisting and turning labyrinth trying to find the way out. Not only were the scares spot on, but you never knew where to look or what to expect next. I could write a book on everything that we saw and experienced, but no sense to be giving it all way. You'll just have to see it for yourself to believe it.

If you're brave enough, allow yourself to enjoy as many of the characters you come across and interact a little as they all bring such a unique flavor to the table. Oh, and if you do go, say hello to "Fluffy" and even pet him (if you're brave enough) for us...trust me on that one. 

Ghoul Mansion is a tradition dating back two decades now and I can completely see why. They bring the fear and aren't afraid to let the actors do their thing a bit. I can't stress how important that is with a haunt, the more you let them play, the better things will be. Trust me on that. I know I've said this before a few times, but they really do deserve every bit of accolade I can give them. So, if you're one of the few and proud Ghoul Mansion actors out there? Keep up the insanity and never change!

For more information like hours, dates (only a few left in 2013!), directions and all that fun stuff, head on over to the official Ghoul Mansion website for that and more.

Happy scaring out there and as always, keep it here or follow along with us on Twitter @KitsuneHazard and on Google+ for all the latest updates, news and more from haunts all over the US!

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