Monday, September 29, 2014

Embrace the Fear at Dorney Park's Halloween Haunt VII

It is hard to believe that Dorney Park's annual fear-fest, Halloween Haunt, is already in its seventh year.  Previously known as HalloWeekends, the park kicked things up one giant notch in 2008 when the event was rebranded as the Haunt, and we've been screaming in terror ever since.

The event is continually expanded and changed each year to offer new attractions, and Haunt VII is continuing that tradition.  This year there really is "more to fear," as two new haunted houses, one scare zone, and a new ticket option with bonus scare rooms have been added.

Dorney Park invited us to check out all that Haunt VII has to offer, and while I want to detail all the scares offered I will try to keep things spoiler free for those who haven't visited yet!

Enter the Chamber of Horrors
One major change this year is the addition of Madame Plarr's Chamber of Horrors Wax Museum, a haunted house that took over Psycho Circus in Dorney Park's upper arcade building.  The building's existing architecture fits in great with the new theme, that of a wax museum where things most definitely aren't what they seem.  The wax museum idea has been used at other parks in the park, and honestly has been an idea I was hoping would come to Dorney's Haunt at some point.  I got my wish!

Now that Madame Plarr has reopened her museum for guests, we get to check out her collection of wax figures featuring the greatest known murders, villains, and other generally bad-guys.  The sets here are wonderful, with full-sizes wax figures placed dramatically along the path.  You eventually enter the the corridors of the "back of the house" section of the museum where we finally understand just how demented the workers are.

The haunt works so well because of the immense amount of figures - not knowing which one is an actor standing very still is nerve wracking to say the least.  There's also some creative scares in this one, things your eye won't catch at first until it is far too late.

Afraid of clowns? 
Since the Chamber of Horrors kicked the clowns out of the arcade building, they needed a new home.  Thankfully Dorney park wasn't ready to let go of the cast of clowns, so they created a whole new scare zone for them, CarnEvil.  Located in Hydra's plaza, CarnEvil meant that Cut Throat Island and its gigantic pirate ships were moved down the midway a bit, in front of the Wave Swinger.

I'm continually amazed at how freaked out people are by clowns, it must be a blast being one in the CarnEvil area.  With some folks no actual "scare" is needed - just approaching them would send them running and screaming!  CarnEvil features a collection of props, plenty of fog, crazy lighting and also is the home of one of Haunt's new live shows.

Set up on a stage in front of Meteor is the Skeleton Crew, a new acrobatic style show that features monster-esque performers both on the stage and above it.  The show is performed several times a night, and since the Hydra plaza serves as the viewing area there's no worries to be had about finding good "seats."  The production is one for Haunt that finally 'clicks,' arriving after a slew of different live entertainment productions in the past that never hit home with the crowds.  For once, since Skeleton Crew is located right on the midway in the center of a scare zone, it doesn't take much to get people to notice it.  That was always a problem for shows in the park's Good Time Theater, I believe.

The antics of Skeleton Crew
Skeleton Crew features some amazing aerialists, one of which first performs alone, and then as a pair (seen above).  They tricks keep the attention of the crowd, from whom you can hear plenty of "ooohs and ahhhs."  The ending highlight of Skeleton Crew is, well, the skeleton crew that comes out and performs a great trampoline act.  They're also seen above, shaking their skeleton-booties at the start of their performance.

The whole show is pretty high energy, and just the right length.  Not too long that people start to lose interest, and just short enough to leave us wanting more.  Skeleton Crew is definitely a hit for Haunt VII.

Thumping along with Blood Drums
Since we're looking at the Haunt's live entertainment offerings already, here's a shot of a returning favorite also featured this year - Blood Drums.  The pulse-pounding show has moved back to Center Stage from the main midway, giving it more breathing room and extra viewing space.  The drum troupe knows how to play to the crowd well and keep them entertained start to finish.

These two attractions make up Solomon's Farm
With so much new, there's still nine other returning mazes and scare zones to check out.  These include old favorites like the Asylum and CornStalkers, and more recent additions like Desolation and Head Hunters.

A big part of our visit to Haunt VII was to experience the all new Skeleton Key rooms that have been added to six haunted houses.  The ability to enter these rooms is granted to those who purchase Fright Lane passes, which also let you skip the regular queue for all the haunted houses.  The Skeleton Key rooms were started at Knott's Berry Farm's Haunt last year, and now phased into (thankfully) the other parks.

Desolation, Grave Walkers, Mansion House, and Head Hunters
Basically the Skeleton Key rooms take place somewhere along the regular haunted house path, with one or more in-character ghouls ensuring that Fright Lane guests head the correct way.  Featured at The Asylum, Blood Shed, CornStalkers, Desolation, Grave Walkers and the Mansion House Hotel, no two Skeleton Key rooms are the same.

Here is where I really want to give away details of the experiences that each holds, alas I won't.  Each room presents its own challenge of finding a way out, some require thought or action, while some you just need to hang in there for the ride.  Each room is themed appropriately for the house it is in, and all the actors we encountered were fantastic, stayed in character and really making the room work.  Without giving away too much, there's one that focuses on hands-on gore, one where claustrophobia reigns king, a couple where physical barriers must be overcome to get out, and even one where you have a time limit to find a given object to get out.

They're fun, exciting, and scary - and it's a great way to breath new life into some of the existing mazes.  Granted they come at an additional cost, but if you're a big fan of the Haunt or hate waiting in lines then Fright Lane passes are a great option.

There is one new attraction we did not cover yet, and that's because it is exclusive to Fight Lane ticket holders.  Known as Blackout, the new maze is a trip in the dark you won't soon forget.  I've been in similar all-dark mazes before, and although simple in concept they're not easy to make good.  You have to rely on talent to go after visitors as they stumble around in the pitch black and that's where the Haunt's Blackout gets an A+ from me.  We were followed, whispered at, even had air blown on our necks... it was creepy as it gets.  You can't see where you're going, yet are aware that ghouls are all around - this causes a kind of panic that greatly adds to Blackout.

Between the haunted houses, scare zones, live shows and new optional Skeleton Key rooms, Haunt VII has a lot of offer.  Many thanks to the park for having us to check out the offerings and get a scare or two in the process!

Haunt VII at Dorney Park will run weekends in October, ending on November 1st.  Check out the official Halloween Haunt website for more information.


jen said...

What's the status of Stinger now?

Christine Pavona said...

Do you recommend getting Fright Lane tickets? If I don't will I still have time to do all of the events and rides or will I be waiting in line for hours?

Mike H said...

It doesn't look like Stinger will open this year.

Also I do think Fright Lane tickets are a good idea, depending on what day you're going. A Friday night could be okay if you plan to stay late, and Sundays aren't too bad. But a Saturday expect long lines. Also, if the weather is nice that plays a big role, too.

Mike said...

Hey do you have a picture of the back of the hearse with all the logos? I only can find the one with the three new ones blocked out with a question mark.