by Michael Maerten Updated 10/2015
Philadelphia Area Haunted Houses
Ok so I have obsessions when it comes to things I enjoy in life…my obsession for a good haunted house is no exception. Maybe it comes from my joy of pranks and watching a good scare happen, Scare Tactics the TV show is a good example of excessive scares. For the past 8 years I’ve been going to area Haunted Attractions, the last 7 with a group of friends who have become the Board of Directors for the event, and the event has grown exponentially in attendance every year. We make the event a night out, including finding a good local pub to “debrief” afterwards to share our favorite parts of the attraction. To date we’ve done The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride in Glenn Mills, PA twice, Shocktoberfest near Reading, PA twice, Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia twice, Jason’s Woods in Millersville just outside of Lancaster, and Pennhurst Asylum in Spring City, PA. For the Bates Motel we coupled the night with Duffers Pub both times, for Shocktoberfest we stopped at Sly Fox Brewery in Royersford the first time, and then had a limo bus for the 2014 excursion which included a pit stop at Five Guys right when they were closing only to have to produce 15+ burgers for our group, for Eastern State Penitentiary we enjoyed The Bishop’s Collar, and for Jason’s Woods we stopped at Yorgos in downtown Lancaster (yes there is a downtown) which has 81 different Wing Sauce Flavors, for Pennhurst the debriefing location was Molly Maguire’s in downtown Phoenixville.
So down to the ratings in the “expert” opinion of our Board of Directors:
2008 & 2013– The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride: the most awarded of all the Haunted Attractions we have attended, consistently ranked in the Top 10 Haunted Attractions in the Country by Haunt World Magazine including #1 in 2011. This attraction has our #1 Haunted Hayride, it’s a tough one to beat. The Bates Motel section was good, but a little short. The corn maze and other attractions could use more characters, but all in all this is a very good attraction and we highly recommend it to others. We didn’t feel that there was much added between 2008-13, but we always look for this one to grow as it is a popular local original attraction.
2009 & 2014– Shocktoberfest: this one took us all by surprise in 2009. What it lacked in high end builds, a true overall scary atmosphere and kind of weird state fair with Carnie’s feel to the entry, it made up for it with the characters, the different scenes, and overall scare value. This attraction had our #2 Haunted Hayride with great scenes and plenty of actors, our #1 indoor scare room (the shower scene with slow strobe light was phenomenal), 3D rooms, and length of the attractions were perfect. It’s a far drive from Philly having to go past Reading to get there, but we’re happy we made the trip and reason we had a limo bus in 2014. This one is probably the least marketed of all the venues we have visited and again was a pleasant surprise. The 2014 trip was mostly rained out but we made the most of it even though the hayride was closed. We had a large group and the carnival games were fun as always!
2010- Eastern State Penitentiary– the most crowded and #2 overall atmosphere. I’ve been to this one twice now, once in 2007 without the Board of Directors and then with the Board in 2010. They definitely improved the site since 2007 and continue to add attractions. They have some really good scenes and obviously the history of the Penitentiary adds to the overall anxiety of waiting for the next scare. The lines are extremely long but they do a decent job of keeping you anxious to get in. My biggest complaint is that this site has so much more potential and with the amount of money they are generating each year, they should be so much better and built out by now. You wait for a long time and then are done in what seemed to be 25 minutes.
2011- Jason’s Woods– visited in 2011: their #1 attraction is their Haunted Hayride which was pretty good, long enough to make you feel that you got your money’s worth. The second best attraction was probably Jason’s Woods Walking Tour which gives you a feeling of vulnerability out in the woods with a small group. The best scare of the night happened in the woods with another visitor trying to take a picture of a statue (or what he thought was a statue) and he ended up on the ground in less than a half second, kicking and screaming. Overall this attraction is a distant finisher as the rest of the attraction was just missing the number of characters and feeling of authenticity.
2012 Pennhurst Haunted Asylum- we waited for this place to mature. Opened in 2010, year one was not getting high ratings. It was owned by the same owner of The Bates Motel, so we knew it had potential. After some debate we decided to pass again on it in 2011 opting for an attraction with 26 years of experience. It seems that the reviews in 2011 were a lot better than they were in its inaugural year. We had high hopes for this one, as it has the most potential of all the other attractions due to the site’s history and it being truly haunted. The number 1 difference… “We can and will touch you!” We were all touched A LOT, the wives were a little creeped out with all the hair touching but it was the difference maker with this place vs. the others. There are three main attractions, someone similar in nature and scare tactics, and a 4th Ghost Hunt tour through an old boarding building. This place has some demented history which adds to the allure. It lacked a haunted hayride, but made up for it in the number of scenes throughout the different attractions. This was worth waiting for and it still has the most upside for future growth vs. the competition.
2013: Bates Motel– reviewed above
2014: Shocktoberfest- reviewed above
Have you visited any of these attractions? What do you think??