This past weekend Scare Zone headed east to continue our mission of seeing haunts across the country and beyond. This year our coast to ghost travels brought us to NY. Our favorite quote we heard while waiting in line at one of the haunts was “If you think New York is scary, you should see their haunts!” This turned out to be true as the haunts in NY have a style all of their own. New Yorkers seem to have a tougher skin so in order to scare them these haunts have to pull out all the stops. And they do, with scareactors that don’t hold back and who are not satisfied until they get a reaction out of everyone they terrorize.
Our first stop was at the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride. This is a Scare Zone favorite and this was our 2nd visit to this classic haunt. This haunt is located in Ulster park, NY which is about 1.5 hours from NYC in upstate’s Hudson Valley region. The haunt covers over forty-five acres of property that includes foreboding woods, surreal ponds, fruit orchards and more. This season features 8 different attractions that includes an elaborate haunted hayride andcorn maze. They also have an old New England village featuring different shops and eateries. Hands down they have the best haunt shopping we’ve seen at any location. Our one question is with this set up why don’t they have decent bathrooms instead of the porta potties? They’re also very strict about pictures and make you leave your cameras at the car. They have security that thoroughly checks, in a very noninvasive manner, for cameras. They also have the courtesy to explain why - because they don’t want their tricks and effects stolen by other haunts. This is understandable as the Hudson Valley is a very competitive haunt region. Nonetheless, it is disappointing that we couldn’t even get pictures from the village and the outside sets of some of the houses.
We were glad that we went on a Thursday night as the crowds were light and basically walked on to the next hay wagon that pulled up. After the hayride you are sent through all the mazes which feed into each other making the whole experience flow like a tale of terrors. From start to finish the whole haunting experience lasts nearly an hour and a half.
Escape of Prisoner X: The Haunted Hayride
This attraction has perfected the haunted hayride experience. Unlike rides that resides in ‘sue happy’ Southern California, guest are told to sit around the edges of the wagon with their feet dangling over sides. This seating arrangement really made us feel vulnerable. They also have a guide who narrates the ride and interacts with the scenes, similar to Universal’s tram tour guides. The setting is perfect for a haunted scarefest as the wagon rides through winding back roads through thick forestry and various sets. They also have a consistent storyline which changes every year. It was a little difficult to keep track of what was always going on as our guide’s narration and scareactor’s dialogue was often drowned out by the screams. From what we could gather the story is about an escaped murderer, who was born in prison with supernatural powers, has escaped and is headed back to the town of Crow’s Hollow to continue his rampage. We’re in pursuit of Prisoner X (not sure why us) and he has set up some frighting obstacles along the way to stop us. We also have to deal with the town folk who are suspicious of us riding through, thinking we may actually be helping Prisoner X. The effects on this hayride are just as good as any you’d fine in a theme park attraction with exploding buildings, shaky bridges, and dark tunnels. The theatrics work on this ride, as the wagon stops in each set where a scene is carried out ending with some fun and scary surprises. Without running the experience, the highlights include the swamp lagoon, the machine gun attack, the bruning of Crow’s Hollow, and the Prisoner X execution chamber. In between the scenes they also have monsters lurking in the bushes (some as bushes) and trees who jump out from the dark and the branches above. Our one disappointment is that it seemed we were on the wrong side of the wagon as most of the scenes played out on the wagon’s right hand side but the scares are equal dispersed. The narrator also wasn’t the best actress in the world and some of her attempts to add drama to a scene fell severely flat.
Rating: 4 Skulls
This is one of the best werewolf themed houses we’ve been in. The story is simple, a motel in Crow Hollow is being overrun by attacking werewolves. The scares however, are very sophisticated and some of the best we’ve experienced. This house uses a lot of animatronics but doesn’t soley rely on them. These special props enhance every scene with wolves popping out of beds, busting through walls and floors. When we’ve been fully startled by these creatures the real monsters then take the opportunity to scare you while you’re off guard. The story detail was also well noted with the people in the motel at first trying to help you escape before they get attacked themselves and are eventually transformed into werewolves as the scenes progress.
Rating: 4.5 Skulls
Right next door to the Lunar Hotel is Crow Hollow’s world-renowned meat-packing factory. Mr. Glutton has been feuding with the neighbors and it seems that the employee disappearances at the Lunar Hotel could be attributed to the evil doings inside the Slaughterhouse. This maze is connected to the Lunar hotel and at first it was a little hard to tell where one ended and the other started. Nonetheless, the scares stayed at the same level and this is a very intense Slaughter house themed haunt. The monsters didn’t just scare us, they stalked us through the scenes. The props were very gory and there were some the most disturbing and disgusting set pieces we’ve encountered. The mutant pig heads that popped out of the walls were scaring the hell out of everyone. Pushing our way through the meat racks which had wet animal and human carcasses hanging was also unsettling. We could hear and smell the chainsaw but the maniac still managed to surprise us . They also had a unique scare involving a cattle prod!
Rating: 4.5 Skulls
This is the corn maze which begins right after we escaped the Slaughterhouse. This maze wasn’t very scary as the cornstalks were not tall and the the full moon illuminated the whole path, so we could see just about all the monsters before the attacked us. They did use an effective double scare tactic which got us a couple of times on the path and there also is an impressive animatronic pumpkin monster inside. Outside of these few highlights, this maze was a let down after surviving Lunar Hotel and the Slaughterhouse.
Rating: 2.5 Skulls
The Nightshade Greenhouse Project
This maze gets the award for the most original theme. This house is tied into the Crow’s Hollow lore with a story line about a scientist who uses a combination of decomposing human bodies from the remains of the prison inmates and highly corrosive chemicals to create a super fertilizer that is piped throughout the greenhouse to feed what could only be described as flesh eating plants. These cross breed plants are a hybrid of reptile genes and vegetation creating some very creative and creepy sets. This house winds through the dimly lit greenhouse where the plants, their victims and the crazy scientist are all trying to get us to be the next meal. They had good scares as the setting allowed for some very good hiding places. But this house was more about the atmosfear and sets as opposed to pop out scares. We did find this house to be a little short compared to the others but it was the most memorable of the night.
Rating: 4 Skulls
Guess they all can’t be perfect. This house takes us through the birthplace of Prisoner X. It seems that the laboratory he was born in was also the home of mutation experiments that were conducted on prisoners including his mother. There were a few good scares but for the most part we were able to see all the monsters coming and the sets were not overly impressive. In this house we also encountered quite a few empty rooms so we may of gone through during an off time (break time?). The house did bring up the scares at the end of the house but overall it fell short of the others.
Rating: 2 Skulls
The Mansion of Dahlia Blood
The last house takes place inside an elaborate looking Haunted House that is back in the Crow’s Hollow village. This house combines illusions and traditional scares. Some of the most aggressive monsters where in this house. We really liked the room with the rocking walls and the bar scene. The house finishes with us going out of the house (really still inside) into into the swamp where it’s a like a grand finale with the monster plants, werewolves, and mutant prisoner monsters stalking. Your only way out is by going back into the cornstalks which is a long air tunnel you have to push through only to find a final scare waiting for you at the other end.
Our Rating: 4 Skulls
Overall the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride is a classic haunted attraction which every haunt stalker should make the trip to NY and experience for themselves. Year after year they add new scares and improve on the traditional ones. The location also adds to the setting offering a full nights worth of haunting fun.
Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls (Out of 5)