Scare Zone made the trek out to Texas in April to experience HAuNTCon, one of the larger yearly haunt conventions. We had a great time attending seminars, meeting professional and home haunters, and touring the tradeshow floor to see the latest and craziest offerings in the haunt industry. We did find the tradeshow floor be to rather small and sparse of vendors but the focus of the convention was the education sessions, most of which were free. So we still found the show passes to be a good value. More-so than the National Haunter’s Convention which we attended in 2011.
Of course, the top attraction for us was being able to tour the local haunted attractions. Each year, the convention travels to a new city, and one of the main reasons for this is to be able to take attendees to different haunts each year on its haunt tours. The Dallas/Fort Worth area has one of the largest concentrations of haunts, but we were still impressed to find out that the pre-show and weekend haunt tours would include approximately 16 different haunted attractions.
We will be providing separate, full reviews of the haunted attractions we visited that were also in full operational mode and open to the public during our visit. But our tours also included a private, behind-the-scenes look at many other haunted attractions, so we’ll be providing our thoughts on those in this post. We did miss one haunt on the tour–Zombie Manor. We have heard that this is a really great and well-themed attraction, and we’re sorry we missed it and won’t be able to provide our review.
Overall, we experienced some great attractions, some so-so attractions, and some kind of terrible ones. Our top 6 favorites are the following:
- 13th Street Morgue (located at Reindeer Manor) [will receive a full review in a separate post]
- Parker House
- Moxley Manor
- Hangman’s House of Horrors [will receive a full review in a separate post]
- The Dungeon of Doom
- The Haunt House
Now here’s a look inside the haunts we toured during HAuNTCon 2013, from day 1 through day 2.
The Haunt House (Caddo Mills, TX)
Haunt House was voted as one of the best haunts in the country by HauntWorld in 2012. The haunt features an impressive facade that sets the stage for the detailed sets and intense scares inside. The attraction is very long, with winding paths that go up and down hill. The walls often close in on you, and the low ceilings promote a feeling of claustrophobia. We really liked the great detail work they did on many of the sets, especially the interior rooms such as the library and the stairwell. Some of the “outdoor” scenes were more generic, but we saw many places for good scares. Overall, the theme didn’t come through to clearly to us, as their website provides a back story about a carnival dark ride gone awry. We didn’t see too much evidence of this theme. The owner of Haunt House is a long-time haunted attraction veteran, and he was on-hand to teach a few seminars at the convention. He has a lot of passion for his attraction and the industry, and this is one of the reasons why Haunt House will continue to be one of the best attractions in Texas.
Fatal End, featuring “Dollz” (Downtown Dallas, TX)
This attraction changes its theme every 2 years. Currently, it’s themed to, as its name suggests, “dolls.” Specifically, “an old doll store and factory in an old abandoned warehouse in Downtown Dallas” in the early 1900s. The back story describes the dollmaker running out of doll parts and resorting to digging up bodies from the local cemetery. For the most part, this attraction sticks to its theme well. There are dolls and doll parts all over the maze, although more heavily used in some scenes than others. Sometimes the placement of the doll parts seemed a little haphazard. Our trip through the Dollz attraction was in show mode, but without actors. But we easily imagined actors in those creepy doll-face masks terrorizing guests. The flow of the maze was interrupted by some scenes that didn’t fit in very well, including an elaborate laboratory scene and a blacklight toxic waste scene with gas masks. In addition, the extremely loud industrial music piped throughout the maze definitely did not fit with the 1900′s time period at all (see our “Six Ways to Ruin a Haunt” article for our opinion about this). The maze was long and had some interesting scenes, but we’d like to see them work on the atmosphere and tighten up the theming.
Slaughterhouse (Dallas, TX)
The slaughterhouse theme is very popular in haunted attractions, and it’s probably one of the easiest themes to pull off. Just hang a bunch of body parts/animal carcasses around, spread blood all over the place, and voila!–you’ve got a slaughterhouse haunt. So we were extremely disappointed to find that this Slaughterhouse attraction had almost no slaughter at all. We saw clowns, a child’s room, a grim reaper, werewolves, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and even Frankenstein. Really? Frankenstein in a slaughterhouse haunt?? Even more mystifying was the fact that we saw price tags remaining on some of the props (and yes, this was a lights-out tour in show mode with actors). This kind of laziness makes us mad, honestly. The haunt also relied on a lot of loud noises, strobes, and firecracker poppers. We don’t recommend a visit to this attraction unless you get a very good discount coupon. As a “slaughterhouse” haunt, this attraction left us asking, “Where’s the beef?”
Moxley Manor (Bedford, TX)
Moxley Manor is located in a small strip mall, and it’s glass storefront location isn’t as impressive as some of the facades of other attractions we visited. However, this smaller haunt packs a large punch. We were surprised by how long this haunt was once we were inside. The “manor” theming was well done and consistent. There was a good use fog, very dark areas, and disorienting lights to help increase the scares. It also had a high element of suspense where you’d see a ghoul in the distance who suddenly disappears behind the walls or into the fog only to reappear right in front or behind you. The actors were top-notch and got some scares from the veteran haunt crowd touring the maze that night. There were also actual maze elements, including a scene in which you have to find your way through a maze of white sheets. We think that this is one of the most frequently open haunts in Texas, as they’re always open for special events and holidays such as Super Bowl weekend, Valentine’s Day, ‘Scream Break’, Friday the 13th, and so forth. We thought it was fun and highly recommend checking it out whenever you can.
Parker House (Denton, TX)
This was one of the best attractions we experienced while in Texas. The theming, detailed sets, and actors were were top notch, and most importantly, the scares were excellent. The exterior facade sets the stage for the demented horrors inside the “Parker Funeral Home.” The first scene is a church-like interior, in which the deranged minister taunts the audience and also perfectly explains the important back story and also the rules of the attraction. From the moment we entered the maze (through a very unexpected doorway), we were greeted with amazing sets and and innovative scares. There is also a large outdoor portion of the attraction, composed of a long trail through brush, trees, and eventually a graveyard. This outdoor section is littered with zombies and cannibal types, and a couple of nice sisters even invited us to “dinner.” We were particularly impressed with the actors at this attraction. There were many who went way beyond the typical “boo” scare and took on a very interactive role with guests, remaining in character even as jaded haunters heckled them. They also did a great job pacing the groups through the maze, holding groups back if they got too close to the next group in front of them.
We also got a sneak peek of an all-new attraction currently being built for 2013, which looks like it will be pretty massive. Parker House should definitely be on your must-see list for 2013.
Milton’s Manor (Aledo, TX)
When we stepped into Milton’s Manor, we had an extreme case of Deja Vu—had we been here before? It turns out we had. This is the very same attraction that was featured at the Los Angeles County Fair from 2003 through 2006, then called “Scare at the Fair.” This attraction was developed by Shipwreck Productions, the team behind Queen Mary’s Shipwreck Halloween event (replaced by the current and superior “Dark Harbor“). Now retired, “Scare at the Fair” lives on in its new life as “Milton’s Manor,” located in an abandoned gas station. This 3D attraction has some well-done paintings and effects. There are plenty of hiding places for actors, and the 3D glasses further obscure guests’ vision. Although this sort of attraction is dated to us, it seemed to be a bit of a novelty to some of the locals on the tour. Perhaps this type of 3D maze hasn’t been as overused as in California. Regardless, it is a good 3D maze and worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Creekside Manor (Midlothian, TX)
This is a brand-new haunt for 2013. We were lucky to get a preview of what’s in store for Texas locals this Halloween season. The owners have been hard at work building their new haunt from the ground up. This haunt has a great facade set amid tall trees. The interior is a typical haunted manor type of theme, and the sets are well done and very detailed. It was very obvious that they were inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor attractions. Even the opening spiel takes its cues directly from the former’s storyline. The hallways are extremely narrow, so if you have any type of claustrophobia, you might be a bit uncomfortable. We saw a lot of expensive (but impressive) animatronics used throughout the attraction. There were scenes with organ-playing skeletons, possessed children, and man-eating plants. Even without the scareactors inside this place , it was somewhat creepy to walk through, and we can only imagine how scary it will be when fully loaded with wall-to-wall creeps. At the finale of the haunt, guests venture into a short outdoor portion that we expect is pretty spooky at night.
Tayman Graveyard (Midlothian, TX)
This haunt features three attractions: Tayman Funeral Home, Tayman Mines, and Fappy the Clown’s Theatre of Wonders.
Tayman Funeral Home is the best of the three and is the “main attraction.” This maze begins with an “insult” actor, there to tell you the rules and make jokes at guests’ expense. We suppose this is for comic relief, but the jokes felt pretty flat and lame. We’d prefer something to set the mood of the haunt instead. He also warned us that we’d have to crawl. The maze itself was well themed to an old haunted house, and yes, we did have to crawl through one section (which went on a bit too long). There were some interesting scenes and set design thoughout the house. After you make your way through the house, there’s a brief trail called Gravediggers Hollow that goes through the backwoods, where you’ll encounter some rogue zombies who didn’t make the proper final arrangements to get inside the Funeral Home. We could imagine it being rather freaky out there at nighttime.
Tayman Mines is a dusty and dry trek through wooden walls with minimal props. We went through during the day, so we can’t say how scary it might be at night (the owner’s dogs did provide a unstaged scare from behind a fence). There wasn’t much to look at during the day, so any scares will probably depend on a strong actor component and the darkness of the evening.
Fappy the Clown’s Theatre of Wonders is your standard 3D clown maze, with scenes we’ve seen many times before, such as black walls with neon handprints. We also passed through a perplexing vampire scene, which didn’t make much sense to us amid the carnival atmosphere.
If you’re going to make the trek out to this haunt, we suppose it’s worth seeing all of the attractions; however, the Funeral Home feels like the only major maze, with the others seeming more like “add-ons.” During haunt season they do offer a haunted hayride, which we imagine could be very good through the the back woods locations.
Reindeer Manor (Red Oak, TX)
Reindeer Manor is “a real” Haunted House located on the outskirts of Dallas with a truly haunted past, and it’s been open to the public for more than 40 seasons. They were one of the first and are one of the oldest haunted attractions in the state of Texas, if not the world. This attraction is set up as a theatrical haunt, where you go from room to room to see ghostly and grizzly stories unfold. The haunt team here is very dedicated, composed mainly of boy scout volunteers. The theming of the rooms is extremely elaborate, making us wish that we could have had the full haunt experience versus the behind-the-scenes (lights-on) walk-through tour. Some of their stand-out scenes included a collapsing ceiling, the fiery pond, a room that rocks back and forth, and a giant, lightning-generating Tesla coil. Coupled with The Dungeon of Doom and 13th Street Morgue attractions, Red Oak is one the scariest parts of Texas you can visit during the haunt season.