Our ghost to coast travels recently took us to NY and one of our requisite stops was at the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride. This year marks the 21st anniversary of Headless Horseman and was our 3rd visit to this classic haunt. Located in Ulster Park, NY, about 1.5 hours from NYC in the upstate Hudson Valley region the haunt covers over forty-five acres of property that includes foreboding woods, surreal ponds, fruit orchards and more.
Headless Horseman features 9 different attractions that includes an elaborate one-mile long haunted hayride and corn maze. It’s obvious from the lighting, costume, sound, set design, special effects, and make-up that all of these attractions are designed and built by professionals. In addition to the haunts, they also have the village of Crow Hollow that features different shops and eateries creating a haunt destination that celebrates the Halloween season where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living. On a side note; one question we still have with this rather elaborate set up is why don’t they have decent bathrooms at Crow Hollow instead of the porta potties? They also have some rather tight security and were very strict about pictures making guests leave their cameras at the car. Therefore, this review won’t feature many pictures. 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.
Headless Horseman uses the “daisy chain” format where guests first wait in line for the hayride and then they’re dropped off to go though the haunted houses in consecutive order. The Hayride’s theme is the The Foretelling and the haunted houses includes The Lunar Motel, Glutton’s Slaughter House, The Root Cellar, Dark Harvest Corn Maze, Nightshade Greenhouse, Dr. Dark’s Black Spider Sideshow, The Feeding, and Dahlia Blood’s Manor.
Foretelling! Haunted Hayride
This attraction has nearly 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. There’s a guide who narrates the ride and interacts with the scenes, similar to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Tram Tour guides. Our particular guide wasn’t very convincing in her role of a gypsy/fortune teller. Her accent was almost comedic and most of her lines were inaudible. Fortunately (no pun intended), this didn’t minimize the impact of the atmosphere with the backwoods winding roads, thick forestry, and elaborate settings. The effects on the hayride are just as good as any you’d fine in a theme park attraction with exploding buildings, shaky bridges, flying monsters and dark tunnels. As the wagon stops in each set, a scene is carried out ending with some scary surprises. In between the scenes they also have monsters lurking in the bushes (some as bushes) and trees who jump out from the dark and drop in from above. Some of these were surprising and others were expected. We were disappointed by the anti-climatic appearance of the ride’s main star, the Headless Horseman. Instead of charging at the wagon he leisurely trotted up and and then stopped. The Hayride didn’t pack quite the same punch as previous years but it’s still one hell of a good time and really places the riders inside of a living Halloween story. Rating: 4 Skulls
In our last visit in 2010 this was one of the best werewolf themed houses we’ve ever been in. They’ve changed up the story and it wasn’t nearly as frightening as the former. Now it’s about a hotel ran by a sadistic family of killers. This house uses a lot of animatronics and special props and while these items enhance the scenes we would of liked to see more scareactors inside. There were a few fun startles with the creatures popping out of beds, busting through walls and floors but it wasn’t scary, We miss the Lycans. 3 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 were ratcheted up a 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 that were unsettling hanging and revolving around us. 4 Skulls
The Root Cellar
This maze was one of the creepiest and the most claustrophobic. Inside it was filled with scary tree creatures, which we’re told were summoned by foolish kids playing with a Ouija board. The concept is original; not one we can say we’ve seen in many other haunts. The set design was intricate and even though this was one of the shortest mazes, it worked a nice transition between the Slaughterhouse and Corn maze. Rating: 4 Skulls
The corn maze begins right after guests escape from The Root Cellar. This maze provided some good scares as the creatures and monsters did a good job hiding in the shadows of the cornstalks. There were some unique scare tactics that got us a couple of times on the path such as fake outs and double teaming scares. There were also a few impressive animatronics along the way. This maze is lengthy in comparison to the previous houses but rather short for a haunted corn maze. We think there was a little too much light in the maze, but realize that this is hard to control with it being outside. 3.5 Skulls
The Nightshade Greenhouse: Into the Rabbit Hole
This maze is bizarre. It’s a mix of Little Shop of Horrors and Alice in Wonderland. There are flesh eating plants with 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 Wonderland creatures are all trying to get us to be the next meal. They had a couple 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; however, it did feature the most memorable monster of the night. 3.5 Skulls
DR. Dark’s Black Spider Side Show
The Black Spider Side Show has rolled into Crow Hollow lead by its owner, Dr. Dark. Guests walk by various tents with beautifully painted banners. Each one more extraordinary than the last headlining the stars of the sideshow. There was Zalfiro the fortune teller, professor Larvos and his maggot babies, the man eating chicken, freaks and many more unpleasant spectacles of life. And a new attraction, a first for a sideshow, Dr. Dark proudly presents his demented, demon clowns. The monsters make up was interesting in this maze and this maze did bring down some of the dark intensity from the previous mazes providing almost some comical relief for a journey of terror. The sets were rather basic and the there were no memorable scares. 2 Skulls
The Feeding: Flesh They Crave
Here we find ourselves escaping the evil horrors of the experiments of a deranged doctor (aren’t they all?). The test center around reversing the “effects of death” therefore we’re subjected to being apprehended by crazy doctors, zombies, and mutant lab animals. There are some good set illusions accomplished inside of this maze with dramatic transitions from light and dark scenes. Of course a guy with a chainsaw finds his way into the mix as well. One of the most unique and disturbing scenes involved a kennel of chimpanzees. We think this is the first time we’ve seen killer monkeys in a haunt maze. The timing of the monsters was off as they seemed to missed in effectively scaring us and people seemed to want to stop and look at the sets but there wasn’t any ushers visible inside to keep things moving which also caused this maze to get backed up. 3.5 Skulls
The Mansion of Dahlia Blood: The Ripper
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. We really liked the rooms with the rocking walls, the London alleyways and the bar scene. The theme of this house was disjointed as the house has traditional haunted house scenes, then we’re in the streets of London, followed by going out into swamp with the monster plants, werewolves, and chainsaw wielding monsters stalking. In spite of the odd mix, this house is the most fun and is obviously where they put the most amount of budget into. 4 Skulls
We recommend that you plan to get there early as they get really crowded, even on opening night Also, if you go after it has rained be sure wear old clothes and shoes as the corn maze can be very muddy, which adds to the terror. Nonetheless, this is a haunt that shouldn’t be missed if you live in the NY and Northern NJ areas. We guarantee that you’ll walk away shaking
Headless Horseman Overall Ratings:
- Haunt Design: 4 skulls
- Theming: 4 skulls
- Scare Factor: 3 skulls
- Fright Value: 4 skulls