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Attraction Lineup​

Haunted Houses​

  1. Death Water Bayou: Full Moon
    • Located in Festa Field behind Roman Rapids
    • Updated version of the new-for-2022 house, Death Water Bayou
  2. KILLarney DIEner: Infested
    • Located in the Killarney simulator building
    • Updated version of the new-for-2021 house, KILLarney Diner
  3. Lost Mines: The Descent
    • Located below Escape from Pompeii
    • New house for 2023 (replacing 2022's Inferno)
  4. Nevermore: Chapter 3
    • Located in Drachen Fire's station building
    • Third iteration of the new-for-2021 house, Nevermore; replaces 2022's Nevermore: Chapter 2
  5. Witch of the Woods: Scorched
    • Located in the woods behind Festhaus Park
    • Technically the second iteration of the new-for-2021 house, Witch of the Woods though Witch of the Woods was reversed in its second season without a name change

Terror-Tories​

  1. Fest-Evil [New] (Festa Italia)
  2. Gorgon Gardens [Returning] (Da Vinci's Garden of Inventions)
  3. Meat Market [Returning] (New France)
  4. Scary Tale Road [Returning] (Rhinefield)
  5. Ripper Row [Returning] (Banbury Cross)

Other Scares​

  1. Hack Pack [Returning] (Roaming)

Shows​

  1. Jack is Back [Returning] (Killarney)
  2. Monster Stomp on Ripper Row [Returning] (Globe Theatre)
  3. Phantoms of the Festhaus [Returning] (Das Festhaus)
  4. Skeletones [Returning] (Il Teatro di San Marco)

BOOze Bars & Bites​

  1. OktoberTaps [New] (Oktoberfest)
  2. Stone-Cold Spirits [Returning] (San Marco)
  3. Pete's Provisions [Returning] (New France)
  4. Jack's Nightcap [Returning] (Killarney)
  5. Frost Bar [Returning] (Oktoberfest)
  6. BarKastle Spirits [Returning] (Oktoberfest)

Official Website​

 
KD, in my opinion, has has the more consistent event for many years. They almost always have great atmosphere across the park. They had a few bad years, but overall, their event has been more of a haunt than HOS, since at least BGW's introduction of huge dance parties.
I think it’s tough to strike that proper balance. The reason I disclosed that I have stock in both (and not an insignificant amount) is despite liking what CF has been doing lately, SEAS have been paying off better. So the CF method is taking a hit to the stock and investors and isn’t sustainable. On the flip side SEAS is making me money but it rides waves more than anything else I own (Disney, IBM, and Apple being the primary 3 others, these 5 make ups 65% of my holdings).

I think a balance needs to be struck and don’t see SEAS doing what CF is doing with putting money, increasing labor, and doing all new stuff.

But for HoS it’s not going is why I ask. I get with what @Zachary said that KD managers to do it, but so far we see SEAS unwilling to do it all at once. So would HoS goers be ok having less on path scare actors for the budget that year to be put to use on redoing all the sets and sense of place?
 
For me, personally, I’m much more interested in sound, music, sets, and effects than people in costumes on the paths. So, if something had to be cut I’d probably be ok with their eliminating the actors outside of the houses.

That said, I doubt most people would agree. Moreover, I do not think the event could be as strong without characters in the themed areas. It is possible for the environment to be scary on its own, but if you know no one is actually going to threaten you, it undermines the effect. Additionally, going back to what I said before about storytelling and placemaking, the actors are key to both.

So, if the goal is only to create a creepy atmosphere, so guests are less likely to relax between houses, then it is probably an adequate solution to eliminate the actors from the paths. If you want a superior event, however, it is the wrong decision.
 
This past weekend was my first visit to HOS since before COVID. Because my perspective of the event might be a bit unique since I haven't visited in a few years (and because I had 45 minutes to kill), I thought I'd share my thoughts. I'll preface everything by saying that regardless of the quality of the event, I always have a good time at HOS, including this year.


HOUSES
Overall, I think HOS's haunted house set design has improved since my last visit. On my last HOS visit, the house lineup included (I believe) Dystopia, Demented Dimensions, Lumberhack, Circo Sinistro, The Vault, and Frostbite -- so all of the houses I experienced this weekend were new to me. I was vocally critical of many of those past mazes as cheap (Frostbite), lazy (Vault, Dystopia), disjointed (Dimensions), or worn out (Lumberhack, Circo). I think the new houses across the board show a greater level of cohesion, creativity, and attention to detail. I don't know if BGW has someone new in charge of house design, or if the new houses were able to put more money towards scenic by seeming to reuse many of their predecessors' layouts (not a problem IMO), but whatever the're doing is working. BGW's houses still fall far behind most of KD's in set design, and there's still far too much reliance on empty hallways and dangling cloths, but they're on a clear upward trajectory from the pre-COVID house designs, in my opinion.

Nevermore: 8/10
This is BGW's closest to a KD-level house, I think. Nevermore is full of little details that convey a narrative, and it does a great job of flowing through the different Poe stories while maintaining a cohesive overall tone. Perhaps because the Poe stories automatically give lots of material to work with, the actors seemed to be doing more here than just jumping and grunting. Most tried to be selling their "story" in some way, and many were even reciting lines from their story.

KILLarney Diner: 6/10
The sets here are impressively large, creative, and do a great job of creating an immersive setting. One of my favorite aspects of this maze is the sound design; I love the 40s and 50s songs they play in different rooms of the house, complete with creepy distortions to the music edited in. The set design would be great if there weren't so many long, blank, dead hallways. Sadly, the actors here didn't really seem to be trying -- the cast here was probably the weakest of any house, most of them just standing there, glaring, delivering some generic exclamation like "Get out!" Moreover, the plague theme seemed confusing and detracted from a clear narrative. Why is there a giant bug animatronic at the end? Finally, this house felt short. When it just ended at the start of the simulator's stone tunnel queue, my group's reaction was "Is that it?"

Witch of the Woods: 7/10
This is such a phenomenal setting for a haunted house, and I hope the rumors of its demise aren't true. (The setting is better than GrimmWoods at KD, IMO, because the dirt path here makes everything feel more real and uncharted, versus GrimmWoods's paved walkway.) I think this is an improvement over Lumberhack, too, as I find the old world theming and witch lore leaves more to the imagination and fits BGW better. The actors seemed to be trying, although I think they have some room to grow as they find their way in their roles. I agree with criticism from past years that the much-foreshadowed Witch seems a bit anticlimactic. I think this one would be great with a stronger finale with a more dramatic final appearance by the Witch.

Death Water Bayou: 5/10
This is the house I'm the most mixed on. It's an improvement over the ageing Circo Sinistro for sure, although I couldn't help but feel it was Circo Sinistro with a voodoo overlay and some new glow-in-the-dark paint. Similarities to its predecessor aside, this house has a few nice sets and takes advantage of its awesome, meandering layout in Festa Field. My biggest issue was with how it was performing. The actors weren't utilizing the outdoor portions of this maze at all, which is a real shame because there are tons of dark, quiet walkways with great hiding places where the tension could really build. Unfortunately, not only was this wasted potential, but once you realized that you weren't going to encounter any actors outside, it killed the momentum and the tension as you moved from one building to the next. Hopefully, they'll reconsider how the cast is allocated throughout the maze.

Lost Mines: 8/10
Big fan of this one. It really makes full use of every advantage the Pompeii building provides, and sells the setting with it -- from the claustrophic "cage" setting at the beginning, to the ramps that feel like you're descending down the mine shaft. There's also some good attempts at storytelling through details (like the cages with dead canaries) and some pretty impressive set pieces (like all the faux rock, especially the one rock wall with all the glowing gems). And the cast here seemed to not only be into their roles, but willing to really use the house to their advantage. (One miner at the very start of the house was literally shaking the entire walkway as he banged on the cage walls.)


SCARE ZONES
I'm calling them scare zones, not terror-tories, because as I said the other day, BGW's current path scares don't qualify as terror-tories under their original definition. Frankly, I'm not sure they even really qualify as scare zones either. The path scares at this year's HOS are, to put it bluntly, pathetic. Most of them hardly have any scenery at all, creating no sense of place and leaving the cast nothing to work with. Perhaps as a consequence, most casts seemed totally disinterested in doing anything to create an experience or be scary. BGW's path scares have been on the decline for years, but this year's is by far the worst I've ever seen it. Check out this video of Wendigo Woods to see how effectively BGW used to handle path scares even within recent memory.

Scary Tale Road: 4/10
I'll give some of the actors points for having fun with their roles - especially one who seemed committed to his German accent. But, I'm sorry. The set pieces here are tiny and far and few between, and don't do anything to sell the setting. Several actors were literally just having conversations with each other -- not in character; just random small talk as my group walked by. The one thing I love about this scare zone is the display of Snow White's corpse in the gazebo by the Wilkommenhaus. It's well designed and funny - a glimpse back to the charming and sly sense of humor that old-school HOS used to have.

Ripper Row: 5/10
This perennial favorite is a distant shadow of its former self, with essentially no sets or decorations to speak of. It's saved by a fairly large cast that seemed energetic and into their roles, and it still has its intriguing cast of characters (police, prostitutes, aliases of the Ripper). Too bad the poor actors have literally nothing to work with.

Gorgon Gardens: 0/10
Note to BGW: a few strings of burlap and a single set piece that sits out of the way on top of a fountain (and isn't even lit up at night) is not a terror-tory. Or a scare zone. It's hardly even a decorated area. No wonder it seemed like the small cast didn't care to do anything except stand around. Total and complete fail.

Meat Market: 2/10
Ugh. This one just feels so phoned in. There's a few displays with gory body parts, sure, but there's absolutely no attempt to create a tense environment or anything here. Not to mention that, despite actors being sparsely located throughout all of New France, the decorations only seem to span from the start of the bridge over Le Scoot to Acadia Traders. Worst of all, a few of the actors were literally standing at the edge of New France, dancing to the DJ music in Aquitaine (which is so loud that, even if Meat Market did attempt to create a spooky atmosphere, the DJ music would ruin it).

Fest-Evil: 1/10
Like Gorgon Gardens, this "scare zone" has literally nothing except a small display of an elephant in a tophat placed all the way up against Tempesto's photo booth. Even worse than Gorgon Gardens, the soundtrack here is a ridiculous playlist of upbeat Mardi Gras party songs and EDM remixes. I get that the theme is a street festival, but it's impossible to feel like there's any darkness or danger when the music sounds recycled from BGW's Mardi Gras event. (The previous carnival themed scare zone, by contrast, managed to play music that fit the festive theme but had dark, sinister undertones.) I'll give a point for the poor cast who seemed to sort of be trying despite having literally nothing to work with. I felt bad for them.


SHOWS
I only saw Phantoms of the Festhaus and Jack Is Back. Jack Is Back is the same show it always was, but it drew quite the crowd even on a fairly empty day. Props to BGW for at least sort of trying to come up with a crowd control method for the show, routing passers-through past the show via the Abbeystone lobby. And while I thought Phantoms of the Festhaus had a cheesy premise and dislike the overuse of modern pop songs, I thought the cast was absolutely phenomenal -- some of the singers, notably the Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa characters, were some of the best I've ever heard at a theme park. I'll admit that the show itself had me a little nostalgic for Night Beats, though.


OVERALL PARK ATMOSPHERE
Oh boy. This is just so sad. I remember the days when it used to feel like Halloween had descended on BGW -- the days when every inch of the park was decorated and filled with clever little details. And I remember the more recent days when, even though the park wasn't dressed up head to toe like it used to be, when night struck the park still felt like it came to life with a Halloween aura that spread through the park. Now, it basically feels like normal BGW with different music and the occasional HOS thing going on. I don't have much to say about this, because it's hard to have a lot to say about things that aren't there. But I can't understate how dramatic, sad, and impactful the lack of Halloween atmosphere is for HOS. I could deal with cheap mazes and lazy casts if HOS still made BGW come to life with that Halloween feeling. But I can only think of two words that totally capture how the park atmosphere felt this year: phoned in. Such a shame.


OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
I wish that whatever person or attitude that's driving the improved haunted house quality would be extended to the rest of the event. Sadly, beyond the house sets, for an event that for years has generally seemed to be in decline, HOS seems to have hit its lowest year yet. In the short term, I'd love to see more consistent performances from the casts. It's shocking to me that casts that were into their role like those of Ripper Row and Nevermore are even in the same park as the ones who barely tried like in Gorgon Gardens and KILLarney Diner. In the long term, if BGW doesn't reverse HOS's trajectory, I'll continue to weep for how amazing HOS used to be while doing what I'll probably do for the rest of this season: stick with Haunt.
 
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I don't think it can be overstated that the scarezones are just darker pathways with costumed actors walking around. I think Scarytale has the most props, and meat market has props on the bridge side of the hamlet.

I did every house on my visit last weekend and found them all enjoyable and thoroughly decorated.


Right now I would NOT recommend a visit to anyone who doesn't already have a membership.
 
Disabled people like haunted houses too. You wouldn’t ask someone to not bring their wheelchair or hearing aid in. Service dogs are trained to perform in lots of loud and/or chaotic environments without getting too distracted or stressed.
 
I'm ready to take the arrows for this.

I would tell someone to not take their wheelchair into a house if the house is not wheelchair accessible—safe for people in wheelchairs, safe for other guests not in wheelchairs, and safe for the actors and sets throughout the experience. I don't know what the exact legality is, but I don't want to live in a world where every haunted attraction must be wheelchair accessible and I'd argue that pretty much no house is (nor should be) service animal accessible.

I have argued for stroller bans and height minimums in houses for years for the same reason I would advocate a service animal ban and, depending on the house, a wheelchair ban as well. It can be very dangerous for someone or something below eye level in a house as other guests or actors can easily be unable to see them and hurt them accidentally. Similarly, it can be dangerous to the cast and other guests to have dogs, strollers, children, etc. traversing houses with low to no visibility, disruptive effects, varying walking surfaces, small spaces, etc.

Not every attraction can be accessible to every individual and I hope we don't fall into the trap of insisting that be the new standard.
 
As much as I want stuff like haunts to be accessible, and I applaud BGW for allowing them in, sometimes it’s up to the person to know they have a service animal and sometimes the animal can’t do what their human can, and if it’s the human that has episodes in environments like that they should be going in the first place and exposing their animal to high alert that long.
 
According to several TM's I spoke with today there were 5 large fights at HOS last night. Today JCCPD had their mobile command center set up in the France parking lot. I believe the intent is for it to be present every night thru 10/31 for HOS. The TM's I spoke with were noticeably nervous over what could happen for the remainder of HOS.
 
According to several TM's I spoke with today there were 5 large fights at HOS last night. Today JCCPD had their mobile command center set up in the France parking lot. I believe the intent is for it to be present every night thru 10/31 for HOS. The TM's I spoke with were noticeably nervous over what could happen for the remainder of HOS.
That command center was there yesterday too. And still had fights. It also doesn't help that most police officers working at the park don't know where anything is inside of the park and has to follow bgw security to find anything
 
KD, in my opinion, has has the more consistent event for many years. They almost always have great atmosphere across the park. They had a few bad years, but overall, their event has been more of a haunt than HOS, since at least BGW's introduction of huge dance parties.
I feel like this is because CF as a whole does a pretty good job of designing their haunt event at a corporate level and rolling out the same houses and zones for most parks. The more CF haunts you go to, the more you realize that you see the exact same things. This can be a good and a bad. Good because you have a general plan of what the story is and you can take elements that work at one park and directly roll them out to another. Bad because things can get stale and parks can’t change much on their own.
I’ve now worked both CF and BGW haunts and I can tell you that the way that the chains go about it is completely differently. SEAS as a whole let’s the park level teams have a TON of control whereas the CF parks don’t. CF used outside companies to design their concepts to appeal to a very broad audience. That doesn’t mean that CF parks don’t vary in quality. For instance, CP and has a lower quality haunt whereas KBF and WoF have the best ones in the company, but none of them are specifically bad events.
When I worked for CF, you basically had a general plan of what you could do and how you could do it. With BGW, you could do more of what you felt or follow the general directions from your leadership.
I feel like the SEAS haunt events will never feel as polished as a CF event due to almost all of them being developed, designed, and written in house rather than by a contractor that specializes in that sort of thing. More SEAS events may miss the mark or have bad years because of this.
 
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