Greater Philadelphia Haunted Houses Tested In-depth

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 By Michael Maerten, The Jeff Silva Team

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 6 years I’ve been going to area Haunted Attractions, the last 5 with a group of friends who also enjoy the night out. We make the event a good 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, Shocktoberfest near Reading PA, Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Jason’s Woods in Millersville just outside of Lancaster, and in 2012 it was Pennhurst Asylum in Spring City PA. For the Bates Motel we coupled the night with Duffers Pub, for Shocktoberfest we stop at Sly Fox Brewery in Royersford, 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 my “expert” opinion, backed by friends who I believe concur:

2008- The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride- visited in 2008: 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 and I’ve heard that they’ve made it even better since we’ve been there. 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.

2009- Shocktoberfest- visited in 2009: this one took us all by surprise. What it lacked in high end builds, a true overall scary atmosphere and kind of weird state fair 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 attraction (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. This one is probably the least marketed of all the venues we have visited and again was a pleasant surprise. 2010- Eastern State Penitentiary- visited in

2010: the most crowded and #1 overall atmosphere. I’ve been to this one twice now, once in 2007 without the crew and most recently with the crew in 2010. They definitely improved the site since my first visit. 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.

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 4th place 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.

Cheers and keep up the good work! Have you visited any of these attractions? What do you think??