Haunted School House has Presence, lacks Punch

There’s a certain magic present on long distance, overnight haunt trips that’s hard to describe. Maybe it’s the effect of being so far from home or the unbridled excitement of visiting haunted attractions you’ve only read about on the Internet. I know, for me much of it has to do with the adventure inherent to the open road. After checking into our hotel room a Super 8 in Richfield, we passed some time by telling old stories. I came across a horror movie on the Syfy channel called Stake Land, a post apocalyptic tale in which zombie-like vampires have pushed civilization to the brink of collapse. I found it surprisingly well done, driven by a raw melancholy and steady pace. We ordered subs from a local pizzeria called East of Chicago, the subs were delicious and a right steal at $6.25 — after all, what’s a night of haunting without some hardy vittles?

After a relaxing spell the haunting hour was upon us and we hit the road for the Haunted School House and Laboratory in Akron, and when we arrived it was amid a flurry of activity. The long line to buy tickets moved fairly quickly, we were soon ascending a series of staircases to the top floor. The stairwells were actually quite a neat feature of the building if not the attraction itself. The walls were covered in years of graffeti — here a name and date, there a lone curse word. The real pieces of interest however included those scrawls that evoked the spirit of the season — some patrons had left foreboding or cryptic poetry, others supplied artwork featuring common Halloween themes such as skulls and pumpkins. Years of haunters had left an echo from the past on the wall and I found myself yearning for a sharpie so that I too could add a memory to the wonderful mural. The spell of the walls was broken only when it was time to hand over our tickets and enter the darkness within the Haunted School House.

I had suspected from the quick pace of the ticket line that this would be an attraction that found many guests herded through at once, and while this isn’t our preferred method of haunting it is understandable for places such as this that draw very large crowds. Understand, groups do enter the attraction separately but the relatively short intervals by which parties are spaced and   the sheer volume of people attending the event, make it impossible to experience this type of haunted house with your party alone. We’ve witnessed this style before at other large venues such as Erebus and the Haunted Hoochie and it certainly has its drawbacks, but those simply force operators to compensate in other areas.

The Haunted School House featured many well detailed scenes, some environments were truly immersive and on occasion put me in mind of the Realm of Darkness in Pontiac. In one early room we witnessed a unique prop in the form of an ugly ogre that was perhaps 15-feet tall. In another scene, this one a vampire’s liar, a winged mutant stood atop what appeared to be the entrance to a cavern. One delightful room actually rocked us to and fro as the entire structure shifted beneath our feet! Another neat gag involved a scarecrow who had meet an unfortunate end, yet his detached arm was making an effort to find the rest of itself.

The Haunted School House also made use of water in several scenes which is always something I enjoy in a haunted attraction. Undoubtedly the coolest animatronic in the entire attraction was a water dwelling worm that broke the placid surface of a pool in search of food. Water was used again near the end of the attraction when we found ourselves traversing what felt to be an underground chamber, in fact the scene reminded me greatly of the set used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A large skull appeared to have been carved from the very stone the wall was made of and from his gaping maw poured a stream of water. In one area there appeared to be a long tunnel similar to a sewer in a major city but the path did not lead that way. Whether the structure was genuine or simply a neat illusion I do not know, but I would have liked to explore it just the same.

The Haunted School House connected most of these beautifully detailed sets with the winding, dark hallways common to haunted attractions only here the halls were often sparkling with green laser beams. There was also a robust amount of ghouls that populated the Haunted School House but most of them were in masks which detracted from the realism. I would estimate that the majority of the cast gave a fine effort but their was little in the way of extended interaction, improvisation, or creative vocalizations. The cast did deliver a few good startles but that was about it where scare factor was concerned.

I liked the Haunted School House, the scenes were superbly detailed and the length was fair but I was hoping the name of the attraction wasn’t merely a name. I can think of only one instance in which the theme that the name suggests was put into effect, that occurred in an old fashioned bathroom where a skeleton perched upon a porcelain hurled tailor made insults at passing haunters. This scene was more in line with what I expected and had hoped to see. Any time a haunted attraction is able to secure a unique building like a former school or funeral home, I feel that it’s important to play upon the history and atmosphere as much as possible. With that said, the Haunted School House is obviously doing something right — you don’t run for 39 consecutive years on luck.

Rating: 3.25 stars

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: