Be Afraid, BE VERY AFRAID!
For many years I have enjoyed visiting theme parks in the fall. I love the cool temperatures, early sunset, and the ambiance of the leaves changing color. There is one aspect of the fall season I have never experienced, the haunt mazes that have become very popular at parks in all regions. The fall haunt season has become a more popular time to visit than the summer at many parks. I feel many people think of July/August as peak season, but the popularity of these haunt events has shifted the attendance to October. So for many years I have gone in and enjoyed the decorations, but stuck with only the roller coasters. So this year I decided to enter the haunt mazes and scare zones to see what I have been missing that draws so many people to the park.
I am not a horror movie fan, so suspense and gore do not usually find their way into my entertainment. I made travel plans, packed an extra set of underwear (just in case), and met up with a few haunt veterans for my first experience. I decided to let them choose my fate so our hauntoverse host Andy and his friend Dason met me down at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. We did not visit all of the mazes, and I didn’t get to see the haunt themed shows, but I think I got a good idea of what was offered. The event did start before sunset so we chose to try an indoor haunt first. At first I was just sort of wandering around looking about , and I kept expecting to be surprised by a trap door opening. However most of the staff were hiding in plain sight like statues, and then they would spring to life. The first actor who caught me off guard was holding a large ax, and he swung it at my head. It came so close, as a reflex I grabbed it. The actor froze, and I started to laugh and put up my hand to high five him. He grabbed my hand, and we stood there for an awkward moment. Then I moved on. As soon as I rounded the corner Dason whispered to me don’t touch them or we are going to get ejected. Oops.
We moved onto the next zone called Buzzsaw. It was outside, but it wasn’t really dark yet. It really would have benefited from being in the dark. This one looked so cheesy without the cover of darkness that everything looked very fake and the actors effort was very lack luster because they knew they were not going to take anyone by surprise. Some of the other haunt mazes were staffed better than others. Some of the actors hid behind different transition areas and door frames, jumping out after you passed by. I started to get the idea of what to expect. I would easily find the hiding spots. I knew where people should be but they must have been on break. The two haunts inside of The Curse of Darkastle were the ones that I thought were the most well done. The scenery was more detailed, the actors were more into their roles, and they had the added benefit of a large dark building.
I think the park did a great job with adding the haunt ambiance to the midways and large public areas, the costumes of the actors wandering around and interacting with the guests were the best outside of the haunt mazes ironically. They even had a guy on a bungee cord at the entrance to Canada scaring people, and he got the best reactions I saw all night. While I was not disappointed with the haunts I wasn’t impressed either. I feel the potential for a fun unique experience was there, but the execution was just not enough for me. I am glad I tried it out and I would consider going somewhere else next fall to compare experiences, but it does not give the same thrill and excitement I get from the roller coasters. I don’t feel like I have been missing out, but maybe I do need to be more open to try new attractions and not sprint from coaster to coaster and call it a day.