1579 W River Road N, Elyria, OH 44035View All Details
Free Parking, Restrooms On-Site, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Indoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction
Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express reviewed this attraction on October 13, 2017.
Final Score: 8.52
Face it, at some point in your life, you’ve sat astride the Porcelain Throne and thought to yourself “This would make an excellent passenger seat.” Welcome to Hauntville, Elyria’s premier haunted attraction. Yes, they will make the aforementioned come true, as well as plenty of your other dreams and nightmares. Featuring five separate attractions: Butcher Barn, Cellblock 13, Psycho Manor, Wicked Clowns in 4-D, and The Unknown, Hauntville is jam-packed with all the haunted happenings that your little masochistic heart desires.
The performance quality of Hauntville’s acting ensemble was, admittedly, widely hit-or-miss. Cellblock had a few stand-outs: the initial guard was quite intimidating, and a dreadlocked inmate welcomed the opportunity to play a devious game of hide and seek with one of our team members. Beyond that, though, there was a good deal of weak acting, combined with several long stretches of cast-less, empty spaces. The collection of inmates did enjoy banging the hell out of anything in the scenery that they could get their hands on.
The Butcher Barn fared better – the “bloody pig guy” and (coincidentally, perhaps?) later piggy-loving chainsaw gal were both interesting and interactive.
Apart from a bedroom actor with a creepy laugh and a creepy masked girl in the doll hallway, the Manor’s crew wasn’t particularly enthralling. This attraction once again suffered from a definite lack of available cast members.
A really excited clown girl in Wicked Clowns borrowed a note from her Cellblock counterparts and gleefully pummeled her environment, before pausing to offer us popcorn and candy… and then rescinded. :( The Hidden Door Room Clown’s comical voice and demeanor made us wish we’d been less astute in discovering the escape hatch.
An appreciable number of actors offered extended interactions overall, which we enjoyed, and the median-quality performance amongst Clowns and the Barn was pretty impressive. A handful of additional actors in each of the other attractions really would benefit them, though, we think. The Unknown was fine without any significant human presence, though.
Most of the characters that we encountered were varying representations of human horrors – cannibalistic hillbillies, inmates, clowns, and the like, so there weren’t a significant number of elaborate costumes in use. This actually worked fine for the respective attractions though. That isn’t to say that there weren’t stand-out costumes, however. The doctor in the Butcher’s Barn had just a little something extra on his forehead to improve his hand-eye coordination and the gentleman who welcomed us in the Manor was adorned in an ensemble that shone equal parts noble and creepy.
A few actors, primarily in the Barn, were just a little too obviously wearing their normal clothes with a smattering of make-up. It didn’t have a real impact on the believability of the characters, but it was certainly noticeable.
Customer Service: 8.88
Being located on a main road, in a largely abandoned strip mall, it was particularly easy to find Hauntville, though, without realizing this ahead of time, we did double-take for a moment when we reached the concluding location as displayed by our GPS. “Is it BEHIND the plaza?” Granted, there’s a large sign in front of the attraction, but we just didn’t expect it to be in a former TJ Max. There was plenty of parking, though.
Fortunately, as soon as we entered we forgot about things like “strip malls” and let the environment sink in. Hauntville has a linear, multi-attraction design, so the entryway/hub area was fairly small. A souvenir shop, ticket booth, the entrance to Cellblock (and The Unknown), and the exit to Clowns was all that there was really room for.
There wasn’t a lot of queue line entertainment. Cellblock had the only really significant line, and an actor was working the crowd there (and working it well, mind you). Most of the ticket-takers were friendly (within their own disturbing veneers), and were pretty much all the entertainment that was really needed for the short waiting times between attractions. Unknown’s ticket gentleman, and the country gal controlling access to the Butcher Barn were especially good. The owner was also excellent to us – very helpful and informative. We didn’t interact with any other staff.
Well, it’s a strip mall; there’s no getting around it. Does that detract from the atmosphere of the attraction? Of course, absolutely. Let me immediately counter-balance that point with this, though – the queue line for the Manor was so intricately designed and creepy that we thought we were still in one of the attractions (the Barn, granted, which would have made the Gothic cemetery seem bizarrely out of place had it been so). It’s no exaggeration to admit that it had better set design than some attractions that we’ve experienced : all vines and tombstones; fog swirling around statues of stoic horrors, and an ambient soundtrack to match. We didn’t just shuffle our feet to be “forced” to remain in the transition between the Barn and Manor longer, we impersonated the migratory behavior of glaciers.
In that vain, each of the attractions did a great job of readjusting our expectations through the construction of its facade. The Cellblock’s entrance wasn’t quite as impressive, it’s true, but the other entryways really looked GREAT. The Barn was our second favorite and was every bit the creepy visage that we’d have hoped for.
This creates an interesting conundrum – the atmosphere leading to each individual attraction was excellent, yet the atmosphere leading into the whole complex was… underwhelming. If the exterior of the building had been half as impressive as the queue line for the Manor, we may be crowning a new Atmospheric champion. As it stands, we’re stuck in a Tale of Two Cities with Hauntville for this category : “It was the best of times, it was the worst of time…”
Special Effects: 8.69
Something that we really liked about Hauntville was their creative effect designs. Whether they were administering their own unique formula to long-standing haunt tropes or creating over-the-top originals, everything we saw was a little bit different from the standard haunt fare.
In the Barn, sure, we could’ve simply hoofed-it to the second segment of the walk through but at Hauntville, we boarded “The Box”, an eight-person outhouse, and were drug their by the…ahem, seat of our pants. Likewise, Wicked Clowns could have employed any of a number of traditional equilibrium-disrupting hydraulic devices and gadgets, but at Hauntville, they stretched the term “old school” to its chronological limits. They wanted to make us dizzy, so what did they do? They put us in a giant box and spun us around. No motors or gimmicks were employed; a human being stepped up, grabbed the bars, and just like a five-year old holding out his arms and spinning in the middle of his backyard, gave us a twirl. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was unexpected, creative, and it got the job done.
There were other interesting effects. The Unknown served as a short sensory-overload foray, with various wall and floor adornments meant to confuse the passerby, but a transparent birth canal with interior strobe effects was the most effective of the lot, as well as a large man-amatronic that got a hold of me.
Speaking of effects attacking me, an impressive warthog set its sights on my flesh in the Barn, but I was able to squirm away unharmed, though a shifting room in Wicked Clowns did its best to finish where Mr. Hog left off.
Set design varied drastically between attractions. Cellblock had a few interesting designs – like the bathroom/shower, but was fairly mundane overall. A giant room filled with billows of fog really piqued our interest, but ultimately proved to be mostly empty and completely uninteresting.
The Butcher’s Barn boasted the best single set piece : an exterior street and market (Sal’s meats) mock-up that looked fantastic, as well as a tool shed and foggy backyard segment that appeared quite authentic as well. True to its name, the entire walk through was draped in all conceivable manner of grotesque body parts – both animal and human.
Psycho Manor had a lot to live up to, considering the quality of its queue line, and it did maintain excellent set detail for the first few rooms, but became a bit more sparse as we got further into its dark hallways. The living room, library, crypt and kitchen (with disgusting long-abandoned meals still sitting out) were highlights, as well as a display of doll parts in one hallway spelling out “Help me.”
Wicked Clowns’ set design was a lot more subtle – though there was plenty to look at (paintings, murals, all types of bizarre writings and art design), its focus was more on creative ways of getting the 3-D effect to stand out, which it was very successful with. It did feature a great forest/swampy area at the end, though, as well as a room that required us to find a hidden door to escape, and one of our favorites : the aptly-titled (by us at least) “Limbo Hallway”.
Music was present throughout large chunks of each attraction. We appreciated the soundtrack to Psycho Manor the most, but the jangly banjo of the Barn was appropriate as well.
I’m not going to pretend that the individual themes employed by each attraction are particularly unique, but they are certainly varied, and each does maintain the broad theme that it purports to follow… with one exception. Wicked Clowns ends with a really interesting swampy/foresty scene, with giant snakes and what-not. As great as the effects in that section are, it does seem to be a bit of a stretch to decide how exactly that falls into the (fairly narrow) umbrella of “Wicked Clowns.” Besides that, though, we didn’t see anything glaringly out of place. Again, it would have been nice to have broken the “clowns…mansion…slaughter…dark maze” mold, but Hauntville’s particular take on each tired motif still added a bit of thematic color to the attractions.
Fright Effect: 8.42
Hauntville offers a little bit of something for everyone. The Unknown’s (mostly) sightless, sensory overload is the best route for folks afraid of…well, the unknown. When you can’t even trust the wall to be benevolent to your cause, you’re in a for a nervy few minutes. There could have been a broader range of types of frights employed (so much bubble wrap), but there was just enough to keep us guessing where the next startle would emanate from.
As we were warned prior to entering the Cellblock, though the actors would remain hands-off, the props were another matter. The man-amatronics in Hauntville were especially handsy (or toothy), which made them creepier than if they had simply snarled amongst our periphery, and that foreboding warning did make us apprehensive about other approaching props as well, which yielded an extra bit of prolonged tension.
Several of the interactive cast members were proficient at being creepy, but not many pushed through into truly “scary” rankings. Flimsy as we may have scored it in other categories, Cellblock probably had the best startles overall, which was largely aided by the shout+bang mechanic that many of them used.
This isn’t to say that the other attractions weren’t entertaining – they certainly were; they just weren’t developed to be especially frightening. Overall, the sets (including props and animatronics) themselves were probably the creepiest facet of Hauntville.
To visit the four main attractions, a ticket costs $20; The Unknown is a 4 dollar add-on. We spent 25 minutes in the former, and 3 minutes in the latter, so the full ticket’s minutes of entertainment per dollar spent is 1.17.
Despite some lackluster stretches, we really enjoyed our time at Hauntville. Each attraction seemed to have one aspect of it that really made it stand out from the others, though we probably enjoyed Wicked Clowns the most. Many of the unique, homemade effects really impressed us.
If you can forgive the unimpressive location (and you should), we can truthfully recommend a visit to Hauntville this season. The Cleveland area definitely has a paucity of quality attractions, but Hauntville is doing a great job of turning that around. Just make sure you fake a twisted ankle after you exit the Barn and spend as much time as you can in the Manor’s queue line. It’s well worth the price of admission alone.
We look forward to seeing Hauntville grow and improve in the coming seasons. There’s a lot of empty plaza surrounding them, should they feel so bold. ;)