Review of ScareHouse Haunted Attraction

Review of ScareHouse Haunted Attraction

Review of ScareHouse Haunted Attraction


ScareHouse is a Haunted Attraction located in Etna, PA.

118 Locust Street, Etna, PA 15223
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Haunt Type(s):

Multiple Haunts1HauntedHouse


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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Indoor/Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction, Family Friendly

Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express reviewed this attraction on September 30, 2016.

Final Score: 9.39


Scarehouse has truly hit their stride this year; featuring two new attractions, “Infernal” and “Nocturnia” and an improved “Summoning” experience, the masters of Pittsburgh haunted horror have returned with an experience guaranteed to terrify even the bravest Yinzer. Head out to Etna, PA for their newest nightmare creation.

Cast: 9.81

One actor in Infernal had a really poor delivery, awkwardly complaining about his face.

There, I did it. I gave a requisite negative comment. That’s all I have.

Wow, such a great cast this year – Scarehouse is definitely notable for offering a lot of prolonged actor-customer interactions. These actors all did very well, though we especially enjoyed a body part merchant, a couple of REALLY creepy clowns, a she-cat, a man selling potions, and a woman playing dress-up. All of these actors interacted with us (including through the dialogue curve balls we tend to throw at haunt actors) impressively, never breaking character or faltering. Our encounters with them were appropriately amusing, entertaining or chilling.

It’s funny; at most attractions, it is a definite faux paus for an actor to simply stare at you as you pass by – the epitome of actor laziness. But, ironically, several of the absolute creepiest moments of our trek through Scarehouse were generated by actors… staring at us as we passed by. The degree of menace generated by a certain clown and several of the actors throughout Infernal was wonderful and likely would have been impossible if they’d attempted to boo us. The monstrous staff was never in short supply; the only “dead spaces” we encountered were during intended sections (dark passages). Excluding the singular experience that began this category, it is difficult to remember a single poor performance. There was a definite amount of variation between actors, of course, but none fell flat.

Of special note, a very young (I’m farily certain it wasn’t a small adult) actress did a fantastic job and has an extremely promising career ahead of her. We found her lurking and snarling through the halls of Infernal.

Costuming: 9.98

Still the king. If there is one aspect of haunted attractions that tends to be overlooked during construction and preparation, it is costuming. Too often even large-scale haunts fall back on store-bought masks and casual blood splatters when outfitting their denizens. The Scarehouse, it is my pleasure to admit, defies this tradition admirably. From the line haunters through the very last monstrosity barring the exit, the costume designers at Scarehouse never relent or waver. The costume work there is the definition of professional. From clown to demon, butcher to satyr, every character was suitably and impressively adorned. In addition to the latter, a uniquely-represented, 8-foot tall, woodland creature, the other stand-out costume for us occurred in Nocturnia; a chance encounter with an illuminated bird-person that had our party cooing in delight. Occasionally, a haunt will inspire a grind-our-heels-into-the-ground-to-stop-for-a-better-look moment, but Scarehouse generated this rare occurrence twice with their skillful costuming. Beyond these two stand-outs, understand, there is a plethora of eye candy to enjoy and I’d prefer to not give away any further wonderments, as each terrifying creation deserves to be properly enjoyed and admired in person. Great work, all around – they really did manage to nudge the bar they’d previously established last year – no simple feat.

Customer Service: 8.97

Parking for Scarehouse is at the Pittsburgh Zoo this year and, again, I have mixed feelings about it. For the uninitiated, customers park at the Pittsburgh Zoo and are then bussed down to the attraction; the process repeats in the reverse order when you are finished. Lines can grow frustratingly long both before and after this bus drive… so, on busy nights, expect to devote a substantial portion of your evening to this haunted endeavor (or purchase fast passes!). I assume that Scarehouse contracts a bus company to perform their transportation duties, but YEESH, we had a really unpleasant bus driver.

Those minor grumblings aside, customer service at Scarehouse is quite good. The Zoo lot is well-lit and hard to miss and there are plenty of friendly employees around to steer you in the right direction. With the one unfortunate exception, every Scarehouse staff member we interacted with was professional and helpful, particularly the gate-keeper gal, Sophie, who chatted with us and admitted us into the attraction.

As for line scarers, there aren’t many haunted attractions with a better lot than Scarehouse. Beyond the omnipresent Bunny (an always-wonderful, iconic mainstay), we really enjoyed the performance of Bunny’s other half: an out-going, pole-dancing princess who was clearly giving the Fluffy One a run at becoming the crowd favorite. If we see t-shirts emerge next season with that be-stubbled visage prominently featured, we’ll know there’s a new king… er… princess.

Atmosphere: 8.65

The interior portion of the waiting lobby is quite unique… embracing it’s old theater moniker perfectly. Entering this area, we were greeted by the haunting melodies of an accordionist. This somber, old-time throwback has been at the attraction for years and serves as an effective centerpiece for the theater’s ambience. As obtrusive as a wait in line in the middle of a city block can be toward lubricating the fear glands of anxious patrons, Scarehouse did an effective job of immediately establishing a creepy psychological foothold the moment you enter it’s facade. By the time we entered the attraction, we were fully under it’s spell.

Special Effects: 9.74

Scarehouse did a really good job of diversifying each scene’s environment. In the immediate aftermath of our walk-through, we felt overwhelmed; remembering each specific scene was surprisingly difficult because there was just so much to process. The Summoning still features the biggest set pieces, including a new scene that bore a strong resemblance to a scene from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (intentionally or not). The main theater segment and the arrival of The Great One were still highlights, but each felt a little looser this year… less spectacular.

Last year, The Summoning was the far-and-away best of the three, but the two new attractions this year were actually quite well done and gave The Summoning a run for it’s money. The minimalistic surrealism of Nocturnia was definitely an extension of “Trick ‘r Treat” from last season, but was more eclectic and much creepier. Infernal felt like something of a mish-mash, including elements of the retired “Krampus” with a new storyline and settings that was pretty effective as a frightening collection of demonic tropes.

Overall, both sound and light were implemented very effectively. Probably the most unnerving segment of the haunt, for me, involved a curtain-maze segment. Traditionally, similar effects aren’t particularly unsettling, but a subtle, bizarre soundtrack was impressively jarring, grating against the subconscious to profound effect. Another segment that involves, let’s say, a chicken-little moment, was similarly heightened by the accompanying aural chaos. There were also several prolonged dark sections that worked very well. Though simple, their placement, for whatever reason, made them especially effective.

With spinning tunnels, light shows, massive animatronics, and a really cool mirror maze, Scarehouse was certainly not lacking in a varied special effect display. We did feel that several areas were hampered by a bit too much fog. There is a LOT to see in each room and, unfortunately, we felt somewhat blinded a few times.

Theme: 8.75

Retraining the tri-sected nature of the attraction, Scarehouse, once again, features three themed segments. The Summoning is a slow-churning, inescapable pull toward a great evil, circa 1920. Nocturnia is an existential journey through a bizarre landscape. Infernal… honestly, we weren’t entirely certain what Infernal was. It felt like a hybrid of voodoo, zombies, and last year’s Krampus attraction. Though it did have a great deal of interesting elements, I admit that we didn’t really understand how it all fit together. The Summoning is still a unique experience, with a single member of your party singled out and given special “privileges,” and Nocturnia was a great ride, but we really would have liked to have a little more coherence with Infernal.

Fright Effect: 9.65

When you name your attraction “Scarehouse”, whether you realize it or not, you’re throwing down the haunted gauntlet big-time. Fortunately for all we loyal customers, Scarehouse delivers a knockout blow again this year. One can simply not overstate the quality of unease perpetuated by the Scarehouse. Predictability ruins the impact of so many haunted attractions – it’s not only the moments when an impending scare is frustratingly obvious, but also the effect of “fright hypnosis” – the sensation of numbness that begins to dull our haunt experiences as we pass from generic scare to generic scare to the point that we barely take note of actors scowling at us. That expected ebb and flow of scare-attempts gets boring and loses all effectiveness.

Fortunately, at the Scarehouse, you are never allowed to slip into familiarity… never provided the opportunity to sleepwalk through scares. Everything is your enemy. Each set is awash with props – dolls, stuffed animals, apparently-animated figurines; but, the trick is, some of them are alive. At lesser attractions, it’s usually quite easy to point your finger and say “you’re an actor.” Not so, here. Instead, you find yourself cautiously proceeding through each room, down every hallway, staring nervously at your surroundings, preparing yourself for a “bite” from every possible sharpened tooth. This uncertainty maintains a sense of constant fearfulness and is unshakable; worst of all, the monsters-in-sheep’s-clothing aren’t even courteous enough to perform their assaults during expected periods. You may assess a threat, deem it safe, and move on before, suddenly, it’s chasing you, screaming, from the room.

Scarehouse is great at hitting different segments of your group at different times, with their boo-scares being particularly well-placed and successful. Early on, a member of your group is chosen to be a sacrifice. While you don’t initially understand the consequence of this, it does play out significantly several times over… providing a unique opportunity for sustained (and justifiable) dread for that individual.

In the end, the best four words to summarize the Scarehouse’s Fright Effect: Be ready for anything.

Value: 9.54

It took us about 40 minutes to tip-toe our way through Scarehouse this year. Pricing is a bit complicated. 28 dollars seems to be the maximum “at the door” price (excluding vip), though customers can save a SUBSTANTIAL amount by visiting on Sundays, ordering online, or coming early – or a combination of the three, with tickets ordered online for 7 and 7:30 timeslots dipping down to 18 dollars. See their website for a better explanation of the different pricing options.

Most big-budget, professional attractions don’t change a whole lot from year-to-year. That’s just the way it is. It is frustrating but understandable to a degree. For years, Scarehouse has defied this standard and once again have completely remade 2/3 of their attraction. Not only has this made this year’s experience still feel fresh and exciting, it also has made it even better than last year’s, as the latter two attractions feel like scarier spiritual successors to Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus from 2015. We really hope that Scarehouse maintains this trend going forward as it is MUCH appreciated.

We had a great time with this season’s iteration and highly recommend a visit to anyone looking for a great haunted experience this haunted season. Scarehouse remains one of the Pittsburgh area’s top attractions and appears stubbornly unwilling to shirk that title anytime soon.

Promo Images:

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 0 out of 10

Sarah – 10/10
Challenge Accepted was awesome! Me and my boyfriend were looking for escape rooms in our area, and …show more as poor college students, price was a big factor. Despite being only two small locations in the mall, they have multiple rooms, at 20, 40, and 60 minutes long, with the 20-minute rooms being only $10 each! We’ve been back multiple times, and loved every one! Staff is very helpful and enthusiastic about their job, and is thrilled to explain all the little secrets after you escape. Will be back every time they make a new room!

Norma – 4/10
We visited this attraction on the last night of their 2018 season I believe. We did show up late …show more (about 20 minutes before they closed) and it was dead in the waiting line. Regardless, every group that was in the haunt somehow ended catching up to one another. We walked as slow as we could knowing there wasn’t anyone behind us but we still couldn’t stay away from the group in front of us. They had one teenage female that was petrified of everything so all the monsters kept taking advantage of it, cornering her every chance they got. They also followed her through multiple scenes that weren’t theirs while our group tried to stay behind some and there were no entertainers around because they were all following her. When they would stop and turn around to go back to their base spots (if they even have them there), some of them just walked passed us without any effort towards scaring us. It was a disaster. This chic’s name was Lauren and by the time we got to the exit of this thing, we were relieved that we didn’t have to hear her name called out over and over and over anymore. She had to of been extremely annoyed by it herself. It took all of the fun out of it. Actors even stopped us in some of the maze portions so the other monsters could entertain their group for quite some time and they would just be staring off into outer space. The only way we knew they could talk is because they said Lauren’s name already. Besides that, costuming was mostly store-bought quality. Nothing different to look at here. Scenes were the same. Some looked as if they had been built out there in the woods for years and they’ve sat through the seasons and no one’s ever gone back to touch them up. Parts of the maze where there’s a lot of plastic and wood seem to possibly be a danger. We didn’t see any actors for quite some time in them bc they were following Lauren and if someone ignited one of these things, I’m afraid it would have taken us a long time to find the exit. Some spaces were very tight for us, if those were to fill with smoke where there are roofs, I don’t think that would be good at all. At one point, we didn’t know where to go at all so we weaved through these pipe-like things and found a hole and we started walking on this really dark path into the woods. There were props and things out there but 0 lights. Come to find out, it looked like a previously closed portion of the trail because when we got to the end of it, there was no way to get back into the maze. We had to crawl under caution tape to get back in. That right there tells you that no actors were paying any attention to our group. We paid full price for our tickets that night and we honestly should have just passed this place up. We’ve been here before too and it wasn’t that bad. The highlights of the trip were the gentleman that introduced us to the park and gave us the rules before we went in. There was also one clown (Pickles, maybe
?) that actually put effort into scaring us but he was mostly one of the only ones. In one of the mazes there was a chainsaw assailant behind a door and we could hear the saw and see him through the crack of the door but we couldn’t get in. When that door finally opened, holy shit! That was the best scare in there for sure! Also, there are places where you will need to duck down, tight corridors as mentioned above, uneven terrain, and a lot of walking (especially if you’re bad at mazes) so be prepared for that.

Norma – 6/10
Maybe we just went on a bad night but we weren’t very impressed with this haunt. We had heard many …show more good things about it and we ended up with a free Saturday night so we gave it a shot. We showed up at probably 9:30 at night. Waited in line maybe 15-20 minutes so that wasn’t bad. We really didn’t have problems with spacing inside the haunt except for a few times but we were able to slow down and it helped when there wasn’t anyone behind us. I will say, there were a lot of unique things in the haunt portion. One interactive set was very different and unnerving. Some of the characters were really into their roles while others were bland. One was sitting on top of a washing machine and he jumped down and we were thinking, “Oh shit” but he didn’t do anything, he just jumped at us a little and said, “What?” In the outdoor portion of the haunt it was a bit too dark to see the characters, especially the Creeper. Our favorite part was the alligator! They know how to utilize this now, commonly-seen prop to the fullest for sure! If you are likely to pee your pants, you just might lose it on that one! I would give the house itself a 7 out of 10. Now we were under the impression that the corn field was haunted too. Although it was a good maze, there were three scareactors in it and they were terrible. No lights, sounds, sets, nothing but mud and corn and the dark. At first it was creepy but after we walked and walked and nothing happened, we were aggravated and ready to find our cars. The last actor that we came across could have hidden well since they were in all black but they didn’t, they stood in the middle of the trail acting like they couldn’t see, whispering to us as we walked asking us if we were customers. Wow. Don’t upgrade to the corn if you’re expecting a fright in there, it won’t happen.

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2018 Awards

"Lions, tigers, and bears; OH MY!" - Best Costumes (Non-Humanish) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"Shoot 'em in the head!" - Best Zombies (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"Do you hear what I hear?" - Most Effective Sounds - Infernal (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"I want to dress you up in my love" - Most Original/Entertaining Costume - TIE Dark View (Fluffy) and Scarehouse (Bunny [Clown Version]) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"I want my mommy!'' - Scariest Overall (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

2017 Awards

Scariest Haunt in Pennsylvania (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)