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This attraction was reviewed on September 22, 2019 by Team Cleaverland.

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Final Score: 6.75

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First, about the name: Hinckley Township is noted throughout Ohio as ‘that place with the buzzards.’ Each year on March 15, more or less like clockwork, a wake of buzzards’technically, they’re turkey vultures’comes back from wintering in warmer climates to Hinckley Reservation. It’s sort of a buckeye state version of the swallows returning to Capistrano. A well-attended Buzzard Day at the reservation celebrates the scavengers’ arrival as a harbinger of spring.

However, the homely carrion-eaters also make great poster children for the autumn months! When the pumpkins come out, the Buzzard Cove miniature golf course and driving range adds a haunt to the mix and a ‘Screampark’ to the name. Located in semi-rural and haunt-rich Medina County, Hinckley has a history of haunting: the haunted barn made a return last year after terrorizing the area in the ’90s, and readers of a certain age may remember the old Hinckley Haunted Hollow from decades earlier than that.

The attraction is open for its second year. They added some major new components this year with the Scarecrow Alley trail and a hayride that connects the trail to the first year’s Hinckley’s Haunted Barn structure. We visited on Sunday of its opening weekend.

A note on the hayride portion of the attraction: It was a quick trip through the greens of the driving range, from the end of the trail back to the entrance for the ticket area and barn. It passed a couple of junked cars and a semi-set featuring a large animal skeleton. One actor jumped on the back for a brief moment near the end, but other than that, it was a quiet ride.

It seems like the hayride is being promoted as part of the trail, but we can’t consider it a real section of the attraction and, as such, did not score it. Those looking for an attraction-style hayride with scenes, actors, and scares are advised to look elsewhere. Unless it’s enhanced further into the season, it’s better to think of it as just a way to get from here to there via seasonally-appropriate transportation.

Cast: 8.34

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Here’s where Buzzard Cove Screampark shines. The cast is energetic, in character, by turns sinister and playful, and game for trying some different things. We counted almost 20 actors, a couple more in the barn than on the trail. The barn was well populated, while the longer trail could have used more cast members to break up occasional dead zones. This visit was on a Sunday night early in the season, so that could have been a factor.

For sheer physicality, the actor that started out crawling like a dog and then flipped to the upside-down crab walk with freaky flexibility and speed deserves recognition and probably some Icy-Hot lotion. The one that cannonballed through the opening hallways at top speed excelled at acceleration.

Many of the actors were great at verbal interactions and ad libbing. The redneck lady on the trail said of the werewolf on her property, ‘That’s my dog, he’s got rabies!’ The intro actor for the trail told us the woods might ‘make you cry or soil yourself,’ while the gravedigger had some helpful suggestions for picking out our plots. The actor in what we called the ‘face room’ serenely told us she’d like to take our faces to post on the wall, with a smile halfway between friendly and creepy that was quite unsettling.

A shout-out, pun intended, is due to the actor who followed us to the edge of the steps. Asked if she was planning on pushing us down, she responded with a coy smile. After we got down the stairs, she unleashed an intense, ear-splitting scream the likes of which we’ve seldom heard. She had some pipes!

Interaction and verbal dexterity with more than the usual haunt dialog was the rule. The exception to vocal actors was a silent scarecrow on the trail, an intimidating presence who projected menace with slow stalking and an intense death stare.

Trail: 8.12
Barn: 8.56

Costuming: 7.3

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Costumes were appropriate for the characters and locations. Nothing too spectacular, but also nothing distracting or out of place. Overalls and country wear for the hillbillies, long black robes for cultists. The best outfit was worn by the scarecrow on the trail. The makeup looked good and mostly covered the range from moist to scabby, with some ghostly white mixed in.

Trail: 7.26
Barn: 7.34

Customer Service: 7.64

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Buzzard Cove is located a few minutes off major highways, right next to the reservation, about a 30 to 45 minute drive from most parts of Cleveland and Akron/Canton. GPS took us directly there. It was most noticeable due to the large barn and the bright, colorful lighting of the putt-putt course.

Some road signage next to the parking lot was visible. A large sign on the side of the barn was not really readable due to poor or no lighting on it.

Free (limited) parking is available in the main parking lot. We read that overflow parking is handled at the reservation, which is just next door. We did not see the additional parking area and are not sure of its exact conditions, or the distance or route to be taken. Provided information states that signage and staff will point the way (again, this was Sunday of the opening weekend, so there was room for us in the main lot, and no need for anyone directing traffic).

Other than some faint screams that were audible from the parking lot and ticket area, it was mostly a quiet entry.

The box office and line attendant folks were quite friendly. Rules were not recited to us. There was a bit of miscommunication with the first line keeper, who took our tickets from us; we later found out we should have been handed them back, and thus we lost our souvenirs of the evening (we’ll repeat: opening weekend).

There did not appear to be any merchandise for sale. Foodstuffs include ice cream, burgers, wings, and appetizers like nachos and mozzarella sticks.

The trail contained some bumps and uneven terrain, which is to be expected. It’s not too bad, but as with most any trail, you’ll need footwear sturdier than flip-flops. Stairs must be climbed to reach the barn as well as to enter and exit the hay wagon. Another set of stairs needs to be negotiated inside the barn, going down; they can be worked around with some effort.

The attraction maintains a website with needed visitor info, as well as an active Facebook page featuring frequent postings and a quick response to Messenger questions.

Trail: 7.3
Barn: 7.98

Atmosphere: 4.92

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The outside is very obviously the location of a mini-golf course. Seasonal accoutrements in the parking lot and on the way in were corn stalks, hay bales, and pumpkins. We first went through the brightly-lit, pastel, cheerful ice cream parlor and snack bar, which did not give much of the Halloween feeling. Out through the other side is the box office.

The ticketing entryway seems a bit cramped and is right next to the entrance for the barn. People coming off the wagon from the trail go back through the entryway to get to the barn entrance, so we’re concerned how a busy night would look with crowd and traffic control. Some transitional seams between attractions are usually necessary, but having to go past the ticketing area again on the way to the barn is a jarring transition that breaks down the experience and mood.

Speaking of the barn, the outside is a little too nice looking. It could use some distressing, cobwebs, and so forth to present a more frightening facade.

From the ticket kiosk, visitors first go to the trail, which is reached by walking along a short path through the driving range tees. The walk is decorated on the range side with skeletons, bats, hay, and other Halloween d������cor. On the other side is the quite bright mini-golf course, which takes away from the feeling of isolation and danger, but by the time the trail is reached, the lights have mostly diminished. The trail begins at an excellent prop, discussed in the next section on Special Effects.

Trail: 6.2
Barn: 3.64

Special Effects: 6.45

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In general, this is more of an actor-driven old-school kind of haunt, but some great giant props and unusual animatronics made for some neat spots of terror tech.

For example, the trailhead starts with an excellent, very tall fanged face fence (see photo) made out of logs and bathed in red illumination, an effectively eerie mood-setter. Early on, a growling werewolf animatronic appeared. Other notable animatronics were a rattling coffin in the cemetery and a giant bat. Unfortunately, a couple of the animatronics were mis-timed and sprung after we passed, despite its not being very crowded.

The major technical snafu of the evening was the audio system for the trail. It kept cutting out and coming back on, creating a noticeable distraction. The audio in the barn fared much better.

The park is a fan of strobe lighting …maybe a little too much. A pumpkinhead figure at the start of the barn looked like it might be impressive (and it actually does in their online photo gallery), but could not be made out past its silhouette because of poor lighting.

Some old favorites like fog machines rounded out the effects. Considering their prevalence in the industry, the lack of inflatable tunnels and laser swamps was almost a benefit!

Trail: 5.48
Barn: 7.42

Theme: N/A

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There is no obvious theme, except perhaps for a stretch of killbilly kitsch at the start of the trail and a sporadic sense of cultishness (dark robes, pentagrams, etc.) in places on the trail and throughout the barn.

Regarding theming to the location and haunt name, bonus points for what was either a stuffed or toy buzzard stationed on a shelf in one of the barn rooms!

Scare Factor: 7.51

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Quick startles and jump scares were the main fright tactic. Several were delivered on the trail, where actors made good use of the outside environment. More came in the barn, with the cast encroaching on the limited space of the tight rooms and hallways.

Several actors proved their mastery of keeping inhumanly still until the last possible second, in particular with a ‘pick which figure is real’ scenario featuring robed cult members that put a good jolt into the proceedings (of course we chose wrong!).

Besides the jump scares, certain areas of the barn fueled a feeling of creeping dread from a combination of the framed artwork (more on this in a moment), set design, and acting. This picked up on vibes first encountered in the cultists’ church set, one of the more effective scenes on the trail.

The soundtrack in the barn also inspired some hair-raising moments, especially toward the end when unnerving whispers could be heard in the face room.

Special mention must be made, and credit given to the person who selected the artworks on the walls throughout the early rooms of the barn. The gallery started out with William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon, which should be familiar to readers of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter tale Red Dragon and viewers of its film adaptations. The following pieces resembled woodcuts and medieval illustrations like those in works of demonology and witchcraft. They were either prints from originals or credible imitations; either way, they added appreciably to the experience.

On the trail, one of the biggest shockers was a plus-size version of a fairly standard prop gag that delivered a similarly outsized reaction from the gotcha’d group that walked right into its path in front of us.

Trail: 7.29
Barn: 7.73

Entertainment & Value: 4.72

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The trail was a 15-minute walk, a nice length (especially for a newly added attraction), and that included some time wandering around the maze. The barn took eight minutes. The hayride lasted 5 minutes, but per our opening notes from the Summary section on that, we did not score the hayride, so we’re also not adding the time spent on it to the attraction’s total. The total time for the trail and barn together was 23 minutes.

Additional amusements include the two full (18 holes) mini-golf courses and the video arcade, all of which are paid for separately.

Admission is $23; VIP/fast pass options do not appear to be available. It is probably a bit overpriced in comparison to the other, more established haunts in the area, but we did find a $3 discount coupon on their Facebook page.

There is also a special promotion where each ticket receives a $10 gift card toward use at an event in late October; other promotions may be offered, so if you’re thinking of going, keep a lookout on their social media. The event will offer trick-or-treating, go-karts, laser tag, mini bowling and more.

This team’s leader is a mini-golf aficionado, and plans to return for some putting action’the course looked excellent! Overall, we think Buzzard Cove Screampark would be best enjoyed by families, groups of school-agers, or couples looking for a date night, who can extend the evening and make the most of the location with its mini-golf, arcade, and ice cream/snacks.

Hardcore hauntgoers might be somewhat disappointed by the lack of atmosphere, some dead spots like the trail maze, and the lackluster hayride, but solid old-school scares can still be found from an engaging cast. Buzzard Cove Screampark is a young attraction on the right path.

Trail: 4.35
Barn: 5.09

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