Review of Castle Blood Haunted Attraction

Review of Castle Blood Haunted Attraction

Review of Castle Blood Haunted Attraction

Castle Blood

Castle Blood is a Haunted Attraction located in Monessen, PA.

100 Schoonmaker Ave, Monessen, PA 15062
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Haunt Type(s):

1HauntedHouse

Links:

Castle Blood Facebook PageCastle Blood WebsiteLouisville Halloween

Contact:

Call Castle BloodEmail Castle BloodMessage Castle Blood on Facebook Messenger

Features:

Free Parking, Food/Concessions, Special Events, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction

Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express reviewed this Haunted Attraction on October 20, 2019.

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Final Score: 9.05

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Summary:

Castle Blood doesn’t follow the rules.

Sure, it houses a vampire clan, and vampires are about as haunted-housey as one can ask for. And, sure, a journey through the titular castle involves careful exploration of candle-lit, Gothic hallways, complete with occasional menaces howling their displeasure with your interloping. Those are all tried-and-true check-boxes on the haunted attraction to-do list, certainly.

Then comes saving an accused witch from the rope, digging through a spider nest for an antidote to the poison quickly dispersing through your veins, and that minor business suffocating inside a closed coffin…

So, yeah : rules? What rules?

Castle blood is an hour(+) long journey through a Gothic manor where you, the guest, are tasked with completing a series of challenges to procure special talismans while also avoiding the anxious hands of the Reaper – because failure, of course, invariably leads to death : your’s. No pressure.

For any haunt go’ers seeking a uniquely theatrical, highly-interactive Gothic adventure, Castle Blood is your remedy.


Cast: 9.58

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When I began compiling my notes for this-here review, sorting through my impressions of the various Bloodites that we encountered, something occurred to me. It is general practice of both myself and the other Scare Factor teams to offer special recognition to the best-performing actors from each haunted attraction – the “shout outs.” Interestingly, Castle Blood has proven to be the most difficult of my reviews to pinpoint specific stand-out performances. I want to list EVERYONE.

This season’s tour was especially well-stocked with challenges and, therefore, Challenge Actors. Each of these characters spent at least several minutes with our group, first providing a bit of challenge-related background (a discussion of lycanthropy perhaps), then explaining the rules of the challenge at hand. While we set about our work, attempting to fell whichever obstacle or puzzle we were assigned, they provided subtle assistance or jovial taunting (or both – we certainly deserved both), and later rewarded our triumphs or lamented our ineptitudes… and made fun of us some more.

Though the denizens of the Castle were mostly vampires, each characterization felt unique, and VERY differently disposed towards us – from solemn benevolence to outright hostility. Still, we realized a bit of shrewd flattery could melt even the coldest undead heart… at least temporarily. Even the drop panel startlers displayed more personality than the primary interactive ghouls at many other attractions that we’ve experienced. Did I get to hug a drop panel monster? You bet I did. We’re going out for drinks Thursday.

There isn’t a huge cast at Castle Blood, but it certainly felt like there was. It’s amazing how much “fuller” a cast seems to be when the characters are so well-developed, entertaining, and interactive. We always test the off-script, ad lib abilities of haunt actors, but for the Bloodites, it often felt like they were testing ours. They had a response for all of our prompts, and the resulting conversations felt natural, not collections of pasted together, pre-fab one-liners. That’s a perfect interaction score if ever I’ve seen one.

Though, as I mentioned above, every member of the cast definitely deserves specific acknowledgment, each team member would admit to having picked a few favorites. None of our elected preferences repeated (of course) except one – the returning rules-reader, dapper gentleman Bram. Is Scary Potter slightly better won over by the sweetheart vamps who are most pleasantly-disposed toward us? …Ok, you got us. And Bram was certainly that : a friendly and charming undead host to take home to mother. True, he’d probably eventually EAT her or what have you, but in my heart I know he’d feel REALLY bad about it.

That’s a keeper, y’all.

To Morcana (you heartbreaker, you), Ophelia, Anatoli, Morpheus, Dr. Scientist (there’s a “He blinded me with science!” joke that you’ve overlooked), Plague Book Gal, Spider Queen, Witch Woman, and everybody else : excellent performances this season. It was a pleasure to meet with – and be murdered by – you all.

Any haunt go’ers seeking a great set of performances by an amazing cast, you won’t find much better.


Costuming: 9.48

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The Castle’s main occupants were outfitted in garb suitable to their particular Gothic personas, be they elegant, pragmatic, or the unique amalgamation of the two that the resident Alchemist-turned-biologist employed. The startle-resigned wall monsters, likely shelved away without clean undies all these years, wore much humbler garb, evident only during the brief moments they manifested to offer startle-tidings.

Of course, I must emphasize our enjoyment of the Spider Queen’s ensemble again. As grand and intimidating as it was, it wasn’t nearly as fearsome as her corresponding challenge. “You want me to put WHAT… WHERE?”

Also, the witch’s entire costume was very impressive, though we may have been a bit too distracted by all of the nooses surrounding us to fully appreciate her as she spoke.

Makeup looked good, mostly serving as accentuations to the already pallid complexions of the vampire occupants. Yes, the cast are real vampires. Obviously.


Customer Service: 9.64

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GPS took us directly to the attraction (mind the one-way roads), with its parking lot directly behind it. There weren’t any spotters, but parking was simple enough. The attraction stands out significantly from the town around it, so there was absolutely no doubt we were in the correct place.

While in line, four colorful, undead gents interacted with guests,. Their playful, but relaxed demeanors were an appropriate introduction to the temperament of the attraction as a whole. No hatchet wielding beasties snuck up on us to scream into our ears; no giggly clown-demons sought to rile the crowd up with over-the-top antics. We had long, entertaining conversations about vampires, South Carolina, and how stupid I am – all very appropriate to the thematic nature of the attraction.

There were a pair of portable toilets available next to the line for bathroom-related endeavors.

Though Castle Blood does not contain a concession stand, they do have a gift shop that guests emerge into after completing the attraction. In addition to standard haunt-logo’d outer wear, a broader selection of costume and haunt items are available.

The attraction felt very safe throughout our visit, in the line and the attraction-proper. Well… until we began dropping like flies during a woeful run of challenges, but that’s a different matter.

All of the staff were friendly and helpful, especially to my girlfriend, who has now run off with another man at the suggestion of the line-vamps. Really appreciate the advice, guys!


Atmosphere: 8.7

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A very wise scribe once described Castle Blood’s native ambiance as :

“Castle Blood feels like a Gothic monolith removed from a Hammer Films-infused, altered reality and relocated to a random city block of Anytown, USA. In a perfect world, the castle would occupy a darkened hillside, enshrouded in perpetual mist. There’d be a foreboding forest, timely lightning cracks – the whole works. With our imperfect reality, however, the castle stands at odds against its surroundings – a defiant embodiment of the eternal Halloween spirit holding back the surge of urban sprawl. All city-based haunted attractions face similar battles, but the clash felt even more prolific at Castle Blood.

Still, upon entering the sanguine oasis, this struggle faded from memory rapidly. The castle’s ambiance retunes your perceptions abruptly.”

I’d say that his description still holds up. I may have imagined it, but the Castle seemed to be lit differently this season, a little more brooding and evocative perhaps.

As I said above, the line entertainers helped to engender the mood and tone of the attraction, their affable natures only undercut by the occasional flick of barbed tongues. It’s cool though, Boris, I didn’t report you to the INS or anything as repayment for my Castle-sourced relationship woes. I’m sure that’s just Mrs. Swineworth from down the street at your door to borrow some Wombat Giblets again. Knock, knock.

Grudge? Me? Never.

<3


Special Effects: 8.89

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Seemingly every inch of The Castle is adorned with multitudes of weaponry, animal taxidermy, books, relics, mystical antiquities – you name it. If it could reasonably be found in a classic horror film or novel, it’s on a shelf in the castle somewhere… perhaps in multiples!

The set design truly feels “lived-in” (because a vampire clan actually lives in the Castle, obviously), with believably-fashioned parlors and dining halls, crypts and viewing rooms (we ARE dealing with undead homeowners in a former funeral home after all). The nature of the sets don’t typically change drastically from year to year (whose home does?), but collections seem to grow, shelves become more cramped with curiosities. A visit through the castle is as much about exploring and appreciating the antiquarian clutter as it is the quest at hand. Dragged-foot gawking is completely understandable.

Actually, this season combines those often opposed objectives (the quest and eyeing the décor) on several challenges to the tune of Gothic Hidden Object Puzzles. That intersection makes for a lot of fun.

There were a small number of animated props injected into the environment that kept us on our toes, and many of the challenges contained FX elements. Permitting minor suspended disbelief, they functioned well at making the tasks more exciting.

A special nod (giggle) toward our favorite effect, a brief recitation by a tiny poet. We may have been woefully incapable of completing the associated challenge, but we didn’t fail at appreciating his special gift for the spoken word.

There wasn’t a ton of soundtrack accompaniment inside the attraction (that we noticed – too intent on surviving, perhaps), but there were plenty of prop and effect related sounds buzzing around us as we explored the castle.


Theme: 9.55

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Things have really gotten interesting this year. Castle Blood isn’t an escape room, but with this season’s collection of challenges, one could be forgiven for that impression. The puzzles are now more challenging, diverse, and, frankly, a lot more interesting. It’s actually entirely possible to fail the entire adventure in the second room through short-sightedness or being a lying jerk. To anyone who may have experienced an earlier version of Castle Blood and thought, “Eh… too easy”, have I got the game for you.

The gaming elements are now at the forefront of the experience, make no mistake. A macabre story line still remains, but the narrative is a bit more streamlined this season to make way for 13 full-out tests, each centered around a different method of death.

Two different objectives coexist this season : the traditional search for the year’s talismans returns, but customers must also gamble life tokens to engage in (and fail) the various challenges. No pressure, but death does await you at the end of your journey if you are unable to hold onto the latter.

There is a lot of variety to this year’s challenges. A keen eye, strong mental acuity, bravery, and even nimble fingers would all serve a potential Castle guest well. Even politeness, affording the Castle’s residents their due, inhuman respect, proved a valuable ally. A bit of the ol’ schoolboy charm may have melted an undead heart or two to bend our challengeers into benefactors.

…what? Yes, CHARM. I can be charming, man! Got the prickly vampire maidens eating right outta my hand, you betcha. Well, wrist…and neck… lots of eating – biting, really.

Why do I suddenly feel so light-headed?

The quality and difficulty of this season’s games with just enough narrative flow to connect them all really made made the entire “theme” (herein : game) really enjoyable and exciting.

I won’t spoil any game-specific details, but heed this warning : be careful what you volunteer for…


Scare Factor: 7.18

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Some may argue that this element of Castle Blood’s approach is its Achilles Heel, and while it is inarguable that this attraction ranks lower on the “scariness” quotient, it is by design, not oversight – a fact that the Castle’s ownership has been transparent about for many years.

As I advertise every season : if direct frightfulness by way of grumbly chainsaws or extreme (occasionally sadistic) actor performances are your sole interest in haunted attractions, you are going to be very disappointed by Castle Blood. By all means, back away from this review.

The Castle is eerie. It’s aesthetic is a traditional, classical horror motif. Most of our time within was spent deciphering puzzles and wooing the affections of its potentially-helpful residents. Between these interactions, we crept through Gothic hallways and corridors, with a small number of surprisingly effective startle-scares roaring out of hidden drop panels. Occasionally components of the environment shuddered to life, springing at us or jeering mechanically. The human and inhuman frights accounted for perhaps two dozen total scare attempts to keep us on our toes as we progressed between challenges.

The challenges themselves possessed their own versions of frightfulness. At Castle Blood, the story line is often required to carry most of the creepiness experienced during challenges, but this season, several of the challenges themselves were inherently phobic, introducing a different form of “scare” to the attraction. Though these only affected a single member of the group, their potency was impressive for those involved. In our group, when presented with fulfilling one of these challenges, a customer responded, “No, I’m not doing that” firmly and cowered away.

“But you will all die”, the inhuman challengeer warned.

“I’m ok with that.”

Fortunately a second member of our group intervened, shouldered the burden, and completed her task. I live today, able to author this tale, because of the altruistic bravery of that noble soul.

Again, if “Rawr rawr, kill kill, gore gore” is your preferred haunted battle cry, move along.

However, if the idea of an interactive, hour-long trek through the equivalent of an eerie, black and white, Gotchic, horror film sounds enticing, Castle Blood is your new Haunt home. Wipe your feet on the welcome mat.


Entertainment & Value: 9.76

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A journey through the castle has never been an ephemeral affair, but “Death Becomes You” really pushes the experience into a new level. At 76 minutes, Castle Blood is now as long as some feature-length films (especially those old black and white horror films that it’s wonderful aesthetic pays homage to). I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced a single-attraction, haunted walk through this long. Obviously total duration is wildly subjective here, but that is still a pretty mean chunk of entertainment for a $20 ticket price. The MPD is a stand-out 3.8.

We had a great time at the Castle this year, both in line, interacting with the resident hecklers, and journeying through the entire interactive experience. There is a LOT of attraction (and entertainment) available with a single ticket purchase and we loved every minute of it.

The actors were engaging, varied, and as interactive as one will see at any haunted attraction, the games were challenging but exciting, and the Castle’s impressive set design is still as easy to get absorbed into as a Waldo painting.

Again, for a customer who is only concerned with fleeing bloody chainsaws and the like, Castle Blood is not for you. For anyone else, this season’s iteration is a must-visit. Just don’t forget your thinking cap – or some witty comebacks. Highest recommendation from us.

Special thanks to Ophelia for not letting me blunder into my own incompetence. Boris already has enough to make fun of me for. Good looking out, friend.


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2018 Awards

"Put on your Sunday Best, kids, it's time to go to Sears!" - Best Costumes (Humanish) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"Game over man; game over!" - Best Game Elements (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"We're all in this together" - Most Interactive Cast (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)