Dark Side of the Abbey – Full Review

Dark Side of the Abbey is a Haunted Attraction located in Canon City, CO.

2951 US-50, Canon City, CO 81212
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Haunt Type(s):

Multiple HauntsCharity HauntEscape Room


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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Indoor/Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 14, 2023 by Team Hauntarama.

Final Score: 8.66

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Situated on the hallowed grounds of the Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, Colorado, Dark Side of the Abbey provides two terrific attractions: the haunt itself and a sensory deprivation experience, Disturbance at the Monastery. Guests arriving at the Abbey are immediately greeted by the towering, gothic buildings on the grounds lit up with the colors of the season, giving off serious possession and exorcism vibes. The grounds are further adorned with giant skeletons and other looming specters peering down from the tiered roof.

After winding through the well-decorated queue line, haunt goers are set loose inside of the haunt, which provides superb scares befitting the setting. Those feeling extra brave can opt for the additionally offered Disturbance at the Monastery, which puts guests through a much more physically demanding experience that alternates between well-lit and pitch-black sections, with a few cast members sprinkled throughout to provide scares and, if necessary, a bit of guidance. Although there are fewer traditional scares, the Disturbance experience is a test of guests’ will and ability to navigate without sight, which proved to be equally as frightening. Overall, Dark Side of the Abbey is absolutely worth a visit this haunt season!

Cast Score: 8.6

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Cast Review:

The cast at Dark Side of the Abbey is relentless in their pursuit of scares! There were plenty of actors throughout the haunt, finding respite in only a few spots that lasted just long enough to help us catch our breath. That cast would come at us with a variety of performances, ranging from screaming at the top of their lungs to polite offers to join them for dinner and from a variety of angles, from ceiling to floor (here’s looking at you, winged creature perched from above). All of the cast we encountered were highly interactive, notably the zombies that first appeared as slowly lurching silhouettes, only to cause anxiety as they began staggering our way without saying a word. There was something there to scare everyone, from those playing on the religious theme that perfectly fit the Abbey setting to the actor who appeared covered in blisters and boils that stared us back into a revolting bathroom we were only too happy to evacuate. This is one of many artful setups from the cast, escorting us unwittingly to another frightful encounter. Special shout out to the tallest of the demons, who seemed right at home, leaping through the air despite already towering above us!

Turning to Disturbance at the Monastery, there were only a small handful of cast members, but those we saw were equally as high energy and interactive. As expected, it was more difficult to make out details due to the darkness and heightened anxiousness caused by trying to find the right way through the ensnarement. They certainly made the most of the cast they had, shown by precision-timed scares all the way to the haunt’s final moments.

All said the cast at Dark Side of the Abbey was amazing, which is all the more notable given that they are all volunteers associated with the co-ed Boy Scout Troop, Venture Crew 121, with all proceeds going to help keep the troop running strong!

Costuming Score: 8.23

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Costuming Review:

The costumes at Dark Side of the Abbey all fit the scenes and the actors well, as did the masks we saw. The makeup was also done well, with each character featuring a unique appearance, some monstrous. The altitudinous demons, with surprising agility, paired their acts with good-looking costumes and masks to truly leave their marks! Even the simpler costumes, like the hungry woman with the baby and the lumbering zombies, wore regular attire one would expect to see in the real world, which fit their roles appropriately. Again, it was difficult to make out much detail in the Monastery due to the sensory effects, but what we saw fit the theme perfectly well.

Customer Service Score: 9.94

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Customer Service Review:

One couldn’t meet a nicer group of folks than Venture Crew 121 and the others that help put on the haunt. Accordingly, customer service is top-notch at the attraction. Locating the historic compound is a breeze, as it’s directly off of Highway 50 and easy to spot from the road, though the standard map apps will also help guide the unfamiliar to the right spot (though, once you turn in, follow the signs, not the app, which sent us on a little tour of the grounds before we found the right parking lot, and that is in no way the haunt’s fault…we should have just followed the signs they put up for us!).

The general admission queue line is indoor to help guests escape the cold that often attend evening events in October in Colorado, and it features a small snack bar to help folks recharge and prepare for what awaits ahead. Nothing in the Abbey or the Monastery was unsafe, though there are a few flights of stairs and some unexpected footing in places, and other spots that require some bending, stretching, crawling, and other things that made me wish I’d limbered up first. The non-haunt staff we encountered were all top-notch and did a great job of keeping things flowing through the haunts without it becoming a conga line. If you’re in need of additional details, all the information one could want is readily available on the Abbey’s website, including hours, locations, descriptions of the attractions, and more.

Immersion Score: 8.5

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Immersion Review:

The Abbey grounds provide a perfect setting, conjuring shades of the cosmic battleground between good and evil, and it looks like evil’s got the upper hand, as large props and seasonal lighting dot the area and a variety of rock and metal music blast into the courtyard. Hearing the refrain from Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” reverberate through the air makes it clear that we weren’t at Sunday school!

The queue sends guests through another part of the building, which is decorated with a number of static props depicting famous murders from history, with interesting titbits about their stories painted on the walls, allowing guests to stay both entertained and warm and prepared for the haunt experience. Once inside of the haunt, the ghastly incursion begins and scarcely lets up, only leaving guests unscathed in those spots where we had to pay attention to navigation or footing.

Special FX Score: 8.55

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Special FX Review:

The set designs at Dark Side of the Abbey were done really well, not going overboard and allowing the natural creepiness of the occulted Abbey shine through, but providing enough stuff to fully fill out each area and help round out the feel that the place was being subsumed by the dark side. The audio in the haunt was mostly the noise of the cast, one actor in particular providing an unnatural, almost reptilian screech. Dark Side of the Abbey also offered a surprising number of higher-tech special effects, which were put to great use, offering frightening fun while making the haunt seem to span the whole building while keeping us on our toes when not scaring us back to our heels. Those higher-tech effects paired perfectly with other unanticipated effects, like the monstrosity that glided through the air like a ghostly raptor swooping on its prey, and good old-fashioned hauntcraft to offer an awesome variety of effects throughout the haunt.

The Monastery didn’t feature the same level of special effects given its purpose, but in the areas where there were props and set pieces, they provided just enough eye candy to keep the creepiness high. Sincerely, darkness was more than enough to render a seemingly simple task tremendously difficult, whether slipping through a pitch-black maze, groping at the walls to find the next opening, or finding a way through without becoming ensnared. In short, the special effects at Dark Side of the Abbey and at Disturbance at the Monastery are stupendous!

Scare Factor Score: 8.49

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Scare Factor Review:

Both attractions proved their mettle, scaring everyone in the group and doing so in multiple ways! Given the setting, there’s an additional layer of scariness for fans of faith-based horror, which the haunts wisely lean into. Due to the structure of the haunt, we found our group in various configurations as we made our way through, but the well-trained cast never left anyone out, greeting the person up front and then creeping behind the person at the back. Although it was clear when a scare was coming a lot of the time, there was no telling what it would be or from where it would come. For example, while rounding a stack of chairs, the sense of disquiet peaked, yet there was no one to be seen until I finished rounding that corner and was met with a simple but tremendously well-done performance, leaving me feeling like the hapless friend who dies first in the movies. Although the finale could have had a bit more bang, it still managed to give us one last spark of fear! Given the variety of cast and characters, their approaches from above and below, the special effects that kicked things up a notch, and the beautifully done scenery, there’s something to make everyone scream at Dark Side of the Abbey!

Disturbance at the Monastery is also very scary, but for different reasons. The blinding darkness, paired with the unseen, narrow confines, caused a bit of claustrophobia. Just before anything became too overwhelming, hauntgoers hit the transition of well-lit areas, providing a surprisingly different disorientation. At the bottom, though, the disturbance is a lot like an older horror movie that, rather than showing the evil in all its glory, allows the audience’s minds to fill in the void with something that’s ultimately far scarier, an effect that is achieved beautifully.

Entertainment & Value Score: 8.63

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E&V Review:

Dark Side of the Abbey and Disturbance at the Monastery offer a great value to guests, with tickets starting at $25 for general admission to each attraction, with the option to upgrade to skip the main line for an additional $10 for each attraction. For fans wanting to experience both, the dual haunt package is available for $40, and for guests looking for more fun than that, there are four escape rooms on site–a train car, a doctor’s office, a pirate theme, and a prison–available for an additional $25 each. With the great setting, scenery, cast, and effects, those ticket prices are extremely reasonable and more than worth a trip to the aged Abbey this fall!

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