Dungeon of Horrors WV – Full Review
Dungeon of Horrors WV is a Haunted Attraction located in Moundsville, WV.
818 Jefferson Ave, Moundsville, WV 26041View All Details
Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line
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This attraction was reviewed on September 30, 2023 by Team Houdini.
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Final Score: 8.4
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At a first glance, the West Virginia Penitentiary’s Gothic-style structure is bound to cast a feeling of dread over those who stand before it. This ominous feeling likely stems from the sheer weight of human suffering that unfolded within these walls. Situated in Moundsville, West Virginia, this penitentiary began its haunting legacy in 1876. Spanning nearly a century, until its closure in 1995, it bore witness to riots, incarcerated countless individuals, and delivered the grim fate of execution to over 100 prisoners, either by hanging or electrocution. This is not to mention the amount of murder and monstrosities that took place by the inmates themselves.
As we approached the foreboding edifice, we were instantly immersed in the prisoner experience, subjected to the nightmarish labyrinth of its halls. Our descent into this subterranean realm was nothing short of harrowing, and the question loomed: could we navigate these disorienting mazes together, or would some of us succumb to the sinister grip of the penitentiary’s history? The oppressive heat of the crematorium awaited us, a testament to the horrors that transpired here. Prepare to step into our shoes and witness this chilling perspective for yourself, as we delve deeper into the heart of darkness.
Cast Score: 8.24
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From the very moment you step foot inside, it becomes unmistakably clear that “The Dungeon” owes its eerie vitality to an exceptionally committed and talented cast. The haunting cries and terrors echoing through the dimly lit halls serve as mere preludes to the chilling encounters that lie ahead. From a malevolent entity that torments you during the night and pays ominous visits to your prison cell as you await your impending execution, to a host of unholy creatures like the grim reaper himself, who materializes at your moment of demise to usher you into a casket. Each actor wholeheartedly embraces their role, relentlessly subjecting you to a progressively deepening sense of fear and dread. Every character appears meticulously suited to their respective settings, donning attire perfectly befitting their roles in this nightmarish ordeal. The seamless progression of events effectively guides you through each step of this terrifying odyssey.
The Dungeon introduces a diverse array of characters, each profoundly entwined with the realm of fears and phobias. As you embark on your journey, beginning as a hapless prisoner and moving inexorably toward death and beyond, these characters aim to exploit your deepest anxieties. Whether you find yourself face to face with grumpy guards, crazed killers, insane inmates, demonic detainees, or crazy clowns, the cast’s commitment to their roles enhances the overall haunt experience. The actors’ creativity and interactivity are truly commendable, elevating the entire production. Noteworthy instances include the slithering demon that toyed with us in our cells, the mechanic’s playful mockery, inquiring if Team Houdini was our bowling team while spinning his socket wrench unnervingly. The gatekeeper’s spontaneous conversational skills, seamlessly blended scripted dialogue as he provided essential information with on-the-spot engagement regarding the upcoming boat ride to the abyss. Even the clowns (which seemed a little out of place for the overall theme), displayed a remarkable level of engagement, addressing us by name and, in some instances, delivering personalized insults, such as the reapers who advised we had “no balls” and the female clown in the maze who after some banter called me num-nuts, not a commonly used phrase anymore. Remarkably, despite the presence of numerous new actors, their seamless integration into the haunt maintained the experience’s cohesiveness and immersive quality,
The actors remained unwaveringly committed to their roles, never once breaking character. Their enthusiasm was palpable, often manifesting in passionate exclamations and altered inflections, tailoring their personalities to the characters they portrayed. Remarkably, despite the presence of numerous new actors, their seamless integration into the haunt maintained the experience’s cohesiveness and immersive quality.
Costuming Score: 7.99
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Costumes transcended mere clothing, evolving into integral extensions of the characters’ very identities. Seamlessly merging with the scenes, they collectively wove a tapestry of realism that intensified the overall experience.
The prison guards’ attire displayed meticulous attention to detail, complete with crisply tailored uniforms, authentic-looking badges, and utility belts. A demonic figure’s costume boasted intricate textures and designs, evoking the appearance of charred skin and adorned with eerie symbols which accentuated the character’s menacing presence, the gatekeeper of the underworld, on the other hand, was draped in his Sunday best, although quite tattered it had seen better days in the realm of the living, but now worn to a point of exhaustion. An eerie white glow enveloped him, extending even to his tophat. The Mechanic’s jumpsuit offered a fusion of grime and creativity, featuring an oil-stained (or perhaps blood) work shirt. His oil-streaked face provided an authentic touch to his character. The clown costumes were a riot of bright, vivid terror, adorned with oversized shoes, vibrant patterns, and rainbow wigs. The exaggerated smiles and expressions pulled the whole sinister ensemble together. The witches who presided over the boat ride, sported a mask with a ghastly complexion and a convincingly detailed ensemble of an earthly dress, a mix of material and vines. A creepy girl’s costume painted a haunting picture of innocence gone awry, clad in a tattered white dress stained with dirt and grime, rendering her character almost ghostly. Details like the torn lace perfectly complemented her eerie request for visitors to stay and examine her dolls while the crematorium keeper’s attire conveyed an unsettling sense of finality, characterized by soot-stained robes from her proximity to the furnace. Her face appeared melted, reminiscent of Freddy Krueger.
The essence of these costumes played a pivotal role in defining the distinct atmospheres of their respective areas within the haunt. It is evident that each character dedicated a substantial amount of time preparing before the night, effectively immersing themselves in their roles. This commitment to their costumes significantly contributed to the overall aesthetic and atmosphere. While the absence of queue actors may have raised initial concerns during the brief wait before the haunt, we definitely missed The Warden who told ghost stories before the haunt.
Customer Service Score: 10
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Customer Service Review:
Our customer service experience at West Virginia Penitentiary’s Dungeon of Horrors was nothing short of exceptional. Every aspect of our visit was seamlessly organized from the moment we arrived.
Finding the West Virginia Penitentiary and parking was a hassle-free experiences as we used Google Maps, which quickly guided us to the designated parking areas. Navigating the premises was intuitive, with signs clearly marked, times organized, and waiting areas spacious. This ensured that we could focus on the excitement of the haunt rather than worrying about anything else.
Safety was a clear priority at The Dungeon. The pathways were well-lit, and emergency exits were easily visible. Staff members were approachable, making sure everyone felt secure throughout the entire experience. This gave us peace of mind as we ventured through the attraction.
Amanda, the staff member we interacted with, was friendly and professional. She was not only knowledgeable about the attraction but also took the time to engage with us, answering our questions and ensuring we felt welcome.
Finding information before our arrival was a breeze, thanks to the comprehensive website provided by the establishment. The website included detailed information on the location, price, age restrictions, and other safety measures. The transparency made us well-prepared for the experience, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the haunt without any uncertainties.
Immersion Score: 8.16
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To fully appreciate this unique location, one must acknowledge its distinctive quality—it’s housed within an authentic prison, setting the stage for a vile experience tinged with the possibility of the paranormal. The towering stone edifice, which looms ominously before you, casts an immediate sense of oppression. However, apart from these initial impressions, the absence of queue actors leaves guests somewhat unprepared for the impending haunt. A projection of a horror film outside the building serves as the sole prelude to the unsettling journey that awaits. Strategically placed lights and signs heighten the atmosphere, all carefully orchestrated to evoke a dramatic effect. Luckily, since they use a timed ticketing system, you should not be waiting long to enter.
A profound transformation occurs as you take that crucial initial step into the prison’s interior. The level of immersion within is unparalleled as you’re thrust into the role of a prisoner, metaphorically bound by your fate. The narrative unfolds seamlessly, leading you through the disconcertingly authentic gas chamber experience as well as some other death scenarios. The descent into the underworld becomes a chilling odyssey, guided by characters so vividly portrayed that they seem to have materialized from your darkest nightmares. Garish guards torment you, claustrophobic caskets confine you, and water sprays intensify the illusion, mimicking blood splatter or the saliva of a monstrous cave-dweller. The expansive space within this venue is meticulously utilized to craft specific scenes and experiences, concealing surprises around every corner. Tight spaces and dimly lit, unsettlingly long hallways in the dark elicit genuine unease.
The Dungeon offers an intricately woven storyline of incarceration, death, and the afterlife. Although a few areas feel a little off-topic. Here, you’re not a mere observer; you’re an active participant throughout the entire experience. Every scream you hear, every spine-chilling whisper, is orchestrated by characters who personify fear itself.
In certain scenes, you might find yourself seemingly transported outdoors, such as the graveyard, while in others, purposeful disorientation awaits. You may struggle to navigate through multiple mazes, with actors intentionally leading you astray. One maze plunges you into complete darkness, while another is bathed in neon light, its ground adorned with arrows pointing to deceptive dead ends. The unsettling commands of a clown, who coerces you into spinning in circles and dancing for her, only serve to compound the confusion. At times, you may even become separated from your group, exacerbating the bewildering atmosphere of the maze.
Special FX Score: 8.29
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Special FX Review:
The clanging of cell doors, the haunting echoes of tormented souls that visited you in the dead of night, and the foreboding footsteps of the prison guards, as well as a haunting score, resonated with impeccable authenticity. These meticulously executed sound effects transported us straight into the heart of the penitentiary, layering our experience with heightened suspense. The prison area itself was a study in realism, as it incorporated the actual cells. The grimy paint-peeling walls, the rusting bars, and the absence of light collectively contributed to a menacing atmosphere that left an indelible impression. The prison scene’s extraordinary realism owed itself to the inherent nature of the building.
The funeral scene was simple yet well-designed. Exquisite dead floral arrangements harmonized seamlessly with the timeworn caskets. An intriguing animatronic addition was the levitating corpse—an entrancing and astonishing supernatural spectacle. While a few more olfactory details, such as the scent of decaying flowers, could have elevated the scene, it was undeniably well-executed overall.
The whimsical melody of circus music and the maniacal laughter of clowns injected an additional layer of lunacy into the scene where one clown met his demise in the electric chair. The crackling of electricity, coupled with actual sparks, created a captivating tableau as one of the clown actors convulsed and contorted in his chair. The room was awash in a riot of bright lights—red, blue, and green—casting a chaotic and disorienting ambiance.
The hissing of snakes served as an eerie backdrop while a girl with maniacal laughter ordered us to crawl through a tunnel. The dense fog in the tunnel added to the discomfort, rendering it impossible to see and difficult to breathe—a perfect encapsulation of claustrophobia that recurred throughout the experience. However, in this instance affected me greatly to the point I did not think I could make it through this tiny tunnel. Emerging on the other side held little solace, as there was no light at this tunnel, just projections of actual snakes slithering on the ground beneath us. Projections were deftly employed throughout, infusing scenes with life and dynamism beyond what static props could achieve.
In the cave scene, monstrous growls and echoing water drips enveloped us in an atmosphere of pure horror. Our guide introduced us to a yeti-like cave creature that sprayed water directly into our faces—a special effect that added to the immersive experience and harked back to the wood chipper scene from earlier. The crematorium followed suit, with flickering flames and a low, ominous rumble in the background, tormenting the unfortunate animatronic figure that appeared to burn alive, gasping for air and crying for help. The actor’s non-empathetic laughter accompanied their disappearance, as smoke gradually filled the room, and the red lights plunged us into near-total obscurity.
The special effects served as a powerful catalyst for enhancing the immersion and the overall scare factor within the prison. While a few scenes displayed minor signs of wear and tear, they would likely go unnoticed by the average observer.
Scare Factor Score: 8.46
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Scare Factor Review:
The sheer terror that envelops us within this haunt is unlike anything we’ve experienced before. The environment is deeply unsettling, with the abandoned jail providing the backdrop for authentic fear. The haunted attraction delves into a myriad of phobias, from snakes and spiders, to clowns, dolls, water, claustrophobia, suffocation, and other omnipresent specters of death. The heavy emphasis on claustrophobia, employing caskets and tight spaces, amplifies the anxiety, creating an atmosphere that leaves you on the edge of your sanity. The knowledge that this place might actually be haunted makes for a heightened sense of dread and horror. In one scene, a team member said he noticed shadow figures that the rest of us did not see…
The Dungeon excels in delivering scares that resonate with everyone in the group. The actors’ ability to gauge the reactions and adjust their scares accordingly showcased their skill. One standout feature of the attraction was the overall unpredictability. We never knew what was lurking around the next corner. The element of surprise was utilized throughout the haunt, unfolding in ways that made it exciting for the participant. The variety of scares was impressive, and we believe it tops most other haunts. This is because the attraction ingeniously plays on our phobias, exploiting the deepest fears innovatively. A traditional heart-stopping moment of terror made us run, when a maniac with a chainsaw came from nowhere and sent us into the night. The fact that this building has so much history really makes this location one-of-a-kind in the sense that the reality of the prison blends with the props well, making it a fun experience overall. There is an overarching sense of dread that comes with knowing that many suffered in this building, and many spent their last days there before their death.
We are also pleased to see that WV Penn does a great job of separating groups and keeping the frights intimate, making sure everyone gets a good scare.
Entertainment & Value Score: 8
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While the $20 ticket price is under the standard $25 for the surrounding area, it is budget-friendly overall and very much worth it as the main attraction was 45 minutes long. This places it at 2.25 minutes per dollar which is way above the average of last year’s 1.2 MPD.
As we bid farewell to the nightmarish realm of “The Dungeon” at West Virginia Penitentiary, one can’t help but reflect on the journey through the depths of darkness we’ve just undertaken not just by ourselves but by the thousands of prisoners who spent their lives in these walls (not that most did not deserve to be here). The legacy of this gothic penitentiary, steeped in over a century of suffering and dread, has been masterfully channeled into an unparalleled haunt experience. From the grim corridors to the malevolent characters, every element has combined to immerse us in a world of fear and apprehension. The commitment of the cast, the authenticity of the costumes, the special effects, and the relentless onslaught of scares make “The Dungeon” a haunt that leaves an indelible mark on your psyche. It’s not merely an attraction; it’s an exploration of your deepest fears, a journey that challenges your courage and sanity. As you step back into the realm of the living, may the echoes of your haunting experience in “The Dungeon” linger in your thoughts, much like a sentence served in the confines of a chilling, otherworldly prison.
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Guest ReviewsGuest Average: 9.75 out of 10
Mike Adams – 10/10 – October 22, 2016I have been to several Haunted Attractions and this is by far the best in the Ohio Valley. …show more
DC Books – 9.5/10 – October 6, 2018Amazing haunt. One of the best we’ve been. Custom sets, and a themed plot that follows you all the …show more
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