Hellstead Manor – Full Review

Hellstead Manor is a Haunted Attraction located in Hallstead, PA.

630 Harmony Road, Hallstead, PA 18822
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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Special Events, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Celebrity Appearances, Indoor/Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on September 14, 2019 by Team Haunt Crew.

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Final Score: 8.29

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Are you looking to experience a truly unique and original Haunt? Want to be scared? Want to have your mind messed with? Seeking several different levels of creepy? Then this may be’ no, not may be, this IS the haunt you have been looking for!

From the moment you cross the threshold into Hellstead Manor, there is an eerie sensation that begins to creep up your spine. A first glance, you may feel as though you have stepped back in time because of the carefully- and beautifully-restored wooden paneling and ornate staircase. However, this feeling is extinguished quite abruptly when your eyes fall upon the large crate in the center of the room displaying skeletal remains partially exposed in cement.

According to the owners, the remains were unearthed in the basement of the Manor during restoration, and all of the proper paperwork has been filed in order to keep the remains on display within the Manor. There are several other artifacts on display ranging from interesting to somewhat grotesque – all relating to the history of the Manor, those who lived there, and the bizarre occurrences within.

While truth is often more outrageous than fiction, there is an exceptionally-creative blend of actual history and imagination-gone-wild at Hellstead Manor.

New for 2019 is the Wicked Woods, an extension of the Manor that takes place outdoors on the property surrounding the haunted house.

If you want to see truly one-of-a-kind creations within a haunt, then look no further. There are no already-made, ready-to-buy props within these horrific walls. The owners of Hellstead Manor like to keep things creative and original. All of the sets are designed and built on-site by the talented owners whom have lots of experience. They used to live in LA where they were prop and set designers, animators, and special effects makeup artists. Working in that trade gave them loads of experience with all kinds of special effects. Combining their experience with the quantity of their creativity led to some amazing results where even a simple hole in a barrel can lead to a barrel of fun!

Cast: 8.15

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Hellstead Manor was recently expanded, and the sixteen new actors are put to excellent use. There are now almost 50 actors that hide, play instruments and contort their way to scares. While not every room has actors, their placement is usually well done and, at times, one actor can have multiple different roles. This unique and extended use of actors allows for more of a running theme than a ‘drive by’ scare and gives the feeling of a more-involved haunt. Even in areas where there are no actors, you are left on edge waiting for them to come out!

Also, as alluded to earlier, the actors have various special traits. From a banjo-playing hillbilly to death playing a grim ritual, these actors, and this haunt, find unique ways to set you up, drop your guard, or just creep you out.

While not all of the actors were fully into their roles, most of them kept fully ‘within character’ and failed to break it, even when prompted with general mischief or ribbing. The cast is truly dedicated to their work, from ordering people around to reading us our last rights, the vast majority of them brought their A game and showed us their energy. Several victims were there, most doing their best to demand our help. There were parts where the cast could have been more interactive and tell more of a narrative, but those who shined were really excellent.

Costuming: 8.53

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Since the cast was full of original and unique characters, you can expect nothing less from the costumes. The costumes were well-suited for each character. You will not find a single costume based on well-known characters such as Freddy or Jason. The owner prefers to create his own characters as well as their individual and unique costumes.

In the mansion, the actors wore vintage clothing to fit the time period of the mid- to late-1800’s. The actors that stood out to us were the women wearing Victorian-style dresses. I think even a member of our group mentioned that she wanted one of those dresses for herself! All the costumes were very detailed and realistic which made you think you were living in another time.

You won’t see other monsters or creatures like the ones we encountered at any other haunt because the owner creates all of them by hand. The creativity and attention to detail is extremely unique. Even when it comes to the makeup. Professional special effects makeup artists apply makeup to the whole cast which enhances the characters without overpowering their true purpose. From head to toe, each character was fully dressed to provide scares and enhance the setting.

The prosthetics used were truly amazing. From arms ripped from their sockets to bodies sliced in half, the owner provided a look at real gore that not many get to see up-close and personal. The most simple but brilliant costume was an exceptionally detailed sock puppet that scared all who ventured too close. The most complex costume was a giant with many appendages growing in the wrong places.

The masks used in the haunt are unique original pieces of art created by the owner as well. There was the occasional actor that may not have been quite the right size for the mask they wore. However, in the darkness, it was not very noticeable and did not detract from the overall experience.

Customer Service: 8.73

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As you leave 81 via exit 230 (Hallstead), you will see signs directing you to Hellstead Manor. A dirt driveway leads up to a parking area that is well-lit and easy to navigate. The parking attendants were easy to understand and provided clear directions on where to park and how to exit the parking area.

Although the haunt is not handicap accessible, they do provide special events upon request. Not only do they cater towards haunt goers, but they also offer events to children. They provided a daytime haunted house that is adjusted for special needs of autistic children. This year, they are planning a daytime, kid-friendly, trick-or-treating event.

Overall the attraction is very safe. The security was visible at all times. As with any attraction, there are areas that you need to be cautious while traveling though. Unfortunately, one of our taller team members hit his head on a low wooden beam, but most low beams were covered with padding for safety, so this one may have been inadvertently knocked off by an earlier patron. Other areas were particularly dark with low visibility. But, of course, this in done intentionally to take you out of your comfort zone. At one point, when entering the Wicked Woods, a flashlight is supplied to each group to safely navigate a dark portion of the woods. Walkways and paths were kept clear of any debris that may trip up the unsuspecting visitor.

The line management was superb. Due to breaking the line up into sections, it made the wait seem shorter… as did having all the interesting artifacts to look at. We never once ran into the group that was ahead of us, nor did we encounter the group behind us catching up.

The staff was very friendly. They spoke to everyone as if they were a part of their family. All staff were wearing T-shirts to clearly signify that they were employees. Homemade food was available on-site at affordable prices.

Their internet presence was clear and concise. All pages provided the basic essential information needed to attend the haunt. Hellstead Manor’s website and Facebook site are full of helpful information. All of the information you need will be found on either site including a sneak peek of the theme, dates and time of operation, and location information. If haunt goers have a specific question, there is an email, phone number, and instant message via Facebook. All of the “events” are located on their Facebook site. We took a peek and found many other events that Hellstead Mansion hosts, such as art classes, murder mysteries, and special guest paranormal investigators.

Oh yeah, did we forget to mention that Hellstead Manor really is haunted?

Atmosphere: 7

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The second you turn off the main road up into the dirt driveway of the haunt you know you’re in for a treat! The 1851 Hellstead Mansion looms over the land from a large hill. You won’t see any props or many actors outside the building, but honestly that would take away from the spooky vibe the mansion bestows upon its visitors.

Before you walk into Hellstead Manor, you wait in the queue line on a beautiful wrap-around porch next to large windows with the curtains drawn. This created a sense of anticipation and excitement, making you wonder what might be awaiting your arrival within. Before you enter the haunt, an actor greets you, talks to you about the history of the place, and explains the rules of the haunt. She was so friendly that she even took our picture for us in front of the doors to the massive mansion.

Once you enter the mansion, there is yet another small queue, but this was unlike your basic boring line to wait in… it is like a museum! There are glass cases containing artifacts with information about the land and the manor, which has stood for over 160 years! There is even a historian to greet you at the end of the line willing to answer any questions you may have. She is also very informative and even shares stories about guests vomiting and peeing their pants during their experiences at the Manor. Of course, after being warned about other guests experiences, how can you not be a little hesitant to enter?

As you proceed from the main room to a small library, you are directed by a guide whom takes time to explain more details of the manor’s history, revealing artifacts recovered from the walls, basement, and attic. Once through this delightfully morbid museum, there is a video with further information which abruptly ends and you are then thrust out of the manor and into the awaiting horrors of the haunt itself.

Special Effects: 9.03

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When first entering the haunt, you are in what seems to be a maze created from pallets. As you progress through the haunt, the walls gradually transform from pallets, which actors can reach towards you through, to actual walls as if once again entering the mansion.

Traversing the corridors, one will find themselves surrounded by an assortment of broken down antiquated furniture fitting to the time period of the manor. There are also many beings lurking about, some so cleverly disguised that it isn’t possible to determine they are actually real until it’s too late!

Entering the master bedroom will certainly make your neck hairs stand upright as the sound effect of a beating heart makes you wonder if it really is a sound effect or your own heart pounding in your ears.

Each room was a tortured work of art. There were so many amazing details that drew the eye away from the path, successfully distracting us so that we never saw the next scare!

It should be noted that this haunt has very little in the use of animatronics. Many things that look as if they may be automated are actually controlled by a hidden cast member allowing for a creative experience that is uniquely personalized to each individual. At one point, an enormous ghastly snake chased us down a hallway, threatening to plow us over. It was not an animatronic snake that would simply pop out so far, then retreat back and reset. No, no, no. It was controlled by an actor allowing for some intense and individualized interaction!

When traversing the uneven ground in the Wicked Woods, a familiar sound is heard. The sound of a banjo? That’s right, a hillbilly pickin’ the banjo. Not all audio comes from a soundtrack. This cast member actually plays the instrument and utilizes his skills for the haunt.

Beyond the hillbilly you encounter the spirits of the Native Americans who were driven from the land. As you approach, there is the ominous sound of tribal music coming from all around. At one point, there is even a Native American beating rhythmically on an enormous drum, once again including actual instruments vs solely using soundtracks.

While there were many intriguing sounds to be heard there was not much assault on our noses. A perfect place that could have done well with some “eau de toilette”, or should we say “eww de haunt”, was a particularly foul looking bathroom with quite a nasty leaking pipe.

Theme: 7.93

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The theme revolves around the history of the land that the mansion stands on and the history of the actual mansion, which has been kept as close to original as possible, thus keeping its integrity of the rich history.

The land and mansion has had some terrible luck such as unexplained deaths, murders, and suicides. As mentioned earlier in the Atmosphere section, the theme was introduced to us in the second part of the queue line with an informative video and many interesting artifacts in glass cases once we entered the manor. These displays educated the guests of many cursed events, deaths, and hauntings associated with this cursed land.

In a nutshell, Native Americans were driven from their land leaving behind a curse. While the mansion was being built, two workers died of terrible accidents and many more mysterious deaths followed throughout the mansion’s history. A doctor owned the mansion and started experimenting with prosthetic limbs after the civil war and this practice basically morphed into more devious experimentation. These ventures created mutants which took up living in the woods.

The set design and actors’ outfits fit the time period of the 1800’s. One of our favorite parts was the 1800’s furniture and props used in the sets designs; it really did make us feel like we took a trip back in time. In the Manor, the people we met during the haunt were ghostly memories of such terrible occurrences, and we were warned we would become a part of the land and Manor’s terrible fate.

Once you leave the mansion and head out into the Wicked Woods, you meet the tribal Native Americans that owned the land before the mansion was built. You also might run into a few hillbillies. We later found out that the hillbillies were descendants of the mutants created by the evil doctor from the mansion; it’s not uncommon to see some hillbillies deep in the Pennsylvania’s woods.

Scare Factor: 8.53

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Let the frights begin! Upon entering the haunt, your senses are instantly thrown into overdrive as you enter a dark maze of twists and turns, being taunted all the while by ghoulish fiends.

There were a variety of scares available at Hellstead Manor. Even those in our group that do not usually startle easily were taken by surprise at different points during the attraction. One of our group was even taken by complete surprise by an amazingly detailed, for lack of a better term, sock puppet! She leaned in to inspect a suspicious looking barrel and suddenly she’s wheeling around running away with arms flailing as a hideous arm sized worm with tons of teeth pops out! It was perfectly timed by the actor, not something a machine could do quite so perfectly.

The owners delight in being masters of misdirection. A grand example is while being in the Wicked Woods seeing a Native American spirit beating a drum with sticks. No, wait, look closer. Those are bones he uses to beat the drum in a calming rhythm. Just wait until you see what he does next!

Many people are uncomfortable in close proximity to strangers. Let alone strangers that look like mutants and are inferring that you may be served as the main course when they ask you to stay for dinner. While this particular rouse is often used at haunts, it does still get some pretty good responses when the creatures are forcing you to line up facing the wall so they can sniff each person to determine who will taste best. Don’t be left behind by your group, you may end up on the menu.

Speaking of menus, if you haven’t the stomach for gore, you should try to avoid looking at some of the dismembered cast. One actor looks as though he is missing an arm; take a second look. He actually is missing an arm and he is using that to the fullest advantage to freak people out! Of course we can’t forget about those cast members with no legs, their spines wagged like a dogs tail when he’s happy to see you home after a long day, while the victim begged us to help them.

Some of the scares come from luring a person’s mind to play tricks on themselves. Upon entering the Wicked Woods portion, your group is left with a single flashlight’on a dark trail’ in the woods’ expecting… anticipating… imagination running wild’ what is going to get us? While there may be a moment of thinking that nothing is going to happen, it does not last. Even the bravest person will psych themselves out given the right conditions.

Ultimately, Hellstead Manor did a great job at getting good scares for everyone in the group. Not a single person was left out. Throughout the attraction, our group experienced many creative and perfectly-timed scares.

While there were plenty of great frightful moments we do feel that the finale could use a little boost. We were all amped up and expecting more only to realize that we were now strolling out of the woods and back to the manor. There was, however, a delightful bonfire along the exit path that was quite inviting.

Entertainment & Value: 7.88

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The haunt was about forty-five minutes long, but it didn’t feel nearly that long. There was plenty of psychological trickery, jump-scares, and engaging dialogue to make the time fly and engage your attention. This haunt was worth the $25 entry fee.

The line to get into the haunt is actually split into two lines. Outside the Manor house, there is nothing to engage you except a door person (in 19th century regalia) and signs giving the rules of the haunt. The line also felt like it took its time, though this is because group sizes were limited to six, and they spaced the groups out nicely once inside the haunt. So, a longer wait on the front end feels worth the excitement later, especially because you are not running into the group ahead or being pushed along by the group behind. Also, once you enter the Manor, you are greeted by wonderfully preserved architecture and woodwork, in addition to a small museum outlining the history of the house, the property and the people who lived there.

Another member of the cast greets you at the end of the line and wishes your group well before you step further into the Manor House, where the screams begin and don’t end for quite some time!

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 8.2 out of 10

Britt – 10/10October 1, 2021
Absolutely loved this spooky haunt! Last year I first visited Reapers and while that was fun or more …show more like a spooky rave IMO (loved it still), Hellstead Manor in my opinion does a better job at giving you a truly eerie haunt, the exact kind of spooky you want for the Halloween season. The detail and creativity that has gone into all of the props and effects was absolutely stunning, and I was creeped out at at multiple points, not to mention how many jump scares there were! The actors were amazing and interactive while respecting your space, and the owners/staff were so accommodating and lovely to talk to (I enjoyed asking questions and chatting with a few!). I’d love to flip the lights on and be able to see all the details in daylight, the craftsmanship of each and every room/area was truly applaudable and American Horror Story worthy! This will definitely be a new seasonal tradition, and I hope to return once more before this season is over!

Tiffany – 10/10October 17, 2020
Had an absolutely amazing time, great actors and very well done and well priced… def got my scare …show more and I’m an avid haunt visitor…well worth it, will def return next year!!!

Penelope – 10/10October 21, 2017
A REAL Haunted House for sure!

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