Hundred Acres Manor – Full Review
Hundred Acres Manor is a Haunted Attraction located in Bethel Park, PA.
1 100 Acres Drive, Bethel Park, PA 15102View All Details
Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Handicap Accessible, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Covered Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction, Family Friendly
This attraction was reviewed on October 5, 2019 by Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express.
How Do We Get These Scores?
Final Score: 9.21
How Did We Get This Score?
Admitting you have a problem can be hard; even worse, telling someone you care about that they do. Intervention can lead to a lot of negative feelings ‘ frustration, confusion, anger, grief… pain ‘ and too often puts an immense straight on relationships. Both parties may feel betrayed, abandoned.
Still, the process is an important one. Sometimes we simply are unable to view ourselves with the level of objectivity required to understand when a change ‘ a meaningful, drastic change ‘ needs to occur. In these moments, we depend on our friends to put what’s best for us above the easy route, acquiescence, no matter the outcome.
It takes great bravery to do this for a friend; greater still, the courage to accept the well-meaning criticism, swallow our pride, face our demons, and acknowledge the urgency to change.
Within that acceptance and transformation, however, amazing results are often achieved.
So when a monolith of the haunt industry begins to receive smatterings of lukewarm feedback, tales of lagging creative progress and worsening actor output, they have two options ‘ continue the present trajectory, knowing that the ticket sales will continue or look inward, reevaluate, bide the criticism, and seek to improve the experience because producing the highest quality product, no girth of ticket coffers, is truly valuable.
Hundred Acres Manor in Bethel Park, Pittsburgh’s premier haunted attraction, has returned this season, and they have been born again.
Welcome back, old friend.
How Did We Get This Score?
The lackluster overall performance displayed by the HAM cast last season was easily my single greatest complaint. Excluding a few stand-out characters, most of the actors seemed lifeless and uninspired, lethargically booing or reciting strict script beats. Our experience as customers was very negatively-impacted as a result.
Whew-ee, friends, what a reversal this year!
First of all, the facts : HAM has increased their actor base from 60 to 100 core actors. Additional volunteer actors further fatten the ranks by up to another 100 bodies strong, depending on the evening (the night we visited, approximately 160 total haunters were present). This haunter mitosis was most strongly felt in The Host, where layers of rowdy instigators waited ’round every corner to scare, deride, or amuse us. Throughout the entire attraction, though, every back alley, tunnel, and cemetery plot was well-stocked with scarers. In fact, the few brief (VERY brief) passages that didn’t feature actors provided much-needed, deep-breathing reprieves.
As a necessary caveat: it’s true that HAM isn’t intensely interactive. For the amount of folks that are coming through every night, the kind of involved, ad libbed back-and-forths that we get to enjoy at smaller attractions are realistically impossible here. Lines would stretch on for miles, and no one would get home until seven in the morning.
Even still, we were surprised by the healthy number of extended sequences and customer-actor interchanges that developed. We were in the middle of negotiations with the Apothecary (who switched genders in the off-season, making one particular curious about the capabilities of the tinctures lining his shelves), when I realized that my coin purse had been abducted by felonious waifs. Fie! An interaction with an alluring lass in the open-air street location appeared to be veering toward a different form of transaction when a billow of smoke politely reminded me (and she) of my virtue. Both of these actors provided limber, albeit brief, situational dialogue adaptations.
What HAM’s actors had in droves were unidirectional dialogue interfaces. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of startle-ians (often by way of ebullient vocal spasms), but there were an equal measure of chatty eccentrics.
…I’m CONFIDENT that I could write a sort of schizophrenic novella compiled solely from the scripted dialogue bandied about by the actors in The Host alone.
From the Breach’s enthusiastic opening commando, to the curfew warning from the first gal we encountered in Host, we experienced a broad swath of verbal altercations and appeals. The Ripper politely greeted us warmly (maybe he isn’t so bad after all ‘ much nicer than the abrupt gent warning us about him). The polite hostess of both Hallow’s Eve was kind enough to invite us into her home… for better or worse. The swinging, saucy gang in the barroom entertained us between swigs, though we really were hoping for a drinking song! The first actress we encountered made us laugh out loud with her rendition of the local rules (Grindr, indeed). And the plague doctor was downright intimidating.
Coffin Girl… was Coffin Girl. For goodness sake, can we please find a way to help that young lady out of that wooden tomb? She’s been in there for years! We need to start a petition! #FreeCoffinGirl
Most notably, perhaps, the cast of Cursed as a whole has improved their performances immensely. As the most egregious negative stand-out last season, I’m happy to say that that sinking ship has been properly restored to seaworthiness.
This year’s ensemble of monsters, mutants, and miscreants is excellent.
How Did We Get This Score?
Let’s get to the most important (re)addition of the season, shall we? My werewolf buddy is back. Welcome home, Prodigal Lycanthrope. Your ma’ and I have missed you so.
Per capita, HAM don’t often turn to masks for their monsterin’, but when they do, they make it count. In addition to my returned Hairy Were-y, the ‘OH GOD, THAT’S A PERSON!’ gargoyle and slinking alien have returned for this season. I can’t explain why, but I keep picturing Mr. Alien laced up into 1970’s-style skates, shimmying nimbly at a roller disco. That’s probably a me-problem, though.
The most impressive costume on display, though, came as the entire attraction’s swan song, a fearsome beast that regally oversaw the new cornfield/pumpkin patch stretch at the end of Hallow’s Eve. Make sure to give him rubber-necked scrutiny as you reluctantly dawdle past him. There are no sadistic rationales for that suggestion. None at all.
The rest of the costumes, those of more hominoid construction, were mostly accentuations ‘ grimy London peasants, or the demon-possessed, and beyond ‘ and befitted their hosts well.
Customer Service: 9.36
How Did We Get This Score?
We visited the Manor on what turned out to be a VERY busy night, but the staff handled the situation as well as could be asked of them. Their primary, onsite parking area had long been stuffed full of vehicles when we arrived, but the parking attendants began organizing the streams of traffic to safe locations across the park, slotting us into a spot a short walk from the attraction.
Note that an additional parking lot is located here :
’30 Corrigan Dr, Bethel Park, PA 15102′
Wagons will ferry (for no cost) HAM visitors to and from this lot all night. If you choose to visit on a weekend, please do yourself a favor and use that lot and enjoy the free twilight lift. Imagine that you’re in a horse and buggy. Imagine that you’re in a giant, mobile pumpkin named Patches . Imagine that I’m actually funny. Just enjoy the ride.
I would also like to note that, despite the bevy of haunt go’ers, groups were still being kept to reasonable sizes (no giant ‘conga lines’), and though it is generally inevitable that haunt groups moving at wildly different velocities will eventually encounter one another inside a long attraction, we were spaced far apart so as to not suffer this development until late in the walk through. The massive actor roll, combined with clever cast placement allowed made sure that all customers were being tended to throughout each phase of the attraction, often by different actors/scares. It’s a crafty mechanism to ensure that no customers were getting left out. Anyone who has been misfortunate enough to be siphoned through a traditional ‘conga line’ attraction, constantly brushing up against the aftermath of the previous group’s scare (and its shrugging, already-spent actors) can appreciate this ‘no victim left behind’ design.
There’s a lot to get involved in at HAM apart from the main attraction. Most notably, the fondly remembered maze has RETURNED, now reconstructed as a stand-alone, separate experience (for $5). Though it’s course has been altered, it is just as we all remember it ‘ black walls, windy, labyrinthian passages, and a couple of menacing, anti-social squatters stalking its depths. Welcome back, old friend
Also available as additional purchases ‘ the Tom Savini Buried Alive experience which was a great way to stir up afore-unknown Claustrophobia while being jostled around in a death crate, and escape rooms! While, respectfully, I can not comment on the quality of the escape rooms, if they are anything like the rest of the attraction, logic dictates that they’ll be a great experience.
Hungry? Thirsty? In addition to the traditional, mid-line concession stand, rotating food trucks now visit HAM as well. Greek cuisine was on-tap the night that we visited… and speaking of forced segues,
the HAM bar has returned as well, complete with its own tables and restrooms. Also, a well-stocked merchandise shop is easily accessible as you exit the main attraction.
Every staff member that we talked to was incredibly helpful and friendly. Extra special thank you to the awesome Cast…Director…? (I’m so good at remembering titles) that we spoke to (great work this year!) and, of course, the irreplaceable HAM superstar and all-around swell gent, Tyler.
HAM did not have any lazer swamps. These are tears of joy, Cindy, pure joy.
How Did We Get This Score?
WHAT? No more metal music???
Choirs of angels sing
Seriously, though, the entire atmosphere has gotten the proverbial shot in the arm. The attraction’s facade has remained the same (whew, still a 20-feet tall animatronic demon-terror Big Ben’ing it up there ‘ just checking), but the surrounding grounds have taken on a much more festive vibe.
As I mentioned above, we had a bit of a moonlit trek between our parking spot and the attraction, and, thinking back on it, witnessing the unfurling tableau, a shiny, fog-strewn beacon in the darkness on the horizon, it all worked out kind of appropriately.
Sure, elements of the traditional haunted veneer remain in place, including half a dozen excellent, prowling line scarers. Lenoir (who unintentionally invoked one of my single, greatest foot-in-mouth moments ‘ and, if you know me, that’s saying something ‘ in my haunt career and, perhaps, life, last season) remains one of our favorites, somehow simultaneously eerie and affable, but we also had a wonderful bit of playful chucklery with our new pal, Corncob Bob (I have no idea what his real name is). From where that phantom ear manifest, I have no idea; Bob is one of this world’s great mysteries.
Most importantly, there is now a bubble fogger. Sitting in front of the DJ booth, it billowed spherical happiness into the oxone. If one has never felt the cathartic release of chasing, capturing, and murdering small, haze-filled joy-orbs, one has never lived.
It really does feel like an EVENT now, hanging around the hub area, with so much to do, hear, and be scared by. The vibe is much more alive and vibrant. It might not be the ideal environment for haunt purists, but for most visitors (especially those concerned primarily with having a good time), it’s an appreciated improvement, and fits the in-your-face-but-still-kind-of-playful aesthetic of Hundred Acres Manor just right.
Special Effects: 9.41
How Did We Get This Score?
This season’s most significant special effect addition came at the beginning of the journey ‘ a new version of the Lift experience. Truthfully, this new upgrade makes the associated environmental scares much meatier, especially for any customers with motion sickness. Have you ever wanted to fully understand the physical plight of a vinyl record (and who hasn’t)? Step onto the Lift and prepare to empathize.
The Manor’s version of a !SPINNING TUNNEL! Is a good ‘un; I couldn’t help but wonder, though, why this particular iteration was causing me more disorientation than its opposite numbers at countless other attractions. What devilry is this, sir?
By and large, the Manor was not altered in broad strokes. Particularly across the scenic backdrop, the name of the game this season is REFINEMENT. Certainly the foundations of an excellent attraction have been molded together over the last few seasons but they needed a little extra refinement to reach their potential. At its peak, the set design at HAM was best classified as ‘layered’, and they’ve returned to that aesthetic. This has created a ‘thicker’ depth of field in the environments, making scenes feel like interactive slices of reality instead of flat backdrops. Piles of freshly-rotting (oxymoron alert) candy in Hallow Eve’s introductory flashback house, new rows of overlaid tree trunks in Cursed’s woodsy pathway, and a verdant thickening of the subterranean verdure through Host’s sewage canals (complete with a visiting tribe of hungry arachnids) all represented excellent examples of this evolution.
The primary set pieces of several existing scenes have been significantly altered as well, with varied results. A few of these felt arbitrary and weakened their environments. Though our beloved, definitely-in-need-of-a-bib werewolf animatronic remains, he has been taken out of his previous home and moved to a location that made his nocturnal gluttony far less exciting. Also, exterminators have clearly visited Breach, evicting the previous occupants of the tilted room, leaving behind a more ho-hum single set piece. Last season’s design inspired perhaps my greatest description of the year, so this I can’t help being stung by this unfortunate alteration (wink).
On the other hand, the outdoor cemetery segment of Voudou is VASTLY improved this season. Lackluster in the extreme last year, the hazy pathways have now been thoroughly fleshed out. The rows of mausoleums, and tomb stones look immensely more realistic now, with the thick sheen of ambient elevated the set into one of the Manor’s best. Even the masterful monolith at the center of the cemetery (last season’s consolation prize) has been tweaked positively. A repurposed troop of creepy clergy are a great addition to the chapel’s interior, improving an already amazing piece. Mephistopheles was getting lonely in there anyway.
When nearing the final, down-slanting passage that leads out of The Host, pause at the top of the ramp and look up. You, friend, are standing inside of a giant, undead-infested coffin. It’s easy to miss (our whole group did), but it’s a great new addition as well.
Despite the emphasis on improving existing sets, HAM has added new scenes as well. Hallow’s Eve has received a better departing vignette, a very autumnal pumpkin patch, that felt like a suitable, parting motif. I THINK that the VERY creepy school and child-themed environments in Host are partially or entirely new. It’s difficult to believe that those soulless infant eyes staring up at me wouldn’t have made a lasting impression previously.
Obviously there are still a plethora of scenes, sets and props from last year. The rubbery, luminous egg sacs from Breach are works of hideous art (or extraterrestrial reproductive glands, realistically). That attraction’s blue hallway has clearly begun malfunctioning, air currents filtering in from unseen fissures, and the lights themselves spasming uncontrollably like drunken neurons.
The ambient soundtracks for each element of the haunt are still excellent, matching the intended moods of their associated attractions very well.
We didn’t notice quite as many offensive smells this season, but, frankly, Hallow’s Eve’s noxious latter portion was more than enough for HAM to likely retain the heavyweight title for foul aromas.
How Did We Get This Score?
Probably the only disappointing aspect of the entire experience this year was that for the first time during our tenure as a review team, no (major) attractions changed. Yes, the Lift attraction is technically different (and better) now, but the five major walk through haunted segments didn’t welcome any new, neurotic siblings. Theme-shuffling certainly isn’t a necessity, and most other haunted houses of HAM’s size don’t perform this yearly purging (if ever…), but HAMother, its your own fault for spoiling us all these years.
Therefore, unlike the rest of this review, I can be brief here. The only significant change occurred within Cursed. Thematically it was a bit of a confused mess last season, but the improvement in actor quality (seriously, what exactly were those gals going for last time around?) and some good set touch-ups have improved the coherency of the attraction.
The Breach begins with a stronger element of immediacy as we explore a station that is no longer attempting to subvert the spread of the menace, but fight back against it. Can an attraction be a sequel to itself? It does play at that concept a few times, intentionally or not ‘ systems beginning to break down and malfunction, additional layers of collected grime ‘ the station is now entirely overtaken by the alien scourge.
Host, Voudou and Hallow’s Eve have not altered their core concepts significantly; it could be argued that each successive version of Voudou feels a little less voodoo-y, though.
Scare Factor: 9.23
How Did We Get This Score?
I would be hard-pressed to isolate any truly woeful scare attempts. That’s quite a feat when you’re tossing 160 fright efforts at us.
The energy of the entire cast was just a lot more intense this season. When HAM boo’d, it bellowed; when it snarled, it shrieked. There were at least half a dozen actors who needn’t say anything at all, but instead of impotently glaring at us like sad invalids when we passed, they violently writhed and convulsed, smashing into props, pounding on inanimate objects and set pieces like confused, ill-tempered percussionists. Several of them got impressively intense ‘ with nary a boo.
Those who did ‘boo’ did so with fervent ferocity, howling their discomfort at our interloping with crazed insistence and roars so deep-throated, I anticipate HAM may develop their startle-actors with daily tablespoons of rusty nails. Such blistering larynxs generating creepy assortments of vocal intonations, often on monsters so incredibly tiny. Kudos.
There were a pair of very effective prop-imitation scares at a level that I don’t believe I’ve seen HAM execute before. These actors did wonderful jobs impersonating, quick-scaring, and then returning to their faux-prop states in time to interact with the next group. When combined with some very solid distraction frights, it became nearly impossible to anticipate where the next scare attempt would come from.
Set design considerations are almost wholly discussed in Special Effects write-ups, but I feel that the really sinister child portions of HAM deserve a shout-out here. Likewise, the grotesque strips of slimy, dangling flesh in Hallow’s Eve did as good a job at frightening us as anything else…
‘ except that damn deer. Seriously, why have I never mentioned it before? Oh, it’s just a disturbingly realistic, gutted and dying deer staring up at me with pleading eyes. I am not at ALL bothered. Nope, not me.
All of the above, combined with some good manimatronics, and a handful of environmental scares coalesced into a really solid, well-rounded haunt environment. The large roster of scarers, and their strategic placement allowed frights to be spread out across our entire group (and beyond), with different actors reacting to different chunks of customers, while others reset after scare attempts. It was a layered approach very well-suited to the realities of a very busy haunted attraction.
In truth this was probably also the best ending that we have experienced at HAM — one last, clever boost of adrenaline as we ran off, giddily, through the exit door.
Entertainment & Value: 9.26
How Did We Get This Score?
Now that’s more like it. Welcome back, Hundred Acres Manor. We’ve missed you. 😉
Right; that’s a bit (a lot) unfair to an attraction that has still managed pretty impressive set work despite some rough patches for the last few seasons, but it’s impossible not to feel a palpable difference this time around, particularly among the actors. HAM made changes that has improved the quality of their attraction significant. That’s the bottom line and I don’t anticipate many will disagree.
One general admission ticket is $23 dollars; VIP is $35, and Super VIP (includes a hoodie) is $50. That makes the MPD 1.30 based upon our 30 minute journey through the attractions. If you intend on visiting during the weekend, please do yourself a favor and give that VIP upgrade a long look. While the excellent roaming actors and plenty of food can keep your wait time occupied for a while, the queue can stretch multiple hours easily. If you find yourself preparing for a second mid-line meal, realize that you may have made the wrong decision regarding ticket selection.
Also, take a peek at potential upcoming events on HAM’s social media. They tend to have a wide variety of unique experiences pop up week-by-week. The world’s smallest woman was on the site the day we reviewed!
If you’re a returning visitor, expect a vastly improved experience this year. Never been to HAM? This is an excellent year to introduce yourself to a true staple of haunted entertainment in the Pittsburgh area and nationwide.
Either way, we commend the entire staff on an excellent performance and highly recommend that any haunt enthusiast pay them a visit this season.
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Guest ReviewsGuest Average: 5.73 out of 10
The Hauntfinder General – 9.5/10 – September 9, 2016While I was originally planning on starting the season with a huge bang next week in Michigan, last …show more
Randy – 6.4/10 – September 24, 2022Okay if you want an Average Haunt. I was extremely disappointed because this haunt is said to be in …show more
Caleb – 6/10 – October 8, 2017I am very sad to see what has become of Hundred Acres Manor. It has been the same scenes and set up …show more
Most Detailed Sets (Given by: Team Houdini)
Highest Rated Costuming - TIE - with Crawford School of Terror (Given by: Team Houdini)
Highest Rated Special Effects (Given by: Team Houdini)
Trixx - Megan M (Given by: Team Houdini)
Lars - Wayne T (Given by: Team Houdini)
"Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" - Best Animatronic (Werewolf) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
"Wouldja look at that?" - Best Set Piece Non-Mechanical (Chapel) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
"You stink... but I love you" - Best/Most Diverse Smells (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
Scariest Haunt in Pennsylvania (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)