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This attraction was reviewed on October 25, 2019 by Team Cleaverland.

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Final Score: 8.24

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Nightmare in the Wilderness (NITW) is a nice long trail in haunt-packed Medina County, south of Cleveland. NITW just completed their 26th year!

We had not been here before, despite it being quite close to our home’in years past we’d planned on it, but something always came up the night we were going. Until this year, that is, and we’re glad we did finally get to go! This is a marvelous haunted trail that we enjoyed quite a bit.

Cast: 8.27

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The cast was large and varied, and nearly all of them were game and convincing, performing their parts admirably.

Nearly 50 actors breathed life into the trail. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a long path, and so there were a few unpopulated spots. Mostly, though, it wasn’t too much of an issue as the forest itself provided an enjoyable backdrop and usually some effect or transition to the next set was in view. Overall, we were satisfied with the number of performers.

Some characters to note:

An agreeable scarecrow wandered amongst the entrance crowd and followed riders onto the wagon that takes guests to the trail’s queue. A pair of monkeys on stilts worked the queue to the delight of the crowd. At least one of them displayed a great facility for making monkey sounds. These circus animals led directly into the first scene with the personable clowns and ringmaster.

‘Silly Billy’ gave us a shocking surprise, a group of evil scarecrows creeped us right out, a hang(wo)man and victim staged a distressingly realistic looking performance on the gallows, and we think we spotted a big bad wolf and a not so innocent Red Riding Hood teaming up to scare us.

Michael and Jason looked and acted just like their cinematic counterparts. Jason, in the middle of an excellent campground set, whipped out his machete and thrust it at us, stopping it an inch from one of our noses. It looked like an effect from the 3D Friday the 13th movie! Michael, while threatening, was just kind of wandering around… admittedly it must be difficult to build a Haddonfield, IL set on a trail.

The chattier actors mostly hung out at the beginning, like the ringmaster who welcomed us to the show and the clown who insisted that we had to promise to have fun or he’d poop on us. He followed us for a while and somehow the conversation worked around to how the team members should knit caps for each other. Very entertaining and unexpected!

Costuming: 8.2

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The lighting, or darkness, in some areas made the costuming somewhat hard to see. What we did get to see was pretty well done: complete costumes for the most part, simple but effective makeup jobs, and some cool masks.

Some of the best costumes were front-loaded in the attraction. The ringmaster in the opening scene wore a well detailed and elaborate costume. Paging the Ringling Brothers, we think we located your long lost sibling! The clowns in this area also looked good.

As mentioned in the Cast section, Jason and Michael were on point in every way, including visually. A group of evil scarecrows had us reeling with their menacing masks. However, one of them had taken off his mask and was walking around the scene when we came in. Actors, please remove yourself from the scene or otherwise hide yourself if you’re going to unmask!

Customer Service: 8.55

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NITW is in the town of Lodi, about an hour south of Cleveland and a half hour west of Akron. GPS took us right there. We were greeted by an illuminated sign.

Parking attendants guided us into a large area of free parking on grass. The friendly parking staff joked with us about our readiness for the experience. That same sense of joviality continued as we went along; everyone we encountered was very nice.

The trail was pretty well suited for walking. We didn’t stumble much at all, though we avoided a couple large roots that could have caused problems. Just wear something sturdy on the feet and walk cautiously, the best advice to follow whenever on a haunted trail anywhere.

The wagon ride back to the exit/entrance area dropped us off at a food stand. They had a wide selection of beverages, snacks, and heartier fare including walking tacos, hot dogs, corn dogs, and freshly sliced and cooked french fries… complete with all the fixins: salt & pepper, malt vinegar, and ketchup. We can say from personal experience that the fries come out piping hot and yummy!

Atmosphere: 8.14

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Being an outdoor trail in a rural area, the ‘out in the autumnal woods’ vibe made itself felt big time. A series of fire barrels with neat jack o’ lantern stencil-style cut-outs that were stationed throughout the grounds added more seasonal flair and provided a great, warming presence.

The wagon ride to (and from) the woods was surprisingly fast and fun-bumpy, amping up the excitement as we sped across the dark grounds. We were really moving! Entertaining queue performers included the aforementioned scarecrow and stilted chimps.

The monkeys on stilts related to the first section of the trail. Before entering, we came across big top sounds and decorations, setting up the first area, which was a dark carnival.

Special Effects: 8.23

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There were lots of effects used on the trail, and just about all of them were quite good.

NITW employed a variety of really nice lighting effects that threw a riot of colors and patterns onto the trees and ground. A long walk through a hanging jungle of illuminated vines was a very cool touch.

We walked past lots of inventive and/or impressive sets, including the opening carnival, a gallows scene with a realistic looking hanging, a large cemetery, Camp Crystal Lake, a creepy take on The Blair Witch Project, and a creative cribbing from The Walking Dead. That’s a lot of movie/TV references, but aside from those, most of it was filled with original scenes.

They wasted no time in setting up the effects; first up as soon as the entry curtain parted was a vortex (the first of two on the trail) leading to the carnival.

The maze was a seriously long and twisty endeavor filled with a quite disorienting mix of fog and slow pulsing strobes, plus an actor or two.

Lots of sound effects and appropriate musical selections enhanced our walk.

Theme: N/A

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The website establishes a little bit of a story about a haunted forest out past an apple orchard. The residents of a house there were shot and still haunt the grounds.

Really, though, there was no overall theme… and that was just fine with us. It was a series of scenes that worked perfectly well without a theme.

Scare Factor: 8.16

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The woods were legitimately scary. The actors and effects were more fun than flat-out scary, but we bet most people, like us, will get some good scare mileage out of the path… based on the screams we heard coming from all different parts of the trail as we walked through it!

A good startle when we entered the jungle vines area made one of us yelp so hard, the actor made sure to gloat about it. Silly Billy got a charged response out of us as we walked below his metallic outpost. The Blair Witch set was genuinely creepy. Actors used the woods and natural hiding spots well.

The finale was somewhat bizarre, more of a piece of performance art that required some reading. It was certainly original and something we’ve seen nowhere else.

Entertainment & Value: 8.2

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Get set to burn some calories, it was a long walk! NITW says it’s more than a mile, and that seemed about right. We took 39 minutes to walk the path, and it could be a good deal longer than that depending on if you’re a maze master or a labyrinth lame-o in the tricky maze structure.

General admission is $20, which made for a MPD (minutes of entertainment per dollar) of 1.95. That’s almost double the industry average. Anything approaching 2 is great, and it’s always a bonus when the time is spent at a genuinely fun attraction like this one.

Those who are age 10 or under can get in for $15. Please note, NITW is cash only and there is no ATM on the grounds. If you come armed only with plastic money, you’ll be driving a couple of miles away before returning.

Nightmare in the Wilderness was very entertaining and fun, and certainly one of the best trails we’ve enjoyed in northeast Ohio. Give it a try if you’ve never been here before!

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