Pirates of Emerson – Full Review

Pirates of Emerson is a Haunted Attraction located in Pleasanton, CA.

4501 Pleasanton Avenue, Alameda County, Pleasanton, CA 94566
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Haunt Type(s):

Multiple HauntsHaunted HouseHaunted Trail


Pirates of Emerson Facebook PagePirates of Emerson WebsitePirates of Emerson Twitter PagePirates of Emerson on InstagramPirates of Emerson on YouTube


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Paid Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Handicap Accessible, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 13, 2018 by Team In-Corpse-A-Rated.

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Final Score: 8.87

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Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park returns for their 27th year in the city of Pleasanton, California, at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. They are laid out as a theme park featuring 5 main haunt mazes: Holiday Horror, The Haunted, Pirates of Emerson, Prison Panic and Psycho Path.

The rest of the compound is set up as a pirate-themed carnival. This year they changed some of their traditions. Instead of adhering to strict labyrinth designs, there were some haunts that had open areas which gave guests the freedom of choice to walk around scenic structures. Also, instead of their chain link fence maze being its own individual attraction, it was placed in the middle of the Psycho Path haunt maze. We applaud their artistic decision to try something new, but on the other hand, the haunt mazes seemed shorter than previous years and it felt like they were short of actors. As a result, this visit didn’t seem as scary as previous years, but we still love the artistic design in terms of costuming and set.

No other haunt looks or feels like Pirates of Emerson. They are a true original. Holiday Horror and Psycho Path were our favorites.

Cast: 8.21

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The line actors of Pirates of Emerson are always great. They interact with guests and pose for pictures. They represent the company brand well.

The actors were believable and portrayed their roles well. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue, except the hillbilly cannibal girl in the barn at Psycho Path, who was sizing us up as part of her dinner menu. In the chain link maze of Psycho Path, a hillbilly girl taunted us as we were trying to find our way out. The most interactive moment was in Prison Panic. In the prison ward, an inmate was operating on a dead body, then looked at us and sprayed compressed air at us. He was using an airbrush, and it did startle us.

Overall, there were various characters in the themed park, but in the individual mazes, Psycho Path had similar hillbilly characters and Prison Panic had similar inmate characters. The main haunt mazes did need more actors. Holiday Horror and Psycho Path felt like they had enough, but Prison Panic, The Haunted and Pirates of Emerson mazes seemed short on them.

Costuming: 9.01

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Pirates of Emerson always delivers in the costuming department. Their line actors are best dressed with elaborate outfits and detailed makeup. The actors in the haunts wore appropriate clothing for their particular scenes and themes. Their makeup was appropriate as well, but they stuck to more primitive styles. We don’t recall any prominent masks used anywhere in the haunted mazes.

Customer Service: 9.83

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Pirates of Emerson is easy to find since it’s located at the Alameda County Fairgrounds and the city of Pleasanton has plenty of signs directing drivers to the property. The compound is easy to spot. From outside, you can see the lights and fire shooting into the air as well as the ticket booth and entrance area.

We found the whole attraction to be very safe and nothing dangerous could be found. Staff and security were both readily available throughout the compound. The entire staff was very friendly and helpful. Pirates of Emerson’s information is easy to find because they have an excellent website and are on various social media sites.

Atmosphere: 9.65

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Pirates of Emerson has a party vibe, part spooky and part rock-n-roll. From the parking lot, you can see the lights, hear the music, and see flames shoot into the sky at various intervals.

Inside the entry gate, the compound has a pirate/carnival theme. The pirate ship performance stage had a classic rock band playing cover tunes. Those flames come from the two masts of the ship. There are various photo opportunities with staged life-sized dioramas for selfies. There are other activities that require paying carnival tickets, known here as ‘Monions’. They are good for carnival games, an oddities museum, a ‘Misfortune’ Teller, gift store and a 90-second mini haunt. The atmosphere does give guests some insight into what they will see.

Special Effects: 8.75

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Pirates of Emerson has a variety of special effects. Most memorable are the vortex tunnel and claustrophobia tunnel in Holiday Horror, the motion activated props and the animatronic alligator in the Pirates of Emerson maze, the broken circuit breakers that were twitching and making electrical sounds, along with the airbrush gun in Prison Panic. In addition, the sound effects of crickets chirping and the air compressor blast in The Haunted was effective, and the fog machines and laser lights in the chain link maze in Psycho Path. The mini haunt had a video animation of a chainsaw maniac shown from a video monitor disguised as a window that sprayed water at us in the timing of a victim being sawed in half. Around the next corner was a giant boar head growling at us.

The scenes and props were mostly created in-house, so they don’t look like any other haunt. Holiday Horror has many painted scenic flats with fluorescent color designs that glow under black lights. That same artist also painted a large fluorescent painting of a pirate ship in the Pirates of Emerson maze. There was impressive stone masonry walls, cannons, and jail cells, that almost feel like something from Disney. The Haunted scenery had the rustic wooden cabins and swampy feel. Prison Panic’s scenery was appropriate for an institution. Psycho Path is mostly an outdoor haunt, but there is a cargo freight car that serves as a home for hillbilly cannibals, and after the chain link fence maze, there’s a shack with more hillbillies and bloody body parts. We could tell that there was much thought and time spent putting these mazes together and they all maintained the suspension of disbelief. The special effects were successful at creating a spooky and entertaining experience.

Theme: 9.38

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The overall theme of the compound is a Pirate’s Carnival. Each of the five main haunt mazes has its own independent theme.

Holiday Horror has twisted scenes of various holidays, mostly focusing on Halloween and Christmas. There was a tribute to Nightmare Before Christmas with a painting of Jack Skellington and a life-sized mannequin of Sally. Prison Panic is a prison that has been taken over by inmates. The Haunted is a bayou/voodoo themed maze, with a rural and swampy feel. Psycho Path is a hillbilly cannibal theme with an interesting detour into the chain link fence maze. The Pirates of Emerson is of course, themed after pirates.

All the mazes conveyed their themes very well, but the Psycho Path, especially with the laser lights, seemed out of place with the hillbilly cannibal theme. The location is on an empty field of the Alameda County Fairgrounds, so it’s hard to say it authenticates the pirate theme, but it does authenticate the carnival atmosphere.

Scare Factor: 8.13

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We’re sad to say this because we’ve been going to Pirates of Emerson for several years, but we didn’t find this year to be as scary as it was in years past. They’ve set the bar so high, that our expectations are high as well. They did provide scares to everyone in our group, and they weren’t predictable. The lack of actors affected our experience, which we know for the most part is sometimes out of their control. The majority of scares consisted of them startling us from hidden corners. A few haunt mazes ended with an air compressor blast, but other than that, there wasn’t any really strong endings.

Entertainment & Value: 8.99

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Pirates of Emerson does provide a good overall experience for the price of the ticket when you include the atmosphere with the haunt mazes, but we wish a couple of the mazes were longer. Several of them were only 2 to 3 minutes long, but Psycho Path was 8 minutes and Holliday Horror was 4 minutes. It took us about 20 minutes total to navigate all haunts. General admission is $30 online and $35 at the door.

We were very satisfied with the entertainment outside of the haunt mazes. It was clearly obvious everyone was having a great time and weren’t in a rush to leave. We do believe the ticket prices are appropriate for these haunts and all available space was appropriately used. There were no dead zones to be found.

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 9.5 out of 10

Sybil – 10/10October 28, 2017
A yearly tradition and the BEST in the Bay Area! Don’t go too late in the evening because you dont …show more want to miss a thing and there is so much to see and do! Games, food, live entertainment PLUS multiple haunts!

Sharon schutjet – 10/10May 18, 2016
Best time you can have in October. Very professional and surprisingly scary. Great props and other …show more side games and attractions.

Judy – 8.5/10October 23, 2020
We waited about 40 minutes on a Friday night to enter the attraction. The entry was very well …show more organized and ran smoothly considering the large number of vehicles. Each scene was a separate vignette. We especially loved the pirate ship and the prison scenes, though all were fun. There were four of us in the car (ages mid-20’s to mid 60s’s) and throughout we enjoyed a fun, celebratory mood. The actors came up to the car on both sides. Since I was the driver I missed seeing some of that action, but the delight of my passengers made it all worthwhile. I appreciated that the cars were spaced well apart so we had a mostly individual experience like driving through a haunted town by ourselves. Added to the suspense! We all agreed that it was really fun and we would do it again, and it was worth the $95 admission for the car. The drive through was about 30 minutes.

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Past Awards

2018 Awards

Best Atmosphere (Given by: Team In-Corpse-A-Rated)

Best Fantasy Scenery (Given by: Team In-Corpse-A-Rated)

Best Use of Lasers (Given by: Team In-Corpse-A-Rated)

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