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 Haunts1HauntedHouse1HauntedTrail


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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 12, 2019 by Team In-Corpse-A-Rated.

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Final Score: 8.87

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For 28 years, Pirates Of Emerson has brought fear to the East Bay. From it’s humble beginnings as a yard haunt at Karl and Patty Field’s home on Emerson Street in Fremont, Pirates Of Emerson has grown into the American success story of being a Haunted Themed Park. Karl and Patty, along with their son, Brian Fields, oversee this huge operation that has now been residing at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, California for several years. Obviously, the overall theme is pirates, but this Themed Park offers 5 main attractions. Hillbilly Holler is a haunted trail where cannibal hillbillies lurk in different corners. Mystery Mansion is a Victorian themed haunt where the inhabitants eat their guests. Dorm Of Doom is a clown themed haunt, and the signature haunt is Pirates Of Emerson. The fifth attraction is Maze Haze, which is an outdoor walkthrough maze made of chain-link fence. Our personal favorites were Mystery Manor and Pirates Of Emerson. Besides the main attractions, the Themed Park offers multiple excursions to keep your interest. Sadly, Debbie wasn’t able to attend this year, but her son Drake came to help me review Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Themed Park.

Cast: 8.36

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Overall, the main haunts did have enough actors, but we wish there had been a few more in Hillbilly Holler. The actors were believable and convincing, thus, nobody broke character. There were several actors who interacted with the scenery, and what comes to mind is how many actors in Mystery Mansion would use the animatronics as a distraction to time their startles. One actor in Pirates Of Emerson hid in a cargo box and surprised us with a startle as he jumped out. A clown in Dorm Of Doom called us over to ‘Follow The Clown, Follow The Clown.’ None of the haunts were really dialogue driven. There were a few shorts comments heard sporadically in the haunts. A pirate in Pirates Of Emerson jumped from around the corner and said, ‘I’m a magician,’ which was odd, yet memorable. At the end of Pirates Of Emerson, as we walked down the final corridor, a pirate yelled from above, ‘Walk The Plank!’ which seemed appropriate. There were a few clich������s, such as ‘Fresh Meat’ in Mystery Mansion, and ‘Do you want to play?’ in Dorm Of Doom. When asked that question, we responded, ‘Yes, we want to play’. The clown responded back, ‘Good, because all my friends are dead.’ There were a good variety of characters, and each actor brought a different take on the character they portrayed.

Costuming: 8.94

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The costumes appeared to be complete and finished for all of the actors in the Themed Park. The most creative and detailed costumes were worn by the line actors who walk throughout the compound. One of the more memorable line actors is Gigante, who is well over 6 feet tall, has been at the Themed Park for several years. In the haunts, the actors were all well dressed, and there were no obvious faux pas in their costumes. The pirate actors in Pirates Of Emerson did wear impressive attire. The best use of makeup was with the line actors, but the clowns in Dorm Of Doom had good clown makeup. There were a few masks, mostly in Mystery Mansion, and they did help make the actors more intimidating. Overall, the costumes were appropriate for their respective scenes and themes, and nobody looked out of place.

Customer Service: 9.25

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Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is easy to find because it’s located near the front entryway of the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The Fairground Authority has parking staff who will collect tolls and tell you where to park your vehicle. The outer walls of the Themed Park are black, and the company logo is visible on a large mounted sign. There are assorted lights around the tickets booths and a video monitor shows the prices of admission. In order to enter, guests must walk through a metal detector. The staff was professional, helpful, friendly, and were easy to find because they all wore black Pirates Of Emerson shirts. We found all of the main attractions and various side attractions to be safe. Nothing dangerous could be found. Information on the Themed Park is easy to find, because they have an official website and a presence on various social media.

Atmosphere: 9.65

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The Pirates Of Emerson compound is designed like a theme park, and it absolutely works. From outside of the walls in the parking lot, you can hear the music, guests screaming, see lights and flames shoot in the air. Once you enter the Themed Park, there are various set pieces for selfies, a life-size pirate ship that serves as a performance stage, line actors interacting with guests, carnival games, large animatronic creatures, misfortune teller, an oddities room, and various mini-attractions across the landscape. The ambiance of it all is part creepy, part high energy party, and it does prepare you for what awaits in the main haunts.

Special Effects: 8.7

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First thing to note is this year the Themed Park has added an awesome Victorian house fa������ade for Mystery Mayhem. It looks rundown and creepy, just like the Addams Family home. The Themed Park has various animatronic creatures which activate at various time intervals. The flames you can see from the outside of the Themed Park are two flame throwers attached to the two masts of the pirate ship. There are also two other flame throwers at the other end of the park. At the carnival area, one thing that caught our eyes that was new was the moving tree ring toss. They were animatronic trees with glowing eyes. That swayed back and forth to challenge ring tossers. Colored lights and fog cover the majority of the Themed Park grounds.

The scenes and details were most impressive in Mystery Manor and Pirates Of Emerson. Mayhem Manor had several animatronic effects, and good detailed scenes which reminded us of an unkept home. While waiting in line at the Manor, there was a video projected image on a statue bust which made it appear to talk. Pirates Of Emerson had the most memorable d������cor, from the catacomb-like cave to the various parts of a pirate ship. From each turn, it felt like we were on a pirate ship. One nice addition was the use of two video monitors, set up in the scenery to appear as windows looking out of the ship. The image playing on the monitors were the ocean waves and skeleton pirates looking inside the ship. There is really good use of pin-spot lighting that highlights an image in various scenes throughout Mystery Manor and Pirates Of Emerson. With the fog haze in the air, the light shafts really stand out. Dorm Of Doom and Hillbilly Holler were more sparse in their decors. Hillbilly Holler is a haunted trail where guests enter and exit mini-structures. There was a walking bridge over a creek with an animatronic alligator that looked really good. At another point of the trail, there was a chain-link fence maze with multiple laser lights. It’s an almost outer space quality that seems at odds with the hillbilly cannibal theme. Dorm Of Doom relied on black lights and fluorescent colors, which also made the clowns’ makeup stand out. There were some lasers, but Dorm Of Doom also had the vortex tunnel and claustrophobia tunnel. Maze Haze is the name of this year’s main chain-link fence maze. The use of strobe lights and fog haze does disorient guests as they try to get to the end. We were disappointed to find that this year’s feature chain-link fence maze was much smaller than previous years.

The overall use of special effects did achieve the suspension of disbelief. Sound effects were mostly subtle, but the most memorable sound came from the circuit breaker box making electrical sounds in Mystery Manor. The special effects were effective at providing scares and entertainment.

Theme: N/A

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The haunts at Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Themed Park do not have a central theme. Each is an independent story of their own. The majority of the Themed Park is pirate themed, but the carnival is creepy clowns. Hillbilly Holler is cannibal hillbillies, Mystery Manor is Victorian cannibals, Dorm Of Doom is clowns, and the Pirates Of Emerson haunt is, of course, pirates.

Scare Factor: 8.49

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The scariest haunt was Mystery Manor. The actors there timed their scares the best, by allowing animatronic devices to distract guests so they can come in for a startle. However, we did walk by a stairway where the actress missed her cue and came for us late. There was a man with a chainsaw in the kitchen revving the engine, and another actor shot us with an air compressor gun. Dorm Of Doom and Pirates Of Emerson relied more on intimidating stares, but Doom had a memorable scare with a flying actor on bungee cords who jumped in front of us from a darkened room, and Emerson had an actor in a cargo box who popped out like a jack-in-the-box and surprised us. Maze Haze had an actor in the center blasting his siren gun at various guests. Hillbilly Holler’s scares centered around their weapons, as one revved a chainsaw, another a circular saw, and a third shoot us with an air compressor gun. The actors did provide scares to everyone in the group, and timed themselves very well. None of the haunts had a final ‘crescendo scare,’ but had ordinary endings.

Entertainment & Value: 9.14

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We were satisfied with all of the haunts, but wanted more from Maze Haze because it felt too short. The ticket price, excluding the main attractions, do offer more entertainment than most haunts. There’s the pirate ship stage, where live acts alternated between a classic rock band and a belly dancing troupe. Various set pieces are placed throughout the Themed Park for selfies. There’s a small shack where you can watch the video which has a surprise ending. A small food court sells both Mexican and American food. There’s a merchandise stand, where you can buy ticket upgrades as well as swag. The general admission ticket has seven small ‘splatter punch’ markers for hole punches, which allow you to attend the mini-attractions and play the carnival games. These smaller attractions used to cost extra, but this year, they are included with your ticket. The Themed Park is $35 general admission at the door, but $30 online. For all of the main and smaller attractions, this is a fantastic deal. The Themed Park does effectively use their available space and there are no ‘dead zones.’

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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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