Pirates of Emerson – Full Review

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

4501 Pleasanton Avenue, Alameda County, Pleasanton, CA 94566
View All Details

Haunt Type(s):

Multiple Haunts1HauntedHouse1HauntedTrail


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


Email Pirates of EmersonMessage Pirates of Emerson on Facebook Messenger


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

Team In-Corpse-A-Rated Logo

This attraction was reviewed on October 17, 2020 by Team In-Corpse-A-Rated.

How Do We Get These Scores?

Show Top Legend

Final Score: 8.65

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Overall Scores


The pandemic of 2020 has been particularly hard in California. Then when you add a series of summer fires across the state, it makes one wonder how long will it take California’s economy to recover. Local health departments are not permitting the traditional walk-through haunted house to open this year, therefore many haunt owners have opted to cancel their 2020 seasons in hopes to be open next year. Yet, one family was determined to salvage their haunt season, come hell or high water. Karl Fields, Patty Fields, and Brian Fields, owners of Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Themed Park, decided to change their haunt into a drive-through experience. By keeping their guests in their cars, Pirates Of Emerson would be COVID-19 safe. The next obstacle for the Fields family was receiving full access to the Alameda County Fairgrounds, because the California State Department of Forestry And Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE) used the fairgrounds as a base of operations for dispatching fire trucks to the various fires that plagued the state. Karl Fields told us that the Pirates Of Emerson build crew did not get full access to the 10-acre lot until two weeks before their opening night.

For all of the hurdles that the Fields family had to overcome, we were impressed with the 2020 haunt. We do not feel we can be too critical, because the new rules and regulations of COVID-19 California won’t allow haunts to operate in the same manner as past years.

Cast: 8.35

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Cast Scores

Pirates Of Emerson had several actors placed throughout the Drive-Thru Haunt. To tell you the truth, many areas could have used more actors, but we understand that even the cast needs to social distance from one another in a working environment. 10 acres is a lot of ground to cover. Most of the actors hid from view and jumped out to the sides of our car. Both driver side and passenger sides were targeted equally.

Only a few actors used dialogue. One of the guests in our car yelled, ‘You made me pee my pants’, and the hillbilly girl replied, ‘I’ll drink your pee.’ Now that was an unexpected response that made us laugh. There were a variety of characters, and they were all relevant to the particular scenes that they were located in.

Costuming: 8.93

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Costuming Scores

The actors of Pirates Of Emerson all had various costumes relating to their respective scenes. Costumes were all finished and complete. There were various uses of makeup, from prosthetics, to clowns, to zombies. We only spotted a few full-head masks. The costuming did help make the actors appear more scary and intimidating.

Customer Service: 9.61

How Did We Get This Score?

Show CS Scores

Pirates Of Emerson is easy to locate, because it resides at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. There are Fairgrounds employees at the entry gate who’ll tell you where to go, and there are signs directing guests along the pathway.

Pandemic safety was addressed with the policy that guests can roll their car windows down if they are all wearing cloth face masks. Otherwise, all windows must remain rolled up at all times. This year, there was no ticket booth. All ticket sales were available online only to be pandemic compliant. Most of the staff that we could see were in charge of lining up cars for entry into the haunt. They lined up and permitted entry much like an assembly line. Seven rows of cars were lined up in an empty lot from right to left, and as the rows on the left were being filled, the rows on the right were permitted to enter. As the left-hand rows were permitted entry, the rows on the right were filled up with new guests. It was a very efficient system choreographed beautifully by the parking staff. Between each row of cars were security guards walking along the length of each row.

Finding information for Pirates Of Emerson is very easy because they have a very cool website and have a presence on various social media.

Atmosphere: 8

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Atm Scores

The topic of Atmosphere is difficult to judge this year because the state pandemic health codes are too restrictive to allow a decent haunt atmosphere. The assembly line of cars coming in and out at the empty lot was the atmosphere.

While waiting in line, we could see the archway entrance of the haunt in the distance, along with fire shooting in the air at various intervals. We waited about 20 minutes in our row at the empty lot. So watching the other rows on the right of us be permitted to enter did help build anticipation, especially when we knew our row was next.

Special Effects: 8.74

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Sfx Scores

At the entrance archway to the haunt, there was a sign that instructed us to turn off our headlights and set our radio to 95.5FM. A soundtrack loop played in our car as we drove through, featuring various sound effects, including crickets, moaning sounds, ‘This Is Halloween’ theme from Nightmare Before Christmas, and the song Dueling Banjos. The soundtrack also had a voiceover say, ‘Please Keep Your Car Moving At All Times,’ which did distract from the flow of everything else heard. Karl Fields explained to us that they had a car stop to take a group picture, so the voiceover was a necessary evil.

The Drive-Thru consisted of various scenes and themes. It’s a 10-acre lot with multiple twists and turns. There were various overhead structures throughout the driving course, and each structure had a curtain of black rubber strips that we had to drive through, reminiscent of a car wash. These curtains blocked our view ahead, which actors took advantage of for startling guests. Despite no headlights, there was still enough ambient light to safely drive. Among the lighting included lasers and strobe lights at various areas. There were also fog machines at multiple points. We have been attending Pirates Of Emerson for multiple years, so we recognized scenery pieces that have been used in their walk-through haunts. Several of them have been made in-house as well as professionally bought. The signature Emerson Pirate Ship had flames shooting in the air. Some areas were a bit sparse, like an open trail, and others were well detailed. There is a sense of driving through a haunted town. The Carn-Evil clown area had a high level of detail, as well as the hillbilly structures and the Emerson Pirate Ship.

An original use of scenery that caught our attention were the bone walls that have been used in crypt themed haunts in previous years were lined up individually, flanking our left and right sides, as a sort of Stonehenge homage. All of these effects did achieve and maintain our suspension of disbelief, and were effective at providing scares and entertainment.

Theme: N/A

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Theme Scores

There was no underlining theme for Pirates Of Emerson’s Drive-Thru. It was a series of independent scenes with their own distinctive themes.

Scare Factor: 8.53

How Did We Get This Score?

Show Scare Scores

Pirates Of Emerson did have some good scares, but with the actors spread sporadically throughout the 10 acre course, the scares are not as consistent as they were in previous years as a walk-through. Historically, Pirates Of Emerson’s actors would get in your face and invade your personal space, so this year the actors would get as close as they could without touching the car. Actors provided scares from both driver side and passenger sides, but our backseat received more scare attention than the front. Some actors tried to stare at us intimidatingly, but it didn’t convey the same feeling in a car as it would in a walk-through.

The most successful scares were jump startles from hidden corners. At the prison scene, we thought we caught an actor resetting into position, but a second actor jumped out and caught us off guard. The end of the haunt had one actor provide a final scare as we left.

Entertainment & Value: 8.49

How Did We Get This Score?

Show EV Scores

Pirates Of Emerson Drive-Thru took about 30 minutes to complete, so we were satisfied with the entertainment we received. The interesting fact about this year is that the ticket price is $94.99 per car, not per person, but per car! So, a party of 4 or 5 could split the cost in a single car, and pay less per person than the general admission cost from last year. In that aspect, guests do get their money’s worth. If only one or two people are in the car, then the price per car is too steep.

There are four days in their schedule where they have Non-Actor Nights at a discount price of $74.99 per car ( October 21, October 28, November 6, November 7). Because of COVID-19, there is no queue entertainment.

Most of the available space is used effectively, but there are a few spots that are sparse in d������cor, so we are not sure if that was intentional, like an abandoned road, or if the time constraints of CAL FIRE’s turnover affected Pirates Of Emerson’s building crew. Karl Fields said that once the pandemic is over, they would be open to doing another Drive-Thru in the future. For how the year 2020 has been, we are grateful that Pirates Of Emerson found a way to keep their Halloween Tradition alive.

How Did We Get These Scores

More Info Button

View Full Score Sheet >

Promo Images:

Click to Enlarge

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.

View All

Submit Your Own Review!

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)

Join our

on youTube!

We visit Halloween haunted attractions year-round! Follow us for haunted house walkthrough videos, behind the scenes footage, and more!