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 9, 2021 by Team In-Corpse-A-Rated.

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Final Score: 9

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The year 2021 marks the return of Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park as a walk-through attraction, and it’s an experience we truly missed. To their credit, Pirates of Emerson were one of the few haunted attractions that was able to open in the pandemic shutdown of 2020, be it as a drive-through haunt where guests remained in their cars and drove through a haunted village. This year, we got to take photo ops with our favorite line actors, explore the haunted compound, enjoy the d������cor more closely, and receive more startling jump scares. The community missed the walk-through experience, and to see it come back means life is returning back to normal. Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park features four main walk-through haunts, Hillbilly Holler, Holiday Horror, Clown Chaos, and the signature haunt Pirates of Emerson. But there is also a Bonus Haunt that did not require the full general admission price to enter. Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is celebrating their 30th Anniversary, which is a fantastic milestone in the haunted attraction industry, and we wish them a heartfelt congratulations. Karl and Patty Fields, with their son Brian, started Pirates of Emerson as a home haunt, and throughout the years, grew to be one of the largest haunts in California. Their longevity is a testament to the Fields family’s dedication, passion, and hard work. We were absolutely in awe of the d������cor, special effects, and received multiple jump scares, which culminated to be a thrilling experience.

Cast: 8.81

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The four main haunts did have enough actors to sustain scares and entertainment consistently. We found all of the actors to be enthusiastic, intense, and engaged as needed in their respective scenes. No one appeared to be apathetic. The actors who were the most interactive were the ticket takers at the beginning of each haunt. Each one would converse with guests before admission, which gave guests a little insight in what to expect. Upon entry, the actors concentrated more on jump scares. Each of the ticket takers had interesting dialogue, but the most memorable was the girl at the Bonus Haunt, because she played off schizophrenia and humor quite well. When it comes to variety of characters, Holiday Horror and Pirates of Emerson had the most variety, but Hillbilly Holler and Clown Chaos had more similar types.

Costuming: 9.1

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Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is well known for their elaborate costumes. The line actors each have original costumes adorned with personal and creative touches. One pirate’s lady had a miniature sailing ship on her tricorne hat with sand, seashells, and string lights. The ticket taker at Holiday Horror wore a cool female Krampus costume, and the ticket taker at Hillbilly Holler had an elaborate skinned-face makeup job. Every actor’s costume was finished, and none looked incomplete. Makeup was applied skillfully well, and the masks used did make the actors appear scarier. The costumes were very appropriate for their respective scenes and themes, and nobody appeared to be out of place.

Customer Service: 9.56

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Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is easy to find because they are located at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, CA. As long as you know they are at the Fairgrounds, there are plenty of street signs in the city limits and along the major freeway of Interstate 680 to guide you. There are County Fair Staff who charge $10 for parking (money goes to the County Fair, not the Haunt), and they will guide you to a parking space. From the parking lot, the Haunted Themed Park is easy to spot, as well as the queue line and ticket booth. The majority of the Themed Park is handicap accessible. There are no trip hazards or safety hazards to be found. Each haunt had emergency signs posted, and there is security on site. All guests are required to walk through a metal detector before entering the Themed Park. We found the staff members to be professional, easy to locate, helpful and friendly. Finding information is easy, because they have an up-to-date website and a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Atmosphere: 9.36

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Outside of the Themed Park compound, it was very obvious we arrived at a haunted attraction. The entrance has a large castle fa������ade, and a very large ‘Pirates of Emerson’ banner is visible from a distance. The sounds of scary music, and the sights of fog machine smoke and pyrotechnic flames rising are obvious giveaways, too. We arrived 10 minutes before opening, and the audience outside was very energetic. There was excitement in the air. Upon entry into the Themed Park, we could see the pirate’s theme, and various haunted props and set pieces. The atmosphere did build anticipation for the main haunts. After all, if the Themed Park looks this cool outside of the main attractions, it makes you want to see what’s inside.

Special Effects: 8.93

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Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is a feast for the eyes. The two most memorable haunted attractions are Holiday Horror and the Pirates of Emerson signature haunt. Pirates of Emerson had a swamp scene, caves and ruins that were astonishing. Also, a treasure chest room that paid homage to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, and the inside of a ship’s hull. One memorable special effect was a forced perspective of a long cave shaft. Holiday Horror featured scenes in a Victorian home which were extremely detailed. Clown Chaos was composed of red and white stripped walls that were reminiscent of a circus tent, filed with oddity props, and Hillbilly Holler created the illusion of being in a wooden shack with outdoor trails. The scenes and props were almost 100% made in house, and there’s so much detail that it takes more than one visit to catch it all. We even enjoyed the forced perspective mining cave. It’s also worth noting that the building crew are absolute masters of scenery lighting. The use of shafts of light, shades of light and dark, and various laser effects enhance the guests’ experience. Several animatronics are found in each haunt, as well as the always fun vortex tunnel. Video images were incorporated through a projected image of crawling spiders, and LED monitors that were used as windows of a pirate ship. There are various sound effects in all of the haunts, but the most memorable was the demented circus music in Clown Chaos. Overall, the special effects did achieve and maintain the suspension of disbelief, and worked together very well to provide a scary and entertaining experience.

Theme: 9.13

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The Haunted Themed Park compound’s overall theme is pirates, as well as the Pirates of Emerson signature haunt. Clown Chaos’ theme was obviously scary clowns in a circus, and Hillbilly Holler’s theme was hillbilly cannibals. Holiday Horror’s theme began as a Victorian home decorated for Christmas, but progressively turns darker and more demented. The Bonus Haunt was also a hillbilly cannibal theme, which could have easily tied in with Hillbilly Holler. Each haunt’s theme was easy to tell, and carried well throughout. The location itself does not authenticate the themes, but the scenery was engaging enough to suspend the thought that we were at a County Fairgrounds.

Scare Factor: 8.53

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Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park has many jump scares. The most notable ones were in Hillbilly Holler and the Pirates of Emerson signature haunt, but Holliday Horror had a few good ones as well. In Clown Chaos, their actors honked at us with those hand squeeze bicycle horns, so the scares weren’t as effective. There was an actor who bounced towards us on a bungee cord, which did make a good impression. Overall, the actors timing was very good, and they targeted everyone in our group. The scares were predominantly jump scares, but there were a few intimidating stares as well. None of the haunts had a really scary finale, but the Bonus Haunt had a well-timed air compressor blast.

Entertainment & Value: 8.95

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We were very satisfied with the entertainment received during the main attractions, and felt like we got our money’s worth. We were also satisfied with the entertainment available outside of the main attractions, which consisted of the Bonus Haunt, a movie screen playing Pirates of Emerson Promotional Videos, the interplay with the line actors, and the various photo op scenery pieces. Sadly, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the carnival games were not available this year’popularly known as the ‘CARN-EVIL.’ General Admission is $36.50, and the time spent walking through the haunts took approximately 20 minutes. But with the ambiance of the Themed Park compound, we felt the ticket price was appropriate. All of their available space was used effectively, and there were 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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