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 15, 2022 by Team In-Corpse-A-Rated.

About Our Reviews and Rating System

Final Score: 9.02

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For 31 years, Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park has scared and entertained the Bay Area and has become one of the best-known professional haunts in the nation. This haunt began as a home haunt at the house of Karl and Patty Fields, with their son, Brian. Over time, they grew into a professional haunt that has remained open every Halloween Season, including the 2020 pandemic year.

There are four haunted attractions in this year’s Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park: Demented Dolls, Halloween Hell, Seesawz Circus, and Pirates of Emerson. The price of admission also permits you to enter Frightmare Oddities, which is more of a museum exhibit of true crime newspaper headlines, grotesque paintings, and haunt-related props. Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Themed Park has always been a must-see for Debbie and me, and once again, they did not disappoint. We really enjoyed the Pirates of Emerson attraction the best because we could see all sorts of new props and animatronics. We also enjoyed Demented Dolls and Seesawz Circus very much. Though we were satisfied with Halloween Hell, it did not stand up as well as the other three.

Cast Score: 8.53

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Cast Review:

Overall, Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park has enough actors to keep the scares and entertainment consistent. But even when there were areas that seemed short of actors, there were animatronics to help fill the void. The actors were believable, creative, and consistent. Nobody broke character in any of the attractions, and all showed enthusiasm.

We found the actors in Demented Dolls to be the most verbally interactive, with several calling out for their mommy, but at least one asked us to play with her. The most physically interactive actors were in Seesawz Circus, as parts of the haunt were chain-link fence labyrinths, and the actors would encourage us to proceed in the wrong direction and send us to dead ends. Several clown actors in Seesawz Circus would threaten us with revving chainsaws. There were actors in doll makeup in Demented Dolls, who would brandish their long-bladed fingernails, reminiscent of Freddy Krueger or Edward Scissorhands. Actors in Pirates of Emerson would mostly do silent jump scares, but one pirate lady did ask us, “Who dares enter my realm?” There were a good variety of characters in the Haunted Themed Park, and we never felt as if we were confronting the same character type repeatedly.

Costuming Score: 8.73

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Costuming Review:

The costumes of Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park were complete, unique, and detailed. There wasn’t an actor that made us think their attire was incomplete or poorly fitted. The masks and makeup were creative, detailed and realistic.

Actors who wore makeup had original designs, especially those in Demented Dolls. The masks worn were very original, especially in Seesawz Circus. The most memorable mask was an evil Ronald McDonald in Seesawz Circus. We found the costumes to be appropriate for their respective scenes and themes, and nobody appeared to be out of place. The queue actors were believable and detailed in their costuming and makeup, featuring one-of-a-kind outfits for photo ops. The staff in the ticket booths were dressed as undead pirate lasses.

Customer Service Score: 9.76

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It was very easy to locate the attraction, find a place to park, and navigate the premises. Since Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park resides on the property of the Alameda County Fairgrounds, there is plenty of signage on the freeway and in the City of Pleasanton to lead you to the location. The LED Promotional Wall in front of the Fairgrounds advertised Pirates of Emerson, as well as the other events that the Fairgrounds hosts. Upon paying an entry fee, parking attendants flagged us toward the proper parking space. From there, it was easy to find the ticket booth and appropriate queue lines.

We found all of the attractions to be very safe, and we could not find anything that would be truly dangerous. The staff were professional, helpful, and friendly. From management to the snack bar, and merchandise to ticket takers, everyone seemed happy and excited to be there. The non-acting staff were easy to identify, because they wore black Pirates of Emerson T-shirts.

It’s very easy to find information on this haunt before you arrive because they have an elaborate and well-decorated website with all the necessities, such as the address, dates and times, and ticket prices, but they also have a FAQ section that addresses ADA, touching and the types of attractions. Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Themed Park has a strong social media presence, with pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Immersion Score: 9.41

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Immersion Review:

Upon entering the Alameda County Fairgrounds, it’s quite obvious to see the compound where Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park resides. There are black walls, ambient haunt sounds, music, and fog machine smoke trickling out. The entryway features a gothic building façade with a sign featuring the name of the haunt. Seeing it all made us excited to be scared.

When we entered into the main courtyard, we could see the sights and sounds of a successfully orchestrated spooky atmosphere. Each of the main attractions has their own theme: Demented Dolls was about life-size dolls mutilating people, Seesawz Circus was a circus big top where psycho clowns threatened to kill you with chainsaws, Pirates Of Emerson was about the exploration of the ship’s hull, brig, and hidden caves of undead pirates, and Halloween Hell was a little harder to interpret, because it took us from hillbilly cannibals and a hospital with psycho doctors to industrial maintenance rooms, making it more a stream of flowing conscience.

We were completely and consistently immersed inside each of the attractions, and everything we encountered contributed in a positive way to the haunt experience. The scenes did flow well into one another; even Halloween Hell, with its freeform theme approach, did flow well from scene to scene. The atmosphere of the Haunted Themed Park is continuous from the courtyard to each attraction’s completion, thus returning guests back to the courtyard. In that sense, the atmospheric mood doesn’t end until you exit the courtyard and return to the parking lot.

Special FX Score: 9.05

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Special FX Review:

The sound effects were effective in all of the attractions. They all had an ambient soundtrack, but there were certain props and scenic pieces that had their own custom sounds. Halloween Hell had circuit breakers clicking on and off, featuring electrical buzzing sounds. Also, in Halloween Hell, there were actors with huge cattle prods that made similar electrical buzz noises. At the queue line of Demented Dolls, there was a vignette of toy dolls talking to the guests in line, utilizing a projector to create their moving mouths in sync with their voices.

There was a considerable amount of time invested in scene details, and each room had meaning and purpose. This year, we saw more animatronics in the 4 attractions than ever before. Consisting of inanimate objects moving, or creatures twitching or lunging, the animatronics added another level of entertainment. Especially in Pirates of Emerson, where the cave scenes had broken statues with a large boa constrictor and an alligator animatronic. Halloween Hell had the famous giant growling boar head.

The Haunted Themed Park is rich in sensory FX. Lighting is placed in strategic and well-thought-out areas. Shafts of light direct your attention towards various props of interest. There is quite the abundance of laser lights, from a solid green line in the fog to various green pinpoint lights at a chain-link fence scene. There were several attractions that had a blacklight room with walls painted in fluorescent colors. Strobe lights were located in a few haunts as well. Demented Dolls had a vortex tunnel. Pirates Of Emerson had water in their cave scenes, featuring a large pond, and a water fountain. In the courtyard, there was a flamethrower spraying fire in the air at various intervals.

Scare Factor Score: 8.71

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Scare Factor Review:

Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Themed Park has several scares in their respective attractions. Most were jump scares, but there were a few intimidating stares. They did provide scares to everyone in our group, and several had great timing that we couldn’t predict.

There was a fireplace scene in Demented Dolls that had a jump scare that really got me. The finale of Halloween Hell successfully made Debbie jump, from an actor attached to a bungee. There were a variety of scares coming from multiple directions. Most of the jump scares came from either the front or the sides, but Demented Dolls had a few from above.

The most intimidating actor was the evil doctor from Halloween Hell. There were a few actors who followed us uncomfortably close behind. The scares came in both high energy and deliberate stalking. As we said earlier, Halloween Hell had the most memorable finale. The other attractions’ finales weren’t any stronger than the rest of their scares.

Entertainment & Value Score: 9.5

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E&V Review:

We were very satisfied with the entertainment provided by the main attractions. They all felt longer than years past, as the time we spent in the main attractions took over 24 minutes.

Outside of the main attractions, we were satisfied with the entertainment available, which consisted of line actors, the movie screen, various photo op displays, and large animatronic monsters. At $38 for General Admission, we felt that we received our money’s worth, especially when compared to other similar-sized haunts. Pirates Of Emerson Haunted Attraction is a must-see haunt for anyone in the Northern California region.

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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)

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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