Find Reviews for a Haunt near You!
Find Reviews for a Haunt near You!
Find Reviews for a Haunt near You!
Akron Haunted School House and Laboratory
1300 Triplett Blvd, Akron, OH 44306View All Details
Free Parking, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, “Old-School” (Low Tech), You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Indoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction
Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express reviewed this attraction on October 2, 2015.
Final Score: 9.33
Forty-two years is a long time for anything. If I had a potted plant from 1974, I’d imagine it would have developed human intelligence and enslaved mankind by now. Bow before your leafy-overlords, oxygen-breathers! Or, if I had started a haunted attraction, after all those years of constructing and refining, replacing and enhancing, I’d probably have amassed a pretty incredible haunt. Lo and Behold, I give you: The Akron Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory (ASL). The Schoolhouse was established in the aforementioned year by patriarch Don after visiting another attraction with his wife, Cindy, and realizing aloud, “I can do better than that!” (The Lab followed several years later) To the betterment of all, he did.
Unsurprisingly, this makes Akron, Ohio’s ASL the longest-running haunted attraction at the same location in the country, and that maturity definitely shows in its continually improving experience, becoming better, and most importantly, SCARIER, each haunted season. So, if you’re interested in having a fun, fearful time, head on out to Akron, Ohio’s Haunted Schoolhouse and Lab to let the ASL’ers show you the true value of a properly-aged bottle of haunted wine. Come for the Tesla, stay for the terra’.
ASL employs approximately 100 paid scarers each night. During our visit, we encountered no occurrences of character-breaking, nor any particularly weak performances. The actors mostly employed quick-scare techniques so there were very few prolonged customer-actor interactions. Those that we did experience were actually especially entertaining, though. We encountered a demented surgeon that seemed like he would have been just as at home moonlighting as a colorful stand-up comedian. His one-liners as we passed his scene were clever and cheesey in all the right ways and he responded to audience participation quite well, generating additional witty comments on-the-fly. Speaking of which, The ASL proved to be quite informational as well. For instance, most people are surprisingly unaware that death does not free us from regular physiological bathroom behaviors. Incredulous? A few words with a toilet-occupying skeleton will make you a believer. When the presumed-pallbearer of our trip through an open coffin successfully spooked one of the males in our group… well, the prop-enhanced fallout was uniquely hysterical.
As for the quick-scarers, we definitely noted that the first leg of our trip through The Lab had the greatest collection of riveting startles, including one actor whose likely-inhuman vocal chords terrified and delighted us to the point of requesting (and receiving) an appreciated encore. Many of the actors made great use of the scenery or props to augment their scares to great effect. Professional tip: if you see a door at ASL, rest assured that a monster will probably be bursting through it shortly. Prep your scream and save some time.
One thing that we liked about the ASL was that we failed to notice any instances of slap-and-go costuming – an actor showing up to perform, receiving a quick slap of random, generic make up across the face, and then being shoved into the haunt in their street clothes. What we did get were a lot of interesting masks and make-up work, which makes sense, because there are seven different make-up artists on-hand including the head artist: a gentleman who designed the suits of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Granted, quick-scaring actors often appear in dimly-lit areas and disappear nearly as quickly as they manifest, so if we had just gotten startled by seven different Richard Nixons, we may not even notice. This is a moot point, though. The more prominent actors were all accurately outfitted. An excellent job was done to disgust-up a line-scarer with an axe, but our favorite disgustifying was definitely administered to the undead female who was roaming through the lobby. The detail of her artificial countenance was truly inspired. The rest of the garb adorned by the unholy residents of the ASL were all appropriate for their respective atmospheres and adequate to well-done.
Customer Service: 9.97
The roof of The Lab proudly displays one of the location’s two ten-feet tall Tesla Coils, intermittently releasing giant purple slivers to an accompanying boisterous electrical crackle. If you can’t follow that pseudo-lighthouse beacon, you may have larger concerns than finding a haunting attraction. Additionally, the building carries a giant banner and plenty of optical fanfare to let you know that you’re in the right place. The night that we visited, the ASL had at least five parking spotters working, so we had no issues finding our spot. Inside the building and throughout our adventure, we were introduced to friendly face after friendly face after monstrous talon after friendly face. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience when interacting with the staff. Ryan, Cindy, Fred, and the entire totem-pool of employees were truly a joy to meet and chat with, even if one did inadvertently reignite a dormant Survivor-addiction in Scary Potter team member Lindsey.
There were multiple line-scarers entertaining the line queue; the one that we interacted with, a slightly less lovable, neo-Chunk fellow was a riot. Generally, our Customer Service category extends into the quality of line-scare actors only, but I must forgo tradition in this instance. You see, the most colorful character that we encountered withOUT the attraction was actually one of the parking spotters. The lively discussion that we had with that man was about as entertaining as any that we’ve had with any line-scarer. As a combination of true-to-life and exaggerated character, he was a unique personality that every future attendee should make it a point to seek out – a definite asset of the attraction.
And, of course, don’t forget about the concession stand in the lobby of The Schoolhouse (and the complimentary photographs!) – there were plenty of available culinary options. Also, there is a second, outdoor concession table containing slightly less edible (anything can become a meal if you’re hungry enough, right?) offerings between the two attractions where you can pick up ASL swag and soundtrack discs. Or you could huddle in front of it for a really long time, making an extravagant showing of indecision until you can secretly summon the courage to approach The Lab. The monsters may take pity on you after seeing your loving death-grip on your new ASL t-shirt. This potential flag of surrender comes in orange or black.
The ALS is located in a city, so it has added difficulty in generating an agreeable haunted atmosphere. In this, in mostly succeeds. Look, a lot of attractions love to use thunderous metal music as the soundtracks to their attractions. This may be entirely appropriate based on the temperament of the haunt, and can be limitlessly beneficial to the quality of the attraction. However, so many haunts employ this method now that it often becomes needlessly tedious. ASL brings the aural component of their haunted attractions back to a MUCH-appreciated creepy tenor. The floors that feature this haunting soundtrack receive an unmistakably chilling boost. The lobby of the Schoolhouse could stand to be creepier – there’s not a lot of decoration or haunted ambiance at play (though the line-scarers do make up for this somewhat). The lobby for the Lab, however, is scare-endowed admirably, even containing a legitimate startle or two amidst its horrific environment.
Special Effects: 9.75
At its core, The ASL is very much an… “old school” haunt. Horrible pun aside, what that means in this case is that what ASL does best is to make believable, organic environments with detailed set designs, mostly homemade props and interspersed with versatile, compelling actors. That sounds like a good combination because it is. There was an authenticity to the settings that existed with the Lab and Schoolhouse, attained by embracing a naturalistic construction model. For example, many of my favorite scenes involved elaborate, exterior gothic environments. These “outdoor” scenes felt incredibly realistic, thereby offering a unique level of immersion. How? As I crossed that shaky, woody bridge, that was real soil beneath me, living trees along the horizon. But, remember, the haunt is indoors, so this entire, wonderful tableau around me was completely fabricated. However, this theme of using or reusing realistic props and scenery emerged time and again throughout our visit. Pieces of actual houses and barns, a retired surgical table, a formerly-occupied coffin, they all granted their scenes a degree of credibility that cannot be achieved with just foam and spray paint. However, ASL does have its share of mechanizations – there are several must-see animatronics (when you cross a bridge over a murky bog, take a moment to pause and look to your right), and a very effective vortex; mind you, they were the first haunted attraction to ever employ this now indispensable effect. Additionally, one of the more spectacular effects within the two attractions is will, let’s say, shift your entire perspective and really question if your previous assumptions ever had a stable leg to stand on. <—intentionally vague and enigmatic.
Of course, there can be no discussion of special effects within the ALS without allotting some well-deserved praise for their Tesla Coils. At ten-feet each, one rests on the roof, and the other in the Lab, and even if you have seen videos or demonstrations before of these impressive devices, until you are walking several feet beneath ALS's mammoth version, you cannot truly appreciate them. I would say that, overall, I prefer the more traditional settings of the Schoolhouse to the Lab's medical demeanor, but the Tesla Coil still remains an absolute must-see, and is worth the price of admission alone.
And speaking of things worth the price of admission, how about the world's first vertical wind tunnel (designed to test animals that had returned from space – for real), repurposed as a colossal spectacle (also in the Lab)? Take the time to slowly cross the access route around it and really appreciate the set design work that went into creating it… unless you're afraid of heights, then God-speed to you, friend.
One last time: the set designs, especially in the Schoolhouse, are absolutely TOP NOTCH – if you legitimately wish that you could walk through the living set of an old, gothic horror film: Akron, Ohio. Go.
The two attractions comprising the ASL do not maintain specific themes throughout their levels, so this is not an applicable category. FYI – it’s called the “Haunted Schoolhouse” because the building is a former center for learning; it does not feature swarms of blood-thirsty hall monitors or man-eating protractors. Though, I may be on to something here.
Fright Effect: 9.37
Simply defined, a distraction is an object or gesture designed to redirect one’s attention; a distraction-scare is an object or gesture designed to redirect a scaree’s attention to then be able to attack them from a different direction and scare the holy hell out of them, or, even more simply defined: The Akron Haunted Schoolhouse and Lab. No hyperbole here, ASL are the masters of the distract-scare. Obviously providing details would antagonize the goal, but suffice to say that they do it a LOT, they do it creatively, and they do it well; oh, and they do it to EVERYone – nope, you’re not safe at the back of the herd there, quaking small-person – those belligerent beasties will find you, too. Combine this with the skill of their actors at quick-scares, and ASL brews a very potent Fright Effect alchemy. Something else that we noted – due to the crafty-design of many of the sets, one actor is able to make multiple scare attempts from different locations. Those 100 actors felt like they’d had a few dozen tag alongs with them the night that we visited. We had enough scares pouring down to fill a big ol’ scare-bucket to its scary brim. While distraction and/or quick-scaring were ASL’s two main fright apparatuses, we liked that they did interject other types of scares as well – actor-interaction scares, a few animatronic scares, environmental scares, and yes, even a chainsaw were present to ensure that we were constantly off-guard, and on-fright. ASL is living proof that you don’t need to be the goriest or the most extreme to get good scares; you just need some capable actors and a little, clever sleight of hand.
It took approximately 40 minutes to tread the unhallowed halls of both attractions. This dual-ticket will cost you 26 dollars on a Friday or Saturday; 22 dollars on Thursdays and Sundays. A single attraction is 17/13. At 1.5 minutes of entertainment per minute, the combined pass is a great deal. There is also a 40 dollar fast pass available for those interested. We had a lot of fun at ASL this year – it has definitely become one of the consistently best haunted attractions in Northeastern Ohio, and this year may, honestly, be their greatest yet. If you are looking for a genuinely creepy, scare-inducing time this Halloween season, you absolutely cannot go wrong with The Akron Schoolhouse and Lab; from we, humble Scary Potters, it comes highly recommended.
Photos from Review Trip:
Click to Enlarge