Team Scare Response Unit reviewed this attraction on October 5, 2017.
Final Score: 3.85
Scared in NJ is advertised as a multi-attraction haunt including The Devils Midway, Pine Barrens Maze, Old Mother Leed’s Cottage and Blood Drums Stage. The premise behind the events lies in the Urban Legend of The Jersey Devil. Located at NJ’s very own PNC Bank Art Center, this event is in its first year of operation and is extremely misleading. While Scared in NJ does have one haunted maze set up, it is basically charging customers $25 to walk through a maze in a parking lot to see a band. Overall it is 100% not scary and leaves much to be desired. Since there were multiple attractions, we broke them down in a 1-10 scale:
The Devil’s Midway-1: When first entering the gates of PNC Bank, there is a central location that has beer garden trucks, merchandise, Rita’s ice trucks and other miscellaneous food trucks that are all laid out circular. This is considered to be one of the haunted attractions. There are no scares in this area and it is not even decorated to match the rest of the haunt.
Pine Barrens Maze-3: The Pine Barrens Maze is a pop up haunted house in the middle of a parking lot of PNC. It is set up with Police barricades covered in black fabric. While there were some atmospheric effects and décor spread out through the maze, it was obvious that we were walking through a parking lot. The maze is advertised as a 20-minute walkthrough for ages 10 and up. It took us 9 minutes total to get through the maze at a leisurely pace. Besides for a few scattered actors that pop out, this maze was not scary.
Old Mother Leeds’ Cottage- Old Mother Leeds’ Cottage is a 2-3 minute play that depicts the birth of the Jersey Devil. This play is mimed through narration that is not at all scary. This play sets up the storyline for the event.
Blood Drums Stage-5: After walking through the Pine Barrens Maze, the audience is led to a lounge type area where they can buy drinks and sit around a stage. Every hour, the audience can see the Blood Drummers perform for 40 minutes. While not scary, the Blood Drummers are dressed in full costume and makeup to look like skeletons and play drums (and kegs, metal barrels etc.) and using everything but drum sticks (ex chainsaws). We found this to be entertaining, but repetitive.
The majority of the cast of Scared in NJ followed the same training of acting. While walking through Pine Barrens Maze, the cast never made any noise and followed the “make eye contact as you walk by” technique. With the exception of one dedicated actor who had a shaker can, most of the cast was not scary and easy to walk by. The characters were not believable and it left me wondering if the actors even had characters they were trying to follow or if they were just told where to stand and what to do.
Every actor in this attraction was in a full costume that fit the area they were acting in. With the exception of some confusion of the time period of some of the costumes, it was mostly successful. Most, if not all the actors were in full masks and didn’t have makeup. The Blood Drummers costumes were probably the best part of the haunt. They seemed to be the only ones that actually had any scary feel to them. The drummers were all in full skeleton makeup and had suits that were perfectly distressed and realistic.
Customer Service: 5.75
When first arriving to PNC Bank, audience members are made to go through metal detectors and a security check before even entering. Tickets are sold outside of the venue and, when we attended, they were running about 35 minutes late to open. There aren’t any signs to direct audience members where to go and the lack of decoration on the outside of the venue makes it not feel like a haunted house. Once inside the gates of PNC, there are full restrooms, merchandise trucks, food trucks and plenty of alcohol options available at a separate price. Inside the Devil’s Midway, there are stocks that audience members can take photos inside of. Also, there is no form of queue line entertainment or any other form of entertainment for audience members besides alcohol options. Parking is available on-site but comes at a high price.
Overall, there was not a lot going on at this haunt. Besides the actual attractions of Scared in NJ, there is not much décor or ambiance throughout the venue. In fact, if you didn’t know there was a haunted house at PNC, you probably couldn’t tell. Once inside The Devils Midway (the waiting area), there were some hay bales and music that started playing half way throughout wait.
Special Effects: 2.88
While sitting and waiting for Old Mother Leeds’ Cottage to begin their play, I was expecting some high-end animatronics or some crazy special effects to happen during the show, but that never happened. In fact, not much of anything happened. Once inside the Pine Barrens Maze, there was some smoke and lighting effects, but they didn’t add anything to the scene or hide any actors. This haunt entirely lacked creativity and wow factor. Lighting was used to light walkways, but did not really set the scene or add any scenic elements to the maze. During the Blood Drums, special effects like smoke were used. The lighting was strictly concert lighting that did not go to the beat of the drumming or follow any form of design. Overall, the special effects could have been bigger, especially for a venue that is used to doing lighting and special effects for their concerts.
Scared in NJ creators claim that they are the first haunt that uses the theme of the Jersey Devil. This is false, especially in Southern Jersey Pine Barrens where there are numerous haunts where the Jersey Devil is rumored to have been born. The haunt uses their play at Old Mother Leed’s Cottage to set the tone of the Jersey Devil theme. Besides this, there is no evidence of the theme in the haunt. During the Pine Barrens Maze, there is no indication of the Jersey Devil. For an entire attraction to be set in the Pine Barrens, there was no set décor to match woods or the Jersey Devil at all and it was obvious that we were standing in a parking lot.
Fright Effect: 1.79
Unfortunately, Scared in NJ is not scary. After an interview with the creators of the haunt, they made it clear that the event exists to be more of a hangout. They want audience members to come and enjoy The Blood Drummers and drink from their beer garden trucks. It is almost obvious that the main focus was not on the haunt itself and that it may have been more of an afterthought. While the haunt uses lighting and fog to try and hide actors, they have unfortunately failed.
If Scared in NJ was advertised differently, I feel that this category could be rated differently. But, unfortunately, this event is advertised as a haunted attraction and we confirmed this during our interview with management. In reality, it is an admission to see a band. In value for a haunt, it is extremely overpriced for the content. It is $25/ person with a fee for parking to walk through a 9-minute maze and see a 2-minute play on the way to a band. If an audience member wanted to attend and hang out and see a band like the creators of this haunt indicated is the reason Scared in NJ was created, it would cost a decent amount. With beers costing $12+ and signature (2 shot) drinks $16+ including the $25 admission and parking, audience members are looking to drop quite a lot of money. Overall, it was inaccurately promoted for haunted house-seekers and disappointing.