ScareHouse – Full Review

ScareHouse is a Haunted Attraction located in Tarentum, PA.

2012 Butler Logan Road, Tarentum, PA 15084
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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Indoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 11, 2020 by Team Houdini.

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Final Score: 8.32

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The Scarehouse is probably the most recognizable haunted attraction in Western Pennsylvania if not all of PA. It has been on multiple TV shows, won numerous awards, and has hundreds of write-ups in local and national publications. The Scarehouse is as Pittsburgh as The Steelers.

After a year hiatus, The Scarehouse has returned after leaving its Etna home of over a decade to resurface at The Pittsburgh Mills Mall, located in Tarentum. Their new home may feel a bit different; we do miss that historic building, but it does offer plenty of new perks. Despite the location and appearance, once inside, you feel that familiar terror that is… the ‘Return of the Scarehouse.’

Cast: 7.63

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Due to Covid, The Scarehouse is running on a skeleton crew. (See what I did there?) We counted twenty-two odd beings lurking around the grounds. Each being unique except for zombies’ but just like potato chips, you can’t have just one. Possessed people, spastic specters, nasty nuns, a garish gardener, horrendous hillbillies, zoophagous zombies, and many more inhabitants have found their way home.

Keeping with all CDC guidelines, The Scarehouse had to pull back from its usual roster. With COVID and the list of guidelines provided, the actors had to adapt to alternate methods of scaring. Now the majority of actors keep their distance providing sneaky jump scares. Actors rely on hiding more than in your face interaction. Lurking in dark corners and then suddenly banging an item off of a wall, counter, or plexiglass.

It seemed a lot of these creatures were armed. Pipes, hatchets, shotguns, bats, and other weaponry were wielded by these brutes. Back to Plexiglas, we have seen in other haunts some actors are behind plexiglass to protect us and them. We did like the use of the plexiglass as a mirror with a person trapped inside, providing a more natural feel. A few actors provide still scares; motionless, waiting for the right moment to move and catch guests off guard.

We encountered no lurkers, followers, stalkers, stoppers, or deep scripted interactions. The only bit of dialogue we had was with the women in the kitchen, I’ll refrain from any sexist jokes; she yelled at us stating, ‘Look at this place. It’s a mess!’ She was right; it was atrocious. She quickly ad-libbed, ‘No dessert for you,’ after we commented on the cake in the fridge.

The actors did a good job at the traditional ‘bang’ scares. We would like to have had better interaction and character building that we have seen in the past, but we understand the restrictions.

Costuming: 8.51

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Costuming is probably my least favorite category to score and write about, but The Scarehouse – in partnership with COVID – is making it a little easier.

As mentioned, a good deal of actors are placed behind objects, curtains, walls, etc. It was difficult, especially with the darkness, to see in great detail what they were wearing… but here goes…

The possessed girl in bed had on a traditional nightgown; She was thrashing so violently I could not make out if she was wearing any makeup. The nun had on dark makeup, a traditional habit, and contact lenses to give her a possessed feeling. We found the bird creature interesting with his highly detailed, skull, bird mask.

The Gardener had on overalls and a hatchet. Another character had a detailed face mask that looked distorted and twisted. In the black-light, a man in dark clothes had on a glowing mask with a huge creepy smile. It was so real at first I thought it was makeup.

There was a gentleman wearing an oxygen mask on top of his wrinkled and horrific face. A very scary effect’ and that was before he pulled out his shotgun. The zombies we came across also appeared very detailed with masks or possibly prosthetic makeup that looked like something straight from The Walking Dead.

The costumes seemed well made and not your normal store-bought costumes. They fit the scenes well and some were very original.

Customer Service: 9.62

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The Scarehouse’s new location is easy to find using GPS. You can enter The ScareHouse or Pittsburgh Mills Mall and Google maps will take you to the mall.

From there, it is a bit tricky as there are no signs on the outside of the mall for the Scarehouse. However, on the confirmation email that we received from our tickets, it does state ‘next to Cinemark Movie Theater.’ So the entrance is located at the Movie theater/food court entrance.

Once inside, you will be asked if you have any weapons and, if so, to leave them in your vehicle. Once you approach the front of the line, you will be asked to empty your pockets and then you will be checked by security with a metal detector. After this, you will be forwarded to the inside queue area of the haunt.

All the staff we spoke to were nice and accommodating. The Scarehouse has a great website and they are active on the most popular social media sites.

Regarding COVID, as stated, The Scarehouse is following all guidelines set by the CDC. Tickets sales are set at 50% of their normal capacity, so they have sold out every weekend. Tickets are also only sold online. No tickets are sold at the door. Each group goes in privately. Social distancing is evident between groups in all areas.

Reduction in staff, touchpoints, and tight spaces are also remedies taken throughout the haunt. All guests and staff must wear face masks at all times, all personnel are provided with their own hand sanitizer, and sanitizing stations are located in the lobby. You will also be asked to use sanitizer before entering the haunt.

All staff will undergo temperature checks. Cameras and sensors are in place to help the crew regulate the flow of customers. Additional cleaning staff will be on-site cleaning throughout the evening. Contactless costume distribution and no shared costumes.

The Scarehouse has the most policies in place we have seen in a haunt this season, which shows that they care about the safety of their staff and guests. Due to these procedures, we felt safe attending the haunt.

Atmosphere: 8.38

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For most people, especially our team, the first thing you will notice is ‘it’s in the mall.’ Gone is the old stone building with a rich history and real ghosts. Yes, we did two paranormal investigations there and it was crazy! Now it is located in the old H&M storefront across from the brightly-lit Claire’s.

When you enter the doors by the recently deceased Cinemark, you will be directed to the right or left of a long line of cones. Left is for RIP and right is for general admission. The line runs from the parking lot to inside the empty food court and around the corner to the haunt. As mentioned there is nothing in the food court, but there was a vendor selling pretzels, pizza, and drinks.

As we waited, there were a few line actors, but they did not seem as interactive as they have in the past… just kind of hanging out to make an appearance. We felt this was disappointing, as we used to love to watch the shenanigans they performed as we waited behind the old building.

Present was the tall bald clown (who looked creepy), the bunny (who was doing a little dancing), and 2 girls in black dresses and bats… baseball bats.

Not all is bad with the move. There are some perks such as parking on site. No fighting to find parking or having to go to the zoo and catch a shuttle to and from the haunt. Also, the waiting line is inside in a climate-controlled area. Yeah, that old building had no heating and cooling.

As we rounded the line and approached the entrance of the haunt, we were presented with two large glass windows with a little Sam from the movie ‘Trick R treat’ who, at one time, had his themed haunt with The Scarehouse. Also hanging in the display window is a large Spirit sign.

As we looked in, we started to get more excited. Once you enter the main waiting area, it does start to look like a haunt. Looking forward, an old abandoned house sits in the darkness. The house has boarded-up windows, rotting wood, and peeling paint with a few bushes outlining the home. To the left of the house stands a wooden fence with a rocking chair and a Raggedy Ann-looking doll. It was a good-looking fa������ade that lent much to the imagination. Once the bells tolled, it was time to enter’

Special Effects: 9.04

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As always, The Scarehouse provided an over-the-top cinematic experience. They are known for having some of, if not THE, most-detailed and -theatrical sets in the haunt industry.

We found the first section, which we are deeming the more ‘traditional haunted house,’ and the third section, what we are calling ‘Pittsburgh Zombies 3.0,’ both beautiful and awful to look at. Each scene was bursting with detail and realism, going with a grittier and gloomier tone… which provided a more Rob Zombie/Romero/Walking Dead feel to the scenes.

As a reviewer, it is almost overwhelming the amount of detail to try to absorb and explain. This is another haunt where I could come and spend hours just looking at all the set pieces. Each room feels different but interconnected.

In the first section of the house, we entered the living room. It felt old, empty, dusty, and cluttered with a lifelong collection of belongings. The vibe continues through the study; nothing much going on in there. The bedroom had old pictures hanging on the walls with the main focal point being the bed holding a possessed girl. This is also where the fright begins.

A very loud animatronic, the first of many, screamed at us. The bathroom had a great mirror effect (good use for plexiglass), and the nursery had tons of small dolls and a large doll that may have moved??? I also ran into an old friend of mine from about 1984, My Buddie! I haven’t seen one in about 20 years. Don’t judge.

The attic was filled with fog. The walls were slatted wood and it had an angular shape feeling like a confined attic space. We found several moving props including a fan moving on its own and a large werewolf-like creature. There were also strobe lights going off.

As we walked down a hallway of moving floors that were a little different than we had seen before, we passed some windows that also held loud screaming animatronics. We also encountered some old fashioned air blasters that are sure to get a quick jump.

The kitchen and dining room table had old food and somebody parts laying on it. Another hallway held animatronics on the ceiling that screamed.

The outdoor area did feel like we were outside, containing greenery, a wooden fence, a tool shed, a trellis, and a clothesline that moved on its own. Continuing further outside, we entered the laser swamp where they had a new take on the claustrophobic tunnels. These only came to about waist height to be compliant with Covid regulations and also made it feel more like we were wading through water.

The fog continued rolling as we moved further outside. We could hear loud church bells echoing around us when a nun animatronic sprung to life and provided me flashbacks of my Catholic school days… terrifying! Strobe lights flickered as we moved closer to the church, which looked authentic with a stone-like structure and stained-glass windows.

The second section was introduced with a vortex tunnel. We felt this area was unconventional for a haunt, but it felt somewhat similar to some past themes we have seen at The Scarehouse. It was brighter, louder, and more frantic.

Lights flashed around the first area that was filled with geometrically-shaped mirrors. Bass-heavy dance music pulsated in our chests, and a large face with rays of sun coming from it was painted on the walls, giving off a cult-like feel. We found the moving shiny walls quite inventive and the way they used angles in the construction of the rooms.

Bodies and body parts were smashed into the walls as animatronics sounded off above us. Red lasers shot across walls and ceilings. A mirrored wall area, blacklight room, demon rat puppet, and more were found in this crazy area.

Finally, we entered the final theme – a mix of post-apocalypse and zombies. This area is more traditional in the zombie sense, and has a familiarity with past incarnations of ‘Pittsburgh Zombies.’ You are traversing the city during a zombie apocalypse.

This area is the most intense. With louder effects, tons of zombie animatronics, brick walls, chain link fences, sirens, fog, and a ton more, we also found a lot more blood and gore in this area with rooms splattered from floor to ceiling. The animatronics looked lifelike, which made it difficult to tell real zombies from fake ones. It felt authentic like we were actually traveling from city streets to hospital rooms. The cool car crash scene inside a Pittsburgh shop was well done.

A common and purposely-mentioned word above was ‘loud.’ Their sound system must go to eleven in that place! It gave the haunt a panicky feeling, but it almost seemed a little too loud… and this is coming from a guy that is constantly asked why the surround system (no, not just T.V. speakers) is so loud? I like my movies, music, and games loud. However, this loud was nerve-wracking, and perhaps that was the point. Albeit loud, the system never faulted; no cracking of speakers, and no distortion.

Due to the lack of actors, The Scarehouse has improvised by adding more animatronics. It does help fill the void while adding some scares.

Overall, we felt the sound, lighting, and design of each area delivered near-perfect set designs, creating this immersive world of horror rivaling any Hollywood movie.

Theme: 8.13

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At first, we didn’t think The Scarehouse had a theme. It seemed to be a mix of several different themes and there is nothing we found online listing any themes this season (as they had in the past). However as we sat down and discussed what we saw, we did figure out there were three separate themes, as usual… at least in our opinion.

The first theme is the traditional haunted house. Before we entered, we were given a flashlight to help find ghosts… and warned to keep our masks up so we did not get possessed. Finally, we had to use demon repellent – “holy water” (hand sanitizer) – to protect ourselves. With these clues and the design, we determined this was your ‘normal’ haunted house theme.

This brings us to the second section, which we felt was the weakest of the three. We may have missed something, though. We derived, that perhaps, this was a ‘bad trip’ or perhaps the experience of someone who is losing their mind??? The colorful lights mixed with the dark imagery left us feeling confused… very much like a person losing touch with reality.

Lastly, the final section was Pittsburgh Zombies or zombie outbreak. As everyone from Pittsburgh knows, malls and zombies have a special place in Pittsburgh. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ was filmed in Monroeville Mall, and now you can live that cinematic nightmare at The Pittsburgh Mills Mall!

Scare Factor: 7.66

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As usual, The Scarehouse goes for the scare factor with guns blazing and, in this case, literally (in one scene)!

Focusing completely on jump scares from actors and props, things definitely felt different this year; we would have liked a little more from the actors. They did try to focus on the whole group, which was appreciated.

The majority of props seemed to go off as the first person went by, which is common and why I am not a huge fan of props. I prefer them as a distraction or supplementation to a scare, rather than the main scare. Sometimes they are effective, though.

The finale was a cool animatronic, but not very scary in our opinion.

Entertainment & Value: 7.89

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Even at a new location, the Scarehouse is a fun and frightening time. Being our tenth review this season, they definitely still managed to keep our interest.

The cost for general admission is $17.95. It took us a total of 15 minutes to walk through, which brings the minutes per dollar to 0.84, which is a bit below average (1.2 minutes per dollar) for the area. However, they still provide a profoundly immersive experience with incredible movie-quality effects. The scares maybe a little less intense as in the past, but there are still plenty of opportunities to lose your bladder.

I’ll admit that this was not their strongest season, but it was not their worst either (Let’s all try to forget when The Scarehouse resided on McKnight Road). Although The Scarehouse had a lot of obstacles to overcome with moving locations and COVID, against the odds, they resurfaced providing the safest possible indoor attraction we have seen to date. After being away for a year they were definitely missed and we think it is great to see them back again!

P.S. They are also advertising their Creepy Christmas event. Stay tuned!

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 1 out of 10

Jess – 1/10October 23, 2021
First off the customer service is horrible. On Facebook they delete you or block you if they don’t …show more like your true comment. They delete my review from google as well because I say how truly bad it is. They are a very bad haunted house. It’s nothing but a trail of people inside. Big train. No actors can scare anyone because everyone is back to back to back. It is a horrible attraction and has been for quite a while. Please listen to all the bad reviews! Save your money on this one.

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Past Awards

2022 Awards

Best Queue Actors - The Bride (Kat Kersting) & The Maid (Katie Lane) (Given by: Team Houdini)

2020 Awards

Most Cinematic Sets (Given by: Team Houdini)

2018 Awards

"Lions, tigers, and bears; OH MY!" - Best Costumes (Non-Humanish) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"Shoot 'em in the head!" - Best Zombies (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"Do you hear what I hear?" - Most Effective Sounds - Infernal (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"I want to dress you up in my love" - Most Original/Entertaining Costume - TIE Dark View (Fluffy) and Scarehouse (Bunny [Clown Version]) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

"I want my mommy!'' - Scariest Overall (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)

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