Review of Stillwell Manor Haunted Attraction
Review of Stillwell Manor Haunted Attraction
Review of Stillwell Manor Haunted Attraction
Stillwell Manor is a Haunted Attraction located in Anderson, IN.
1704 East 60th Street, Anderson, IN 46013View All Details
Free Parking, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Special Events, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Indoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction
Team Zombillies reviewed this Haunted Attraction on September 28, 2018.
Special Note for 2018:
We’ve changed the way we give scores for this year. We are now using a weighted average that puts more emphasis on certain features of the haunt (IE: “How scary was it,” versus “Does the haunt’s location authenticate their theme”). That said, these scores should not be used in comparisons to previous seasons. For more information about this, click on the small “Score Sheet” link at the bottom of this review. We appreciate your understanding. Thanks and Happy Haunting! –The Scare Factor
Final Score: 8.79
Stillwell Manor is a fun and spooky multi-attraction (and multi-story) haunt located in Anderson, Indiana (about 30 minutes north of Indy) that keeps changing things up every year! Located in a former movie theater, this haunt is able to offer something that most indoor haunts simply can’t… sloping floors! This feature never gets old and always adds an interesting layer to the attractions. When it’s combined with all of the other scene and design changes that are made each year, our review group just keeps coming back for more!
For 2018, they are bringing two of their previous attractions back: the namesake Stillwell Manor and Tantibus. Isabell’s Beyond has been taken to the grave, so instead, you’ll get to experience an all-new attraction for the first time this year, and it has been dubbed, “Forsaken.” You can plan to spend quite a bit of time at Stillwell when it’s running at full mast; the three attractions span across 31,000 square feet of slanted twists and turns!
We visited Stillwell Manor (SM) on their second weekend open and, unfortunately, they weren’t able to “cut the ribbon” on their new attraction (Forsaken) by that time. But, we were assured that (barring unforeseen circumstances) Forsaken would be open to the public by the first weekend of October. For our visit, ticket prices – and our scores – were properly adjusted to account for its absence.
Many of the 30+ cast members went through some extensive actor training this season and it showed in their movement and dialogue at times. It seemed like a lot of them, especially the female characters, were much more interactive this year. The cat lady (and her pet Garth) had us listening to her feline friends for directions on how to get out, several of the dollhouse girls engaged us in their not-so-playful games, and the the lady in the dining room offered us pieces of a freshly-chopped-off hand. Mary, and the butcher were a couple of other stand-outs during our visit. Dialogue is always character- (but not necessarily theme-) related, and a few of them added some comical relief after their initial scares.
Tantibus’ characters produced a few good performances as well. The zombies were attacking us (and one another), the dentist tried to cut our legs off (??), the clowns were clowning around, and some even had some threatening lines to say to us. One in particular said she was going to pull our teeth and use them as monopoly pieces!
While no one broke character on us, it’s worth mentioning that we did come across a few actors with mediocre dialogue, and others that stood around and stared at us after they made their presence known. In their defense, we were told that Stillwell has several new, younger actors this year, so we predict that this will improve as the season progresses and their body counts start to rack up.
Stillwell Manor uses a broad selection of characters throughout their attractions. The flagship attraction (SM) mainly has regular people that have been “deadened” and dressed in more period- and scene-specific clothing; these are the resident spirits of the old estate. Though, you may also find a few odd-balls, including a carnivorous plant and a sinister swine in the outdoor settings. Tantibus has an even broader mix of monsters, ranging from zombies and clowns to regular people that have fallen victims to the other nightmarish creatures within.
Very few masks are used throughout the complex, with the fiends focusing primarily on makeup to round off the characters’ looks. Each application appeared to be fairly average in quality, with none of the monsters sporting anything we’d call “movie-quality” or “hyper-realistic.” Though, we did notice some colored contacts that were welcomed additions! The same can be said for the clothing choices as well; Beatrice – General Stillwell’s daughter (whom we met in the first room) – had exceptional taste in her attire, but a select few others needed some extra attention to bring them up to par.
Customer Service: 9.31
Stillwell’s twin searchlights can be spotted in the sky from several miles away. Follow your GPS from the main highway off the interstate and follow the multi-colored lights that make this old movie theater building stick out like a sore thumb against the autumn darkness. The parking lot can be a bit tricky to get to when approaching from the interstate (additional signage at each turn would be helpful), but the payoff is worth the minor inconvenience. As you near the building, the faux graveyard, red- and white-striped tent, Stillwell’s haunt banners and their hearse will let you know you’ve arrived!
There’s usually a staff member or two outside that can answer any questions you have or point you in the direction of the ticket booth, where friendly Stillwellites can hook you up with some tickets. You’ll then meet “Alfred,” who has returned yet again as Rule-Giver In Chief, before starting your journey through the Manor.
The sloping floors will augment the way that you and gravity get along here, as will the many steps and ramps that you’ll come across throughout the haunts. Take your time and be sure-footed so as not to incur yourself any twisted ankles. Otherwise, there aren’t any outstanding trip hazards or actual dangers to avoid.
Stillwell Manor and Forsaken exit into a common area, where you can buy SM merch and snacks if you like. Tantibus’ exit is in the back of the building, so if you choose to wait ‘till the end of the haunt to buy any extras, you’ll need to walk back around to the front of the building and enter the building again from that way. Don’t forget to grab yourself a couple of free selfies with the decorated facades and actors in this area while you’re at it!
Even though Stillwell Manor takes place in a former movie theater, there was a lot going on outside that let us know they probably weren’t playing any movies on the silver screens anymore. As mentioned above in the CS category, their decorated hearse, haunt banners, graveyard, fog, and multi-colored lights also give the building an overall “creepy” vibe. The carnival-esque tent further works to let you know you’re in for a good time and alludes to some of the characters that you *may* find inside.
Stillwell’s queue area has come a long way since we first visited them back in 2014. The whole foyer has been decorated with block walls, wrought iron gates and vegetation (netting) to create the illusion that you’re walking up on a secluded mansion in the woods. Colored lights accent the various features and decorations and really kick the spooky factor into high gear. The feeling of walking up to the Manor is halted, though briefly, in a somewhat voodoo-themed rule giving room just before you restart the journey and actually enter the haunt.
The central gathering area between the 3 haunts reveals more of the movie theater’s original features. However, the facade for the former Isabell’s Beyond attraction, roaming actors and haunt-related merch helps keep the mood on track. Admittedly, the entrance to Tantibus, though, is a bit plain and could use a revamp, but a Stillwellite is always on tap to make sure you’re able to find it quickly.
Special Effects: 7.91
Holy haunt effects! Stillwell Manor is actually a fairly long haunt for an all-indoor attraction, so there are lots of scenes and special effects to take in. You won’t find many big, air-powered animatronics, but everything else has been sourced by the haunt’s talented crew and crafted into a unique, mansion-themed attraction. There’s enough stuff in here to justify several trips through just to try and catch a glimpse at everything.
Not to discredit the scenes here, but some of the most impressive special effects here are their sounds. They aren’t overpowering, by any means, but their quality and mood does wonders to create an immersive environment. Even in places where the scenes don’t have much going on, the subtle whispers and dark enchantments pick up the slack and keep the mood nice and creepy.
Along the way, you’ll come across several manor-themed areas, including an expansive library, living rooms, mechanical areas, even a graveyard and swamplands as you scour the property. Scene detail ranges from borderline hoarding to plain black walls, so you never really know what’s gonna be around the next corner.
Another impressive tactic is the use of large, actor-driven creatures, which will try to get you in more than one of Stillwell’s 3 attractions. There is also some interactive scenery, including several doors to pass through (that make some pretty hair-raising noises on their own) and various decorations to walk around or crawl through. The most notable improvements include the transition into the dollhouse and the elaborate tomb that was built for General Stillwell.
Tantibus’ over-arching theme is “nightmares,” so there’s a little wider variety of effects used in this attraction. Similar to what’s inside the Manor, the scene detail ranges from near-movie quality to minimal. Some of the things you’ll find include a laser tunnel, zombies coming through doors, warning lights with an audio broadcast, hard rock music, and areas from medical rooms and clowns to jungle thickets and sewers.
This year, Beatrice – General Stillwell’s daughter – explains in the first room that her intent is to take over the Manor after killing her siblings (and there are a lot of them)! Unfortunately, while the theme is great for the scenes and characters within, none of the others really seemed to keep that same story going… nor did we witness any acts of murder. In search of clarity, we went to Stillwell’s website… only to find that the theme for this attraction only vaguely refers to General Stillwell and his wife. That said, the rest of the actors should probably jump on the “killing spree” wagon, or Beatrice change things up a bit.
As explained in years past, “Tantibus” is latin for “nightmares,” so there’s no real story to tell in this one. Rather, there are a lot of differently-themed areas that combine to make your experience as nightmarish as possible. That said, this attraction gets a few more ticks on our score sheet for following its theme more closely.
Scare Factor: 7.94
On the topic of scariness, Stillwell and Tatibus use quite a mixture of old-school frights and a little bit of higher technology to scare their customers. Filled with subtle jump scares, lots of creepiness and some occasional “run for your life” moments, these attractions are sure to give you and your friends some great scares without scarring you for life.
We learned a lot as we made our way through pitch black areas, tight spaces and disorienting scenes. One of the quickest things we learned was that you shouldn’t let them know your name. We also learned not to trust dead bodies, the walls or plants (yea, you read that right). The suspense of having to open many doors added to the overall fright; each time we opened one, we slowly peered in to see what was on the other side. There were many common phobias to dodge, sparks were flying at us at one point, and we were also threatened with a power tool!
There was a lot of banging on walls that became a bit repetitive when they were used over and over again in the same area. The finale of the attraction was unique, though. We thought the fiend running at full speed was going to literally run us over!
Entertainment & Value: 8.8
Ticket prices were marked down to $20.00 per person during our visit since their third attraction wasn’t open. However, when it finally gets unleashed, ticket prices will be $25.00. It took us a total of 26 minutes to make it through the estate and another 10 minutes to make it out of Tantibus. Combined, that’s 36 minutes of entertainment in an indoor haunt which is pretty impressive! At our discounted ticket price, that brings their MPD for the two attractions (minutes of entertainment per dollar spent) to 1.8 which is well above average – especially for an indoor haunt in the area. As ticket prices increase for the third attraction, the added length *should* keep this value about the same.
When it comes to other things that are included with the ticket price, we briefly saw a few characters outside and were mostly left with the haunt’s general surroundings for entertainment. They weren’t very busy during our visit, and we’re sure that, if the line does extend to the outdoor areas, they will have something going on out there to help pass the wait in line. On that note, there is a small stage next to the indoor portion of the first queue line, but there wasn’t anyone performing.
All in all, we always have a good time at Stillwell. Keep your eyes out during the off-season; they typically host several haunted events for more than one holiday. Our favorites are their Christmas and Valentine shows that they’ve done in the past.
Photos from Review Trip:
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Longest Indoor Haunt - Stillwell Manor (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out - Krazy Kora - Holly DeHart (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out - Sweet Sara - Grace Biddle (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Best Clowning Around (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Most Creative Finale (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Most Unnerving Sound Effects (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Most Creative Finale - Isabelle's Beyond (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Memorable Moment - Slide (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out Award - "Cat Lady" A.K.A Holly Dehart (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out Award - "Clown on Stilts" A.K.A Josiah Short (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out Award - "Hellawheeze" A.K.A Beth Spiker (Given by: Team Zombillies)