The Columbia City Haunted Jail – Full Review

The Columbia City Haunted Jail is a Haunted Attraction located in Columbia City, IN.

116 East Market Street, Columbia City, IN 46725
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Haunt Type(s):

Escape RoomHaunted House


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“Old-School” (Low Tech)

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This attraction was reviewed on September 28, 2019 by Team Zombillies.

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Final Score: 7.6

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Although this was our first visit to the Columbia City Haunted Jail (CCHJ), they are celebrating their 24th season in 2019! This haunted attraction takes place inside the authentic old Whitley County Jail. The building was erected in 1875 and, at that time, it was considered to be one of the best jails in all of Indiana. We’ll tell ya, just the building itself is a sight to behold!

There are actually 4 floors to the jail that you can experience, including the basement, but you can only experience them all if you opt for their VIP passes. We saw some creative scares and customer flow techniques that we haven’t seen used anywhere else!

They warn that this is the season to join the darkness, will you succumb to it and find out what lies within the Columbia City Haunted Jail?

Cast: 6.54

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We estimate that we encountered about 20 or so actors and actresses on the night of our visit. They seemed to be spaced out fairly evenly throughout the haunt’s duration, which provided us with a consistent flow of fear. However, we did still encounter a few ‘dead spots’ where none of them crossed paths with us for a few moments at a time. Though, we’ll note that it was awfully dark through most of the inside (more on this in ‘Special Effects’ below), so it’s possible that we may have just been walking a lot slower than we usually do.

The monsters that we did meet generally provided what we call ‘boo scares.’ No’ none of them actually said, ‘Boo!’ at us, but the vast majority quickly recoiled back into their hiding spots after popping out for a quick scare. That said, as we recall, very little actual dialogue was used or verbal exchanges made with our group, which left a lot to be desired in the realm of character development. Some would give us the death stare as we tip-toed past them’ others would simply point in the direction we were supposed to go.

Now, as for the minority group of cast members that did grace us with some interaction, the verbiage of choice was all appropriate for each respective character. The voodoo lady in the alligator scene did warn us of her sleeping reptile companion (thankfully), we did get some valiant hisses from one of the vampires, and a few of the victims pleaded for us to help them escape their imminent fates.

There were also a few silent ‘stalkers’ throughout CCHJ. The one in the basement did a particularly stand-out job! At one point, he stopped in front of us and walked backwards to block our path. He then knew exactly when we were about to walk around him and darted off ahead of us into oblivion’ talk about creepy!

Once we made it outside, we found one of the most memorable monsters of the night: Baron Samedi. He was a voodoo-looking guy that was guarding the swamp scene, poking at us with a shock stick and blowing his death whistle as we made our way through. We also saw a chainsaw guy and another lady tucked into a hiding spot in the corn while we were outside, but our encounters with them were minimal.

Costuming: 7

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A mix of makeup and masks were used throughout the Haunted Jail. We’ll reiterate that it was exceptionally dark throughout most of our tour, so during the few times that the actors stayed within eyeshot long enough to get a good look at them, the lighting (or lack thereof) prevented us from making out very many significant details. However, some of the most memorable masks were those of the pig and the clown inside the building. The makeups that we could see appeared to have some good detail work.

Baron Samedi was definitely the stand-out look of the tour as well. His darkened eyes, cigar, boney hat, elaborate suit, and various accessories will definitely make you think twice before walking past him! The next runner-up would debatably be the female vampire that we saw on multiple occasions. We were able to see traces of a few carefully-crafted dresses and such inside the Jail.

Aside from the actual haunt tour, Dr. Shock was another memorable monster at the Haunted Jail. His menacing (and sparking) weapons of choice will not soon be forgotten!

Customer Service: 9.2

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We started noticing signs for the Haunted Jail from the main highway through town that were pointing us in the right direction. As a backup, our trusty GPS (and seeing the unmistakable building) verified we had arrived at the correct place.

Parking is very limited at CCHJ. So much that we’re led to believe there may only be enough on-site for the actors and staff. Free streetside parking was readily available and found by circling the block, but we’d imagine this may cause a short walk for customers on busy nights, so be prepared for that.

The ticket booth was clearly marked and identifiable by the 3 covered windows, where we found friendly staff members that informed us of everything the haunt had to offer. This is a cash-only haunt, but an ATM (with reasonable fees!) was stationed right next to the ticket booth, so we were able to make a quick withdrawal and get back in line for tickets.

Adequate lighting is available outside for navigating the premises, and the concession stand and Reaper’s Chariot ride were conveniently located near the exit of the haunt. However, lighting inside the first doorway and stairwell was basically non-existent. Since this was our first time visiting CCHJ, we aren’t sure if this was intentional or not, but we’ve never been able to call a completely-dark staircase a ‘good thing.’ We hope this was simply a temporary malfunction, as the other stairways that we traversed were all properly lit. The only other safety concern brought to our attention was the wet floor in the basement, which we were warned of by the haunt’s doorkeeper, and this didn’t turn out to be an issue for us. Just keep that in mind if you decide to attend after they’ve had some rain.

Of course, don’t forget to take advantage of their unique photo ops out front! And lastly, before you leave, be sure to grab a lemon shakeup, walking taco, some homemade cajun food, cupcakes, a soda, some candy, or something else from the well-stocked concession stand.

Atmosphere: 8.5

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As soon as we set eyes on this historic building and parked, we stood there gazing at it with our jaws on the ground! To some, it may look worn out, dilapidated and ready to be torn down; but to us, it was beautiful! There was a black haunt hearse out front that paired perfectly with the building; a true match made in Hell! Toe-pincher coffins lined the front of the building, as well as spookily-decorated photo ops. Even the concession trailer here was decorated to match!

Shortly after wandering around for a moment (and wiping off some slobber), we took a closer look at a giant reaper near the hearse. We quickly came to the realization that this giant figure is carved out of a tree! Yes, it’s CARVED’ out of a TREE! Definitely be sure to take a good look at it when you visit. We’re told it took them 2 weeks to make it.

Hard rock and roll music was blaring from the speakers at the ticket booth, but more unsettling sounds were coming from within the building. They would get louder when they opened the front door to let a group in, too! As we waited our turn, every now and then, we could see flames shooting out from around the side of the building. This really let our minds wander as to what was waiting for us…

Once it was our turn, we were told to walk up to the very first top step at the front doors. Then, they warned us that if we touched the door that was only inches from us, we would be forced to go through the attraction alone! So, as we stood there patiently waiting with our hands at our sides, carefully ensuring we didn’t touch anything, something began to jiggle the handle. After a few moments of building anticipation, it flew open and we were off!

Special Effects: 7.5

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A lot of the scenery and sets utilized the authentic features of the original jail building, such as the cells, dilapidated paint on the walls, hallways, and some large equipment in the basement. From what we experienced, this was what we call an ‘old-school’ haunt consisting of unique items that were built in-house amongst a variety of other things.

Although we didn’t hear sounds in all areas, they were pretty dramatic and mostly realistic where we did hear them! We’d actually say this was among the most intense of audio tracks we’ve heard throughout a haunted house!

As we made our way through, we noticed multiple signs on the walls that warned us of restricted areas due to the ‘dead inside.’ Of course, we ignored them (to our own peril). Lighting was generally very dim and multi-colored, which set a ‘dark’ (obviously) and ‘evil’ tone for most of the rooms and hallways. Corpses, body bags, a large sleeping creature (we’re pretty sure it does something, but we missed it), strobes, unique actor ramps (only saw one of these in use but it was effective), a human-sized bat hanging from the ceiling and much more were among the props on tap for scaring us throughout the walkthrough.

We’re pretty sure we missed something in the outside area as well. It was still daylight during our visit, but the bridge and it’s accompanying decor (especially the wrecked helicopter) worked well with a blasting surprise out there! Through a bit of research on Facebook, we believe this was supposed to be a swamp area. This effect is albeit impossible to achieve during the daylight’ just a heads up. However, we did get a quick blast of flames near the helicopter crash (the one we saw from ‘Atmosphere’ above).

In the basement, we’re pretty sure we were walking through real dungeons! It was still wet down there and the floors were dirt / gravel. Aside from the colored lights used to light the way, it just doesn’t get any more real than legit brick / block walls, arched doorways, and simply knowing you’re in the basement of an old Haunted Jail, folks!

Theme: N/A

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When looking at their website, it appears that the keeper of souls, Deimos Nosferato, is the main character at this attraction. As the story goes, he has a collection of other vampires and creatures from the underworld that inhabit this dilapidated dwelling. It’s time to feed and we’re assuming that means it’s time to let those brave enough to enter inside.

While at the attraction, we never did run into Deimos, but we looked all over for him. If we did see him, he was hiding well within the darkness. Before we entered, no one gave us any information on the storyline going on inside, and the characters didn’t seem to be working with any particular theme either. Instead, we experienced more of a variety of scares including things we didn’t expect to see in this old jail’ for instance, the clown and the pig. Because of this variety and the apparent lack of any all-encompassing theme / storyline inside the haunt, we have decided not to score this category.

Scare Factor: 7.78

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If the aforementioned darkness is intentional, and you’re afraid of the dark, then you’re out of luck here; the darkness will absolutely consume you! At times, if we hadn’t been wearing glow bracelets (see ‘Entertainment & Value’ below), we wouldn’t have been able to see where we were going at all. However, these monsters had themselves a buffet knowing we couldn’t see them, thus making the scares rather unpredictable.

Our group only consisted of 2 people as we made our way through. Although the person in the front got the brunt of most of the startle scares, the person in the back certainly wasn’t safe, especially from the multiple stalkers!

The combination of dark corridors and a heart-pounding soundtrack kept us on high alert at all times. We were cautious when rounding corners and entering rooms, to say the least! We don’t want to ruin the surprises that we found, but the ending/outdoor section of the haunt utilizes scares that weren’t used inside, making this a rather successful ‘jaunt’ out of the Jail!

Entertainment & Value: 7.48

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General admission tickets are priced at $15.00. We opted for their VIP tickets at $25.00 per vic’ err’ customer’ because they included a lot more than just a shorter wait in line! With their VIP Fast Pass option you get VIP treatment (glowing bracelets so you can go to the top floor), faster entry, the Reapers Chariot Ride, ‘more scares than you can handle,’ a $3.00 concession coupon and a $5.00 merchandise coupon.

From the moment we stepped foot in the attraction until we narrowly escaped its grasp, it took us a total of about 25 minutes to get through. At the general admission price, this brings this attraction’s MPD (minutes of entertainment received per dollar spent) to 1.67 which is well above the average of 1 that we see most often!

We arrived early in the evening right after the attraction opened. Before going in, rock music was playing outside to help keep us entertained, and several unique items to take pictures with as mentioned above in Atmosphere. Other than that, we didn’t see any other entertainment or roaming characters until after we came out of the haunt. That’s when Dr. Shock decided to sneakingly reveal himself as one of our members was taking a photo! (That one turned out pretty blurry.)

Their site hints at some new changes coming to the jail soon so be sure to check those out.

This was our first visit to The Columbia City Haunted Jail and we sure hope it won’t be our last! We really enjoyed the creepy vibe of the building along with the stalkers and demanding soundtrack. If you’re looking for an old-school haunt in an authentically creepy building, this one’s for you!

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 9 out of 10

phyllis – 9/10September 26, 2019
We had not been for a couple years so we took my granddaughter for her first haunted house …show more experience, she is 10. she loved it, the cast was especially kind to her, even took photos with her at the end. she was thrilled but they made sure that since it was her first time, she was not too terrified to not go again, in fact she did a second trip inside right after the first. She even dropped her glasses half way thru and they went back and found them for her. the jail has startling scares and surprises in the darkness, virtual reality coffin ride, snacks at the end. we bought the vip packages and had great time. staff was great, owner was on site and was interactive with our party. I highly recommended. (on a side note, there are a lot of stairs so that could be a problem for some people, my knees are replaced and I did ok but I did not go the second time with the rest of the group as I could feel the knees getting cranky. But was shown a chair to relax on while waiting for the others.)

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