Team Hallowoosh reviewed this attraction on September 23, 2017.
Final Score: 8.15
It has been eleven long years since The Ghoullog first stepped foot onto Mount Cranmore in North Conway, New Hampshire. This is our eighth year in a row visiting the far north attraction of New England. The thing that always sticks out about this haunt is the spirit of it. There is something about being up there that feels so right and so wrong at the same time. We’ve never been able to completely put it to words but every year we make the trip up there to see what new and exciting updates they’ve done and to try and find the right way to explain the essence that is The Ghoullog.
A lot of fresh faces came out to play this year. The owners tell me they have more first-time actors on hand this year than any other and at the same time a few familiar faces are back at The Ghoullog after several years. Some of these actors and actresses are part of the reason I fell in love with haunted attractions so it was great to see their work again. Opening night is usually an interesting time to see what some new actors will do. The Ghoullog has a few actors that have their own scenes and characters nailed down cold. The majority of the cast tends to move around and change their voices if it feels like what they are doing isn’t working. First-time haunters are still getting over the thrill in the power of the scare. A few of the set scene actors are veterans of the Ghoullog and always bring their A Game. Welcoming us to the first maze is an old granny upset by our intrusion. She stomped around on her porch yelling at all of us. Suddenly she hears her mother’s voice but we can’t hear anything. A chair starts to rock in the corner as she whispers words to it as if someone was sitting there. A few seconds of silence pass before she stands straight again and demands us to leave through the back door. She screams ‘Go ‘ Now ‘ Go ‘ Now!’ slamming her foot into the wood floor with every syllable. This was a great introduction into the first maze. Later in the woods our favorite character was a humorists’ bunny. There was a particularly dark section that some people might have trouble navigating so the bunny acted more like a lunatic version of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland guiding us where to go with haste. When we arrived at the first portion of The Ghoullog’s indoor attraction we were greeted by an old but enthusiastic man named Dickens. He is the caretaker of Cathcart Manor, the hotel we found ourselves standing in front of. He spoke with a dirty old English style accent. Before he let us enter the manor he didn’t mind smelling a few people in our group to let us know we smelled different when we were awake. Opening the door for us, Dickens told us to ‘have fun checking in’ you may not check out.’ Checking us into the final portion of the indoor haunt is the head orderly Luther Fungus. At first he seems to be very calm and collective welcoming us into the hospital for the criminally insane and telling us how the nurses and doctors are the best in the country. When we weren’t loud enough in answering his questions, let’s just say he went a little insane himself.
For years The Ghoullog has prided themselves in the authenticity of their costumes and makeup. Even the majority of masks we saw were custom made. The doctors coats and patient’s gowns are all real. A Ghoullog classic are the porcupine creatures with the long quills coming out of their backs. You never know when they’ll pop up. Even some of the cast bring in their own hand made costumes that give the sense of uniqueness yet at the same time still have that Ghoullog feel to them. Some of the cast even go as far to do their own make-up before arriving. One of the great things I love about the Ghoullog is the fact that every actor has something going on with their character when it comes to their costumes and makeup. Unlike some haunted attractions, the simple base layer and airbrushing is never enough. We saw everyone with at least a big gash in their face or rotten vomit coming from the mouth. Even the characters in masks wore makeup underneath to hide their skin tones.
Customer Service: 8.25
Cranmore mountain sits directly behind the village of North Conway, New Hampshire. There are a few signs in the town pointing where to go. The reality is simple, drive into the neighborhood behind the village and keep going until you can’t go anymore. You’ll notice a big mountain in front of you. At about 6pm there is a parking guide directing you where to go. The entrance to the Ghoullog this year has been moved over to the right side of the complex. I found that this actually works much better. In previous years they had the customers line up in their respective time slots on the left side of the building where the service road to the back of the building is. When a group was allowed in they had to walk to the back of the building in a non lighted area which was cause for some scary moments. Once we reached the back of the building we were in a short queue line for the first half of the indoor haunt. This year there was no mistaking where the attraction starts as we pulled into the parking lot and recognized the two giant jack-o-lantern scarecrows. The ticket booth is in the same location is has been for the last few years but it might not be the most obvious to any newcomers. The building that inhabits the Ghoullog is Cranmore Mountain’s fitness center. When you enter the building there is a nice bar/lounge area with a snack bar on the other side. This is where you can relax with a cold or hot drink and some food while waiting for your ticket time. Downstairs from the bar is where you can purchase your tickets and check out all the goodies in the Ghoullog gift store. When your time slot comes up you can make your way out to the jack-o-lantern entrance and enjoy a eerily lit and mulched path down to the woods.
I remember the first time I attended the Ghoullog show they warned me not to go off the path. Not because they didn’t want me to get lost but because they didn’t want me to attract the bears. Half of the Ghoullog is held outdoors in the pine trees of New Hampshire. When you are out there you can hear, smell, and feel the wilderness around you. The fact that real bears could be around the corner is enough to frighten anyone. The amount of horror we experience inside the attraction does not reflect what they put out in the front parking lot. Since the show has to be shared with a functioning fitness center they are very limited as to what they can display. In turn, I think it might lower customer’s expectations a bit, which to me is always a good thing so long as they still go through. In the short time that we were in the queue line we witnessed about 4 people chicken out. This was just the walk from the parking lot to the beginning of the first maze. No actors or props or even music are on this little twenty second walk. There is just something about being out there in the elements that spooks the hell out of some people. The house the Ghoullog built a few years ago still stands and it is always a spectacle to see. I’ve always appreciated the fake lawn that they roll out to give the feeling like it’s a real house. Inside the house and the hospital we are transported from the wilderness of New Hampshire to the demented hell that is the Cathcart Manor and Mercer Home for the Criminally Insane. The manor is more or less a greatly detailed haunted house but a few rooms change every year. The Mercer Home is more or less a deranged murderous take over of a hospital where some not so ethical things may have been going on. Both attractions always have the perfect amount of actors spaced out the right way. Some hallways are there just so you can digress from the last room or psych yourself up for the next one.
Special Effects: 8
This year The Ghoullog put in a laser swamp and I think a lot of the locals are going to love it. You’ll find plenty of animatronics inside the Mercer Home. Seeing as how dead bodies and medical equipment go hand in hand it is only natural to see these kinds of things in The Ghoullog. Last year they added a room with a master control panel over an observation platform. The lights flicker a bit and make it seem like crazy experiments are happening in the room. We found quite a few animatronics in the manor as well. One thing we don’t hear much of at The Ghoullog is music. In fact, the only times I can recall hearing any music at all is when I walked by an old record player. I do like to hear the eerie music most nights and it definitely can add to the experience; however, I do appreciate the choice to not use the audio filler to make a scene work. At The Ghoullog if you hear music it will be used the same way it is used in the real world, not as background noise.
Anyone who knows the Ghoullog knows that the general theme is based around a hospital/prison on the edge of town. One year a bunch of patients and prisoners escaped and invaded the town. Every year the Ghoullog tries to show a different piece of that town along with the woods surrounding it and the hospital/prison itself. Last year they introduced us to the Searching Winds Funeral Home. This year they showed us a glimpse inside the Cathcart Manor, an old bed and breakfast of the village. The woods and maze act more as a small taste of the horror that is about to come. Story still stands that the creatures and psychos you bump into in the woods are just experiments and patience that escaped the prison hospital. The hospital itself was home to some of the most violent and mentally unstable people in the country. Some of the doctors in the hospital decided to use the patients for their awful experiments. Even after the prison break out, the doctors still find ways to capture people and rip them apart to form new beings.
Fright Effect: 8.05
The laser swamp is something new for most people in the far north so I think this will win the fright award for the season. Usually, I see a hand slowly rise up from the swamp to get a nice spooky scare. We walked right through the swamp waiting and watching for where the actor was going to strike. When we reached the end we turned around to see if they would get someone else in our group. The person behind us had never seen anything like this before so she was hesitant until we went through first. After we did she felt it was safe and halfway through the swamp and actor jumped right up in front of her and it was the best scare of the night. We’ve been big fans of the porcupine creatures since day one. The neat thing about them is that the quills hit each other and make this haunting, rustling noise but the actor wearing them is really five feet away from the sound. In the dark we try to stay away from the noises but eventually see the danger is much closer to us than we thought. The manor has a lobby complete with a front desk and service bell. The bell is not like any little bell I have heard, this was more like a hammer smacking an iron plate. When the front desk lady popped up behind the counter I wasn’t expecting that bell. So yes there are a few jump scares here and there just like every haunted attraction ever. Quite a few actors are much better at providing the creepy factor. One girl laughs hysterically as we walk by a burnt cadaver and she exclaims ‘it’s mommy’ in between her menacing laughter. Walking by a bathroom stall and we notice little fingers slowly gripping the top of the door. A favorite of ours is the laundry cart they use to block us from exiting the room. The cart is filled with mutilated body parts and made us feel like this will be our fate if we stayed any longer.
A great perk of having the Ghoullog at Cranmore Mountain is the ‘Haunted Playground.’ For an additional fee you can enjoy the mountain coaster, giant swing, and zipline down the mountain. The food and bar are decent and it beats waiting in the lines for hours. There is free parking and plenty of it. Being so far up north it is pretty hard to find anything else to do at night. General admission tickets are $32 and now they have the Ghoullog Plus for $44 which gets you into the Ghoullog and the Haunted Playground. The attraction lasted close to 35 minutes. At $32 a ticket this gives us a minute per dollar value of 1.09. This is the 11th season for the Ghoullog and it has grown to become one of the most talked about attractions in all of New England. We hear many people asking about them all year long. The biggest downfall for most is the fact that it’s located so far away from the bigger cities. For the price and the day trip you could make out of it, The Ghoullog is one of the best times you can have in New England.