The Trail of Nightmares – Full Review

The Trail of Nightmares is a Haunted Attraction located in Ontario, OH.

4135 OH-309, Ontario, OH 44903
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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Indoor Waiting Line, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Outdoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 23, 2020 by Team Cleaverland.

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Final Score: 8.44

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After sitting out last season due to a zoning issue, we were pleasantly surprised to hear Trail of Nightmares (TON) announce their reopening in this crazy year shortly before the season’s start.

Like many haunts, they received late summer notice that they could open and spent the next months scrambling to prepare. They told us they screwed in the last black light bulb just hours before showtime on opening night!

This was our first visit, and you never know what you’re going to get. We weren’t sure what we were walking into when we rolled in during the late hours of an evening rocked by severe storms. We arrived at a rather dark parking lot of what appeared to be a self-storage facility.

What we found as we toured the sinister woods behind the building stunned and shocked us…

Cast: 8.8

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Kudos to the entire TON cast. This was the best troupe we’ve encountered in a while. Everyone knew their place, their energy was up, and they showed crack timing. We can’t think of one cast member out of 30 that didn’t make an impression or get a reaction out of us.

From the first scene where a creep with a pickle-shaped nose threatened us to the menacing clowns at the end, everyone was spot on. We’d like to call out literally everyone involved, but the best of the best were the exorcism girls, what we’ll call the skull freaks from the white rock and roll room, the witch and her captive, a goofy mad scientist, and the squeaky-voiced girl with her unnerving demeanor.

The character roster showed great variety, and the actors performed their parts wonderfully well. Some were silent, others like the fire and brimstone (literally!) preacher and mad scientist were gabby; and we heard an extended menu of bizarre vocal noises including grunts, groans, snorts, whistles, squonks, screams, clicks and clacks, and a few we don’t have words for!

Costuming: 8.67

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Costuming was excellent across the board. Masks were well fitted, makeups both subtle and grotesque, and the costumes were detailed and complete. Nothing looked out of place and everything looked like it should properly be there. This was an area in which the attraction and the actors clearly took pride.

The real test was passed when we consistently felt horrified by the characters’ appearance. Haunting hats off to all, but especially creeptastic were the skull freaks, the witch, the pumpkin-headed killer, and the clowns.

Customer Service: 7.92

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GPS will get you to the location that’s in a small town by Mansfield (halfway between Columbus and Cleveland), but you might not trust it when you do arrive. There’s a small light-up sign visible from the street and a couple non-illuminated signs in the lot announcing the place, but those ones were a little hard to see on this dark and previously stormy night.

Free parking is in a normal retail-style lot with attendants. The lot, line, and ticket booth (cash only, ATMs on-site) are a bit dark. It looks as though the queue can be outside or inside, depending on the weather; we were inside on our stormy night.

At this time there’s no website. They do maintain a regularly updated and responsive Facebook page.

It’s a trail, so don’t be one of those chuckleheads who tries to wear flip-flops. It was a pretty solid trail though, once or twice we got caught by a root or something, but generally, it proved to be good footing even with wet leaves on the ground.

For COVID, hand sanitizer is provided and masks are required.

Atmosphere: 6.6

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Props to TON for managing to line up some food and other atmospherics in their short deadline to open. We noted a couple of small puppets at the ticket line before heading in, a fire pit, food vendors (unfortunately it was shut down for the night during the earlier storms, so we did not get to sample the onion rings and big fish sandwich!), an actor terrorizing patrons coming out the exit, and a photo opp.

Special Effects: 8.82

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Moody lighting and unsettling audio were expertly employed throughout. Right from the start, a tense mood was set with a sense of apprehension and ‘something being off’ that struck us as a result of lighting and audio choices. Circular camping lamps suspended above our heads swayed in the breeze, with no soundtrack or audio effects at all. Just the wind blowing through the trees and the sound of our steps on the trail.

Other exemplary meldings of light and sound were the thunder and lightning at the graveyard, the bright white lighting with deafening Rob Zombie soundtrack (‘Dragula,’ yeah!) in the white rock n roll maze (white is a striking choice for a haunt, and it worked), the shadowy crypt with robed cultists accompanied by a rising chorus of intense chanting, and a terrifying lights out moment… we’ll let you find out for yourself where that one is!

The haunt has built some great looking structures, including the unholy church and the crypt. The set design was finely tuned, with some areas (mad scientist’s lab, little girl’s playroom, a fabulous looking cemetery) offering up many details where there was an opportunity for a breather and a chat with one of the talkier characters, or a slower stroll to soak in the setting, while others (the witch’s hut, say) got by with as much dressing as needed to build the world and set up distractions. The balanced approach really worked well.

Theme: N/A

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There was no theme.

Scare Factor: 9.19

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As your doctors of menacin’ medicine, we prescribe a big swig of Trail of Nightmares’ toxic tonic to all those tough guys out there who say haunts don’t scare them. Longtime hauntgoers can find it easy and natural to become resistant to scares. It can be refreshing to find you still can be scared… as well as a little off-putting.

Well, simply put, TON scared us. A TON! Repeatedly and forcefully.

This place positively thrummed with high-voltage jolts and shocks. Not just quick jump scares, either, though there were those too. Frights were brought on by the creepiness of the woods, effective dynamics (light/dark, quiet/loud), excellent distractions, and slow-burn scares that took some time and setting up, sometimes when an actor would be standing motionless at the start of the scene a good distance away, silently watching our approach.

Some very nasty surprises awaited us until they were suddenly revealed in several areas. The dark maze was an almost unbearable exercise in tension, release, more tension. One of our team members had the beginnings of a panic attack in there.

This was one of those places where you think to yourself, gee, I hope there’s not some real psycho in here who’s gonna shiv me and stick my body under a pile of leaves. So, nice job, TON. You were scary. Mission accomplished.

Entertainment & Value: 8.25

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Our woods walk took 24 minutes. General admission is $15, for a minute to dollar ratio of 1.6, which is pretty good, especially for the high-quality haunting.

There’s also a ‘half-person = half price’ rate, which we assume refers to kids and not to unfortunate accidents, though we’d think twice about impressionable youngsters here due to the intensity, plus a group rate of $10 each for 10 or more people. Tickets are available at the booth only, with no online sales as there’s no website.

Plans are afoot to add to the haunt and its accouterments next season. Aside from the threadbare infrastructure this year, we were wowed by what TON delivered in terms of the main event.

The owner told us it was more of a bare-bones attraction this year, but if this was bare-bones, we might need a straight jacket or an ambulance to leave when we visit next season… either way, we know we’ll be back, so should you!

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 10 out of 10

Jess Martin – 10/10September 24, 2022
I would rate higher if I could. This trail is perfect for someone like me who is clausterphobic yet …show more loves haunted houses. There are some spots where it’s a bit enclosed but you get out of it soon. They have great scenes and a dedicated staff. The Trail of Nightmares is my favorite thing to do in the fall! I chose to do this as part of my bachelorette party and I loved every second.

Nikki – 10/10October 31, 2020
Loved this….it was one of the best we have been too…definitely will be going back next year.

Jennifer – 10/10October 24, 2020
One of the best haunts around. They actors are amazing and they definitely have the best scares …show more around. I will definitely be taking my kids through next year.

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