These folks have been doing this for twenty-five years. This is made quite evident when touring this expansive haunt. Firstly, it should be known that there are two smaller attractions attached to the main haunted house, Reaper’s Haunted Mansion: they are Reaper’s Dark Zone and Reaper’s Woods. Should you be interested in a very low-impact experience, go to these. The Dark Zone is unremarkable and the Woods are innocuous. I barely remember the former and the latter feels like a haunt with safety wheels. The rustic mill’s saw didn’t turn and Jason Voorhees was unarmed. These little attractions are nicely decorated, but that’s about it. Let the kids go through these when they’re done with the carnival on the property—that’s right, there’s a small-scale carnival on the premises.
Now, on to the main attraction: the Haunted Mansion. Everything middling I just described about the Dark Zone and Woods can be thrown out the window into a waiting wood chipper when compared to this attraction. Boy howdy was this ever a rollicking good time. First of all, this haunt is huge—three stories of huge. The layout was excellent, complete with delightful little oubliettes and traps (the only unpleasant one was a brief dark passage which only seemed to frustrated the patrons stuck in it). I was particularly fond of a prison made discombobulating by irregular openings in between the bars—like trying to single out a zebra from an undulating heard—all the while a crazed inmate flew about the room. A massive Tessla coil dominated another massive chamber. Neato! All the sets were well made and felt holistic. The rooms featured individual and very appropriate sound tracks, not just heavy metal piped in every room—this is something not always noticed, but it makes the experience so much more engrossing. For example, the clowns were rocking out to “The Greatest Show Unearthed.” The grunge factor was also well done, which combined with some scent generators, made the whole place smell like death. At one point, a disgusting, old mattress frame was used to brilliant effect in a ward where I could practically feel the tetanus on the walls. I’m afraid one of the vortexes was out of order the night I toured—they are terribly fickle beasts—but the one which was working was very, very effective. These often do not affect me, but this one put me through my paces. At about a seventy-five degree angle. Another benefit to this attraction is its use of pneumatic props. They were terrific, and used to good effect; but they did not dominate the experience. I love watching a larger than life monster try to eat me as much as the next guy, but too many pneumatics tend to create a hissing, static, and altogether false experience. The human experience did not let me down. In spite of the occasional scare actor without much, if anything, in terms of costume/make-up pulling the old “I’m-going-to-stand-beside-you-and-look-at-you” gimmick, over-all, the actors were incredibly energetic and entertaining. One gangly fellow sailed over a rope partition to pursue and young woman in front of me. He got her. The highlight of the scare actors, though were a couple of what I imagine to be quite beautiful women in real life; in the mansion, however, they look like they’ve been put through a combination Cuisinart/Ronco Rotisserie. I met them in a child’s bedroom (and we all know one of the cardinal rules of horror is that kids is scary) where they proceeded to stalk me through the rest of the attraction. The shorter of the two would pull an old trick I’ve always been fond of, in which you use the hidden parts of the haunt to disappear for a moment, and then reappear right in front of the patron. The taller played a wonderfully effective character who, half-mad/half-living, would mutter to herself and consistently shadow me, then freeze when I’d turn to look at her, staring blankly into nowhere. She did not move. She did not blink. Not once. This was an actor wearing costume contact lenses and Hannibal Lecter blinked more frequently than she did. This place is a ton of fun and worth the drive.