This Halloween season has been an exciting one for me. I've been working extra hard on my shop, adding inventory, doing advertising and expanding my offerings. I've been working on my house, fixing up a few things in preparation for the coming winter. And most of all, I've been getting scared out of my wits. I've been on a visit to at least one haunted attraction per weekend since the beginning of October, visiting some of the most renowned haunts in Utah. While these haunts boast that they are some of the scariest in the US, I needed to know for myself, and I figure maybe some of you want to know too. So here's a review of two of the most well-known haunts in the state of Utah. Keep a lookout for more to come!
Nightmare on 13th
Nightmare on 13th is the most popular haunted attraction in Utah, and thanks to the national exposure it has received from being featured on the Discovery Channel, people from all over visit in hopes of a horrifying good time. The attraction features some of the latest in haunted house technology, a huge venue with three different themed sections and a giant cast of some of the only paid haunted house actors in the state. The lines for this place are insane, so people who buy their tickets online get a free VIP upgrade to skip the line and head straight in (people who pay at the haunt have to spend an extra $10 per ticket to skip the line, but with a 45 minute minimum wait time, it may be worth it). All this information coupled with a steep $20 per person ticket price led me to believe that this would be the most incredible haunted experience of the year.
Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed with my trip to Nightmare on 13th. The long wait times didn't bother me as much as they might bother others, but the fact that we were pushed through the haunt crammed right next to a hundred other people, mostly rude teenagers, basically ruined the whole thing. It is impossible to get scared when you just saw that zombie jump out at the person in front of you. It was like being packed into an 800 degree pressure cooker of teenage snark. It was hot, sticky and not fun. I personally would not have minded a longer wait time if it meant that I could go through with just my group and not be stuck into a steady stream of people. I don't think anyone else that has attended that attraction would have minded spending a few more minutes in line to feel like the $20 wasn't wasted on a crappy experience. In the future, Nightmare on 13th will not be getting my business, at least until they work on their timing.
The Castle of Chaos
The other big name in Utah haunts is Castle of Chaos. Castle of Chaos has been named one of the scariest haunts in the US by the Travel Channel and has three different locations of terror to keep you quaking in fear. They offer a deal where you can get access to all three locations for $25, which saves you about $33 off the price of going to each one individually. I paid a visit to each haunt and even got to chat with the owner of the Castles. He told me that he takes pride in his haunts and wants to scare the pants off of everyone who enters one of his attractions, which is why the people working the doors at each attraction are required to have a 3-5 minute gap between groups. That way, you get to go through the attraction alone and really get lost in the experience. This is the difference that put the Castles ahead of the gargantuan Nightmare on 13th.
The Original Castle of Chaos
The original home of the Castle of Chaos is on 33rd South in Salt Lake City. The haunt has several rooms of terror, including a meat packing plant, a toy factory and a net maze with wandering, hungry zombies. The coolest feature this location offers is the Hands On Terror experience, where you can sign a waiver and wear a glow stick that allows the actors to touch and grab you while you wander through the haunt. The upgrade is absolutely worth the extra couple of dollars, as the actors separate you from your group, snatch you into dark and creepy corners and go all out to scare the crap out of you. This location is moving to Orem next year, but if they keep up with the quality of this year, it will be worth the trip.
The Castle of Chaos Redwood Road
The Redwood Road Castle of Chaos is in what used to be the Nightmare Mansion and has four levels of fear that are guaranteed to terrify. This location has a very similar feel to Nightmare on 13th, only you actually get to go through in small groups and get scared for real. They have a 3D level that tricks your vision, a mental hospital level that puts you into a seemingly dead end padded cell, and the actors are top-notch at this location. I actually screamed when one of the "mental patients" snuck up on me, and I pretty much never scream. The Hands On experience will be added to this location next year, and I will be one of the first in line to get scared.
The Carnival of Chaos
The newest Castle of Chaos location is in Riverdale and is the most family-friendly of the three Castle haunts. The Carnival of Chaos has three sections: the Haunted Midway, which is free to all and has face painting, tarot readings, aerial performers, an all-ages music show and a coffin ride; the Seven Deadly Sins section was a staple at the original location that has new life in Riverdale; the Carnival of Chaos 3D Maze is a trippy visual experience that is totally creepy but still fun for younger visitors. I hit this location twice, once with my kids and once without. Both were a great time and we will be visiting them for years to come. This haunt will get bigger each year, so expect new things to pop up!
Things Liz Loves isn't done with the Utah haunt scene yet! I have plans to pay a visit to at least 2 more haunts this year, so check back for more reviews. Ticket information can be found at the links provided. Happy Haunting!!!