Location: 70 Ridgeway Drive Dallas, Pennsylvania
Demon’s Gate Haunted Hayride, located in Dallas, PA has grown by leaps and bounds in just three short seasons. In fact, upon our first visit three years ago, we found the attraction to be so poorly designed and managed we didn’t even want to “review” the attraction. Despite our reservations we returned last year and again this year to find an attraction that is on the cusp of becoming one of the best hayrides in Northeast. Celebrating its third year in operation, this year’s show for the most part has enhanced scene/set designs, improved actor performance and create an action packed, lengthy show.
Building effective haunted hayrides are an enormous challenge and attempting to compete or differentiate a show from much larger and established venues is not easy. We have great respect for those haunts that focus on the customer and for $12.00 a visit ($6.00 to re-ride), Demon’s Gated Haunted Hayride is an excellent value and an entertaining, at times innovative show that continues to move in the right direction. With some minor adjustments this season and larger-long term improvements, Demon’s Gate has the potential grow and develop into a premier attraction. Management and staff are committed to improving the show this year and we are excited t
Demon’s Gate Haunted Hayride is a “classical” haunted hayride attraction which takes guests along a lengthy journey through the hills of the Irem Temple and features numerous scenes and themes covering all the “bases” of Halloween entertainment. In reviewing this attraction, we split our analysis of the hayride into halves. The first half of the hayride is extremely impressive in scene design and overall showmanship kicking off with a disturbing “toxic waste dump” scene in which an insane actor is “set” on fire, an impressive pyrotechnic display sets the tone for an exciting hayride and roughly 80% of the journey does not disappoint. As the journey continues a frantic aggressive feeling is felt, and each scene’s actors do a solid job at bringing there sets to life. A hauntingly charming yet dark graveyard features professional grade lighting and special effects, which gives way to a variety of entertaining scenes each with talented scare actors and developing sets that have been improved since last season. Some of the more memorable scenes include an intense encounter with lunatics at a “psych ward”, a faithful recreation of a showdown between “Michael Myers” and “Dr. Loomis”, violent scenes of human slaughter (with extremely intense acting that is physical), a forced crematorium and a ritualistic scene each which are unsettling yet entertaining. Quality scare acting and scene construction on smaller, developing scale is the norm for most of the hayride, and each scene tells an entertaining story, and structurally while not on the same level as larger, established attractions, much work is put into creating a unique, at times mature show.
As mentioned previously, with some small improvements in the short-term and larger growth in the long run, Demon’s Gate Haunted Hayride can advance of many of its contemporaries in show quality. Regarding development, some of the scenes in the latter portion of the show do not reach the level of quality or intensity as the initial half. For example, one scene takes guests underneath an old ripped up Toyota advertisement into a sparse area with one clown and small laser lights. The scene itself is built up effectively as guests seemed to anticipate more and were left feeling it was rather cheap compared to the prior scenes. Furthermore, last year Demons Gate featured an iconic “Freddy Krueger scene” once home to a now defunct haunted attraction “LuLu’s House of Horrors” which was curiously missing, and “Camp Crystal Lake” confusingly did not feature Jason. Also, the finale itself features a unique take on a very dark “Christmas” followed by a visit with “Pennywise” that again fail to reach the level of immersion created earlier in the show. Effective, first class hayrides focus on building structures (sets/scenes/special effects/music) that create a “larger-than-life” effect, allowing guests to feel immersed in a show, and Demon’s Gate almost hits that mark most of the time. What is holding back some of the newer scenes is a glaring lack of quality sound effects, including scene specific microphone use or music which would create a more engaging experience. An effective soundtrack can add another dimension to an outdoor show and with a few changes in lighting towards the finale can help guests understand storylines, as well see the horrors unfold. For example, some people on the hayride we road could not even see a rather well-dressed movie quality “Pennywise” which took away from the scenes impact (some guests did not even know what was happening). We are not advocating lighting each scene to the max, but there is a great difference in how the attraction is designed early regarding effective scene development and towards the end. Structurally, larger scenes and perhaps installation of a sound system likely will need to take place in the off-season(s) but can be huge additions that bring this attraction to the next level.
Scare actors for the most part do a fantastic job at playing their scene specific roles and are very physical and interactive. However, some minor improvements in this area can also be implemented rather quickly. Some of the scare actors’ resort to “cheap” tactics that lose effectiveness if used over and over. In the first year of its operation, we could not stand how many actors would just “bang” loud objects against the sides of the hayride to get scares. Luckily this practice has been reduced but some actors did resort to smashing the sides of a hayride to garner a reaction. Smashing the side of a hayride is all fine for a quick jump scare, but the more talented actors find ways to interact with guests, making them feel a part of the show and generate legitimate reactions. Another small issue is typical among many shows in that scare-actors will resort to the dreaded line “do you want to play with me.” This line may be effective I in a clown scene but is so played out and overused we hope it begins to disappear. Finally, we love how the actors are not afraid to get close and interactive with guests, have a frantic “energy” among them and work hard to entertain each guest and hope that over time a continued emphasis on character development, FX and make-up design will allow each actor the opportunity to shine. Again, these are minor improvements and ways for the attraction to continue to grow into the future and beyond.
Demon’s Gate Haunted Hayride, still in its infancy is well on its way towards excellence and we hope that they continue to use their passion for the industry to grow and prosper. Management appreciates feedback and the value you will get for just $12.00 is second to none. We anticipate visiting again this season as this is a genuinely fun haunted attraction, one which you can feel respects its customers, and respects the industry as a whole. We urge you to visit this local haunted attraction, provide customer feedback and support their charity efforts (such as the annual Zombie Prom) throughout the year. You will be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining experience for the cost, and this is a show that is committed to being one of the very best in the region!