Location: Harmony Rd, Susquehanna, PA 18847
Web Page: http://hellsteadmanor.com
Hellstead Manor is one of the newest haunted attractions in Northeast Pennsylvania and utilizes a story-driven, narrative approach towards haunting. The first year attraction boasts extremely detailed set designs, special effects, and props that bring a classic “haunted house” to life. This is not a traditional haunted house featuring the usual onslaught of chainsaws, clowns or mutant freaks. Hellstead Manor transports guests back into a Victorian era in which a twisted family engaged in such creepy behaviors as cult activity, and macabre medical experimentation is the centerpiece for a unique horror show. The creative design of the attraction features custom built set designs, costuming, masks, and animatronics, coupled with talented actors in several scenes. We cannot stress the level of detailed props, masks, and characters found throughout Hellstead Manor. Their haunt owner is an experienced special effects artist, who has utilized talents to create disturbing, deformed monsters, creatures and psychotic family members who inhabit the attraction. With some minor changes, and enhancements Hellstead Manor can be a phenomenal, scary attraction that is unlike any other in the region. It is an impressive first year haunted attraction with professional details, and atmosphere that is the perfect setting for a classical haunted attraction experience.
Hellstead Manor starts off with a “historical tour” of the infamous manor. Talented actors tell the story of the former family that inhabited the impressive looking haunted house in a manner that is calm, yet unsettling. From twisted tales of cult activity, to bizarre remnants of surgical experiments gone wrong, the approach to creating an unsettling yet interesting storyline is a different approach to starting a haunted attraction. The opening scenes, set within the actual house are breathtakingly beautiful, yet twisted, as a story begins to develop that something is just not “right” about the “history” of the Hellstead Manor.
After an impressive opening video/fire scene, the attraction transitions into a more traditional haunted maze outside of the actual house. A series of planks featuring numerous drop scares, and character actors that generally make odd noises, or scream are featured during the majority of the attraction which takes place under a covered outdoor structure. An excessive number of drop scares, and lack of actual scare acting hinders the effectiveness of the attractions ability to build anticipation from room/scene to scene which is unfortunate because these rooms feature some of the most incredible, custom built details you will ever see in a haunted attraction. Furthermore, the “story” loses its effectiveness during the first half of the actual walk-through portion of the haunt. We were expecting to be let down early on despite the level of detail and impressive soundtrack as we did not find the initial half of the maze to be “scary”. However, after what we estimated to be the midpoint of the attraction, some truly disturbing scenes began to alleviate this initial lack of fear, and created a more dark, evil atmosphere. A trip to a grotesque morgue featuring effective scene lighting, vile looking demented creatures (victims of botched surgical modifications), rather lively dead bodies and unsettling noises began to generate actual fear. We cautiously made our way through the rest of the attraction, with a new sense of interest as the final scenes lived up to the creative potential of the haunt, featuring an impressive ending, a visit to the twisted doctor’s experimental layer.
Additional scare actors early on in the maze, use of darker passageways, tighter spaces, along with some more actual “acting” in between sets, would greatly enhance the scare level of the attraction. The creative story-driven opening scenes and final half of the attraction are spot-on in terms of delivering a professional, special FX-laden show that tells a rather psychotic story set upon the backdrop of a beautiful Victorian-era house.
The Final Word
Hellstead Manor is an exciting new attraction that provides a type of horror show that caters to those haunt fans looking for more of a “story” driven experience. The attraction is split between a few rooms within the actual manor, and an outdoor/covered walk-through maze with incredible set designs, a solid soundtrack, and some genuinely disturbing scenes. If the attraction can find ways to enhance the scare level, surprise factor in between each scene, and continue to expand it can definitely find its niche in the ever competitive growing Northeast haunt scene. We look forward to their future improvements and were impressed at the stylistic approach and thematic design to this new haunted attraction.